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Lean Sales And Marketing–Defining Value

by David Brock on June 15th, 2012

As I typed the title to this week’s installment on Lean Sales And Marketing, I cringed.  Somehow I feel the title is redundant.  As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, Lean is about understanding the essence of what customers value and focusing our efforts on creating and delivering that value.  The key word in the last sentence is essence.

Too many times we really don’t understand what our customers value.  We impose what we think they should value instead.  Alternatively, we know what value our solutions provide, so we seek to impose these on them.  We develop all sorts of marketing collateral with long lists of feature and benefits (the more sophisticated phrase these in long lists of value propositions).  Sometimes, I feel like I am reading a version of Dr. Seuss’s  Green Eggs and Ham—“You may like them in a box, you may like them with a fox, you may like them in a house, you may like them with a mouse…….”

Too often, there is the attitude that more is better.  The longer the list of benefits we can create, the longer the list of “value” we deliver, the better. If our list is longer than the competition’s, then clearly we create much greater value than they.

When we don’t know, or are too lazy to figure it out, we substitute by imposing everything on the customer—throwing all the value we create at them, hoping they can sort it out and determine our solutions create value for them.

More value is not better!  More value is confusing and distracting.  More value can create complexity from the point of view of the customer—they have to figure out and sort through all the stuff we throw at them.  More value wastes customer time and resources in trying to understand exactly what value we create for the customer.  More value, in the eyes of the customer becomes less value!

Lean requires us to understand the essence of what our customers value.  It requires us to focus everything on those few things that are critical to the customer.  It means we don’t waste their time or ours in talking about lots of other things—they may represent value to others, but they don’t represent value to this customer.

Understanding the essence of what customers value simplifies things tremendously.  Once we understand the essence of what customers value, we focus everything around these elements, we don’t waste our time or the customers’ time on anything that is extraneous or non value add.  In fact, we set ourselves apart by creating great clarity for the customer.

It’s our job as sales and marketing professionals to determine what our customers value, focusing everything on the essence of what they value.  Implicitly, this means one to one.  This means we have to understand what each customer–each person–values, then focus on creating that value with them.  Marketing needs to segment, focusing on the value created for each segment.  Our messaging needs to become more refined and more focused on smaller segments until eventually we define segments of one.  Marketing probably doesn’t deal with segments of one–that’s the role of the sales person, but marketing needs to provide sales the tools to be able to understand what each customer values then create that value for the customer.

It is wonderful if with each of our products and services, we have very long lists of value elements.  These increase the liklihood that we can create value for many different customers.  But it is pure laziness and absence of customer focus to impose all of them on the customer, increasing their work to figure it out.  It’s incumbent on us to focus, to eliminate on all those “value elements” the customer does not value, instead focusing on the essence of what they value.

Value creation is central to Lean Sales And Marketing.  But Lean focuses on the customer — understanding, creating and delivering what they value.  Delivering great and differentiated value means focusing on the essence of what customers value, not on delivering more value.

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