I spend a considerable amount of my business time studying other people in business and their businesses. Especially with the explosion of Twitter, Linkedin and Facebook, many people have their business model and practices exposed to us all. I learned a lot in 2009 about how to add value. Unfortunately, much of it was by watching and experiencing the opposite, lack of value, from many businesses.
What is Value to a Client or Customer?
My definition of value is receiving what was described in a manner by which the quality of the product or service meets the expectations the purchaser had at the time they made the decision to pay the price. This includes several components:
The description of the product, especially a service you can’t try out first, should accurately reflect the delivered product in breadth, depth, and quality.
Customer service is important in any type of business, PERIOD!
If you are charging a premium price, the product or service should exceed lower price equivalents.
I do realize that some people, maybe me, won’t be satisfied no matter what you do, but that should be a very small percentage. Hopefully less than 1%.
Common Pitfalls to Achieving the Value Equation
Even if you are able to accurately describe your product or service in a product description or verbal exchange, there are a few selling techniques I have come across that exacerbate the disparity. These seem especially true in internet marketing:
Adding on bonuses and placing a trumped up value on the bonuses to exceed the cost you are paying for the product/service. In reality, many times the bonuses are not relevant or of high quality, but people believe if they are throwing a bunch of stuff at you and you did have to pay for it incrementally it is okay if it is a shabby add-on.
High pressure selling. I believe it is okay to offer a special price and to have a deadline for it. I think that when you tell someone they have to decide, today at this minute or in a very short window (like less than 24 hours), the chances of the consumer making a poor decision or less informed decision goes up. The chance of them having dissonance over their purchase goes up. It is just as bad for your business and reputation as it is for their customer satisfaction. People need a reasonable time to decide, especially for high ticket items. (I think this is more relevant when the product cannot be price shopped at other places. If you are selling a camera at a discount for a few hours and a person can check other prices to see if it is a value, then it is fine. They are making an informed decision.
Assuming that the consumer is homogeneous. Many times we will have a product that is a one size fits all product. That is fine, but that puts more pressure on the seller to accurately describe the product/service in order that the appropriate target market purchases. Many times we want to create one product and sell it to everyone, whether it meets their needs or not. I purchased a website review assessment and Search Engine Optimization (SEO) strategy session for $500.00 early in 2009. The person gave me the hard sell and I had to make a quick decision or it would be $800.00 the next time I blinked. The product I received was:
A Free Hubspot assessment report – this company was not Hubspot. They just used Hubspots free automatic assessment that anyone could use on their own as their assessment.
A 1-hour Education Session on Social Media – this was supposed to be an SEO strategy session. When I started interrupting and saying I already knew what twitter and linkedin were, he just kept telling me that most of his clients are so thankful for this education.
This was so elementary for me that I was in shock regarding my own stupidity to purchase. If you are selling a cookie cutter package that you cannot modify for you client’s needs, they need to know that and fully understand what they are receiving. It is the whole Monte Blanc pen vs. a Bic pen. Both of them write, but obviously different expectations are being met with each.
Christian Values Sets You Apart
There are thousands of businesses following these strategies to increase sales. It works. I have fallen for it 2 or 3 times in 2009. Yes, it is embarrassing. I am personally trying to sell my own services and get advised to do exactly these things. Yes, you may sell more in the short-run, but ethically, as a Christian businessman or woman, it is not what I believe Jesus would do. So I keep giving plenty of time for my special offers. I don’t add on a bunch of trumped up bonuses (although I will continue to try to enhance offers with value added bonuses). I try to tailor products that meet the individual needs of the consumer or better describe my “static products”. I have to believe in the long run, that the clients and customers that I will get will be longer term clients. Don’t get me wrong, as a Christian I may fall…I may not meet my client’s expectations…. I may not deliver….But, it won’t be on purpose. The lesson I have learned most in 2009 is that I cannot build my business just by looking at what creates success in the world. It is frustrating to see others prosper from it and even more frustrating when I am the one they are prospering from. Yet, Jesus says we will be aliens in this world.
I believe our goal is to take the core learning from customer service and marketing examples and find ways to mold it to our own businesses in a way that matches our Christian values.