Oscar Wilde observed that a cynic knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.
That classic witticism provides powerful insight for differentiating our businesses in this age of ferocious competition and non-stop discounting. Companies that teach consumers the value of their products and services can worry less about pricing and stand to establish longer, more productive relationships with customers.
The process of conveying your value begins within the organization. It starts by asking fundamental questions, such as; what is our core mission? Why do we come to work every day?
What are we hoping to achieve over time? The object of this exercise is to create what I call a North Star statement. Our investment advisory firm’s North Star is: “Helping families find happiness in retirement.” We base everything we do and every business decision we make on that principle.
Our North Star also encapsulates our value proposition. It is relevant to clients; succinctly explains the benefit we offer and differentiates us from competitors. We provide a holistic approach to financial management based on personal fulfillment. Our service to clients goes far beyond transactional activities, such as building and tending an investment portfolio.
When we decided to own the ambitious mission of helping retirees find happiness, fulfillment, and purpose, we knew that we had agreed to do more. To accomplish this enormous task, we must ask the right questions. We must surface intentions and goals that most people do not spend the time to think through or contemplate. We must take our families through this journey with intentionality. Otherwise, we leave our families to live their lives before or during retirement on accident.
For example, we recently advised a successful, financially prudent young professional that she could indeed take that dream vacation without endangering her retirement investment strategy. I frequently counsel clients who are looking to make charitable gifts based on their passions and beliefs. Not long ago, one of our clients, a single mom, lost her car in a wreck. Overwhelmed, she called my colleague, who helped maximize the client’s car-buying power so she could get a new vehicle that felt safe for her kids. This is value well beyond the simple “basic needs” of investment management. We are focused on delivering value in the “self-fulfillment,” top-of-the-pyramid, portion of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.
Once you understand your business’ value, those benefits – not price — should become the focus of your marketing and communications efforts. A consistent, well-crafted campaign that showcases your company’s unique strengths can attract prospects whose first question won’t be, “How much?”
A speechwriter I know tells the story of a client who complained, “It was a great speech, but I can’t believe how much I paid you to write a 15-minute talk.” My acquaintance smiled and said, “You didn’t pay me to write the speech. You paid me to be able to write the speech, to have an understanding of your goals and your audience, and to have the experience and skill to apply the most effective phrases, pop culture examples, metaphors and jokes to convey your message.” The client, a successful CEO, thought for a moment, then grudgingly withdrew his objection.
Each person will value our service or product differently. It is up to you to identify what your customer values and deliver that value, which likely has absolutely nothing to do with the actual cost or expense.
Imparting your company’s value by word and deed is the best way to escape today’s relentless low, lower, lowest price vortex. Focus on what you offer, not what you charge; if it is valuable enough, the cost will be irrelevant.