Small businesses can no longer influence consumer buying using words like “New”, “Secret”, “Limited Time," "Only One Left," "Don’t Miss Out,", “Proven”, "One Time Only," "Big Discounts," "Guaranteed," “Discover”, "Free."
Instead, the tables have turned and consumers now control businesses with their online reviews, Facebook posts and Twitter rants that go viral. Today’s smart, digitally-connected shoppers simply don’t believe claims or promises any more. They've heard everything before and seen that it’s not real, so they don’t care, and they’re not going to respond.
Today’s consumers make purchasing choices based on the values of the brands they like. These companies give to people, communities and causes. Think Ben & Jerry’s, Starbucks, Newman’s Own. These brands don’t use discounts or sales gimmicks to drive sales. They don’t have to lower prices to make people feel good about purchasing from them.
What Exactly are Values?
- Values are the goals and beliefs that guide people’s actions and behavior.
- Values motivate how we think and feel.
- Values are part of what drives people’s buying decisions. In fact, many consumers today care about a brand's values as much as its products.
OK, so What is Value-based Marketing?
Value-based marketing is customer-focused, rather than the product-focused approach used in the past.
A values-based marketing strategy doesn’t focus on the words used, but rather it's about our values and the values of the people we want to do business with us. Show off your company’s values loud and proud in your Market Dominating Message.
Companies that Talk the Talk and Walk the Walk
Toms Shoes demonstrates the success of values-based marketing. Their marketing campaign was a “one-for-one” in which they donated one pair of shoes to children in need for one pair purchased. This appealed to a lot people and introduced many new customers to the company because of its image as a generous and caring company.
Ben & Jerry’s story is famous: they started their ice cream empire on a shoe string using borrowed money. When their little company began to take off, they started the Ben & Jerry’s Foundation, donating a percentage of their profits to community projects.
The Newman’s Own Foundation is another example of an organization driven by its values and desire to help. 100% of its profits are used for their philanthropic projects.
Starbucks believes that “We … can – and should – have a positive impact on the communities we serve. One person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time.”
The list goes on of companies that have succeeded by tapping into the universal human desire to be a part of something greater than one’s self. Being a part of something that does good in the world makes us happy.
What Lesson Can a Small Business Learn from the Examples?
Here it is: consumer-focused values instead of product-focused words can influence buying behavior.
Promises of “best” quality, “best” service, “best” price, “best” value are meaningless. Everyone’s been there, done that and got the t-shirt. Today, people want a brand they trust to make them feel like they’re helping to do good.
They want to purchase from and support companies that do good in the world. Good products and good prices aren’t enough for many consumers.
According to Cone Communications research, the majority of consumers want to purchase from companies that give back to humanitarian or environmental causes, and they will switch brands if a company is not aligned with their same “do good” values.
Create Authenticity Through Transparency
So that they can do business with companies that share their values, people want to know all about:
- your company
- its operating principles and philosophies
- how you source and produce, package and distribute your products
- in what ways you give back to the communities where you do business.
This level of transparency shows authenticity. It creates emotional connections between you and your customers, and between you and consumers who could be your customers.
In fact, consumers now name “authenticity” as an important factor in what they purchase. Nowadays, philanthropy and value marketing isn't just good for the world, it's good business.
Communicate Your Value
Be sure that your company’s value statement, i.e., Market Dominating Message, is on your website under the “About” tab. Here’s your opportunity to tell your story in detail and provide the information that proves you are authentic.
Add Value to Your Products
Of course, just saying that you support worthwhile causes doesn’t mean anything if you don’t have good products. Just as you promote your business's features, you need to promote what you do to add value to your products and/or services. Do you add value in ways that your competitors do not, such as:
- added services
- expert advice
- quality customer service
- workshops or other educational events
- Customize products or services when asked
Words that communicate your product’s good values will help you stand out and get new referrals and sales.
How Can Your Business Become More Value-Oriented?
We know what you’re saying: “I’m a small business owner, how can I expect to achieve results like Ben & Jerry’s or Starbucks?” The answer is, of course, you can’t. But there are things you CAN do to educate your customers and prospects about your business’s values in your own little corner of the world.
#1. Customer Values. An important part of developing a values-based marketing strategy is finding out what your customers value. Surveys, reviews and testimonials can provide insights into customer values. Using this information, you can develop your brand's Market Dominating Message that will include your customer-focused objectives.
#2. Business Alliances. You can use business alliances to work toward achieving values-based objectives. This is especially effective when your alliances deliver value to help communities.
Put on your thinking cap. What other businesses in your area serve a similar customer base, and how can you partner with them to do something for the greater good? Whoever you partner with, and however you do it, it must be mutually beneficial and work towards the goals of both businesses.
Here's a few examples.
The owner of a women’s clothing consignment shop has customers who don’t want their unsold clothes returned to them. An organization in the same community that helps underprivileged women prepare for job interviews would welcome donations of career clothing that hasn’t sold. In return, when these women get jobs, they can come to the consignment shop for additions to their working wardrobes.
Another example: A local music club could partner with restaurants in the area to promote gigs in exchange for poster space inside the venue and mention on the website announcing the event. You and your business partner get to tap into each other’s audiences to spread the word and promote the event.
In the kitchen design world, Renovation Angel re-sells showroom displays and cabinets removed during a remodel. And they donate profits to worthwhile causes, such as youth-at-risk and addiction recovery. They create jobs. They save landfills from demo-ed cabinets. And you can get the satisfaction of directing your clients to contribute to a worthwhile cause. Plus, there are tax incentives for those who donate. It’s all good.
#3. Content. Using content that addresses your company’s values, whether it’s a blog on your website, a Facebook post, a Tweet, a video on YouTube, a board on Pinterest, an email blast, or an article on LinkedIn, you get to address a wide audience. Here’s where you can share with readers your company’s values and how you practice what you preach.
Using the data discovered in step #1 above, write about the topics your customers care about. These topics don’t even need to be directly related to your business, but they should be relevant.
For example, you own a coffee shop. Tell a story on your web site and on Facebook about how your products are sustainably harvested so your customers know you’re not raping the rain forests. Then in a mailing you can share a recipe for some cupcakes that go well with your sustainably-harvested coffee. Host an event where you demonstrate how the different coffee makers whose products you sell harvests their beans and offer tastings of different coffee flavors.
Another example: You’re the owner of a kitchen remodel business, and you’ve discovered from reading customer reviews that many people don’t want to buy imported cabinets because they fear harmful chemicals may have been used in the finishes. You sell only cabinets made in USA. In addition, the cabinets you sell have an industry certification stating the cabinets are manufactured in accordance with strict environmental standards. You can use this information in your marketing materials, on-line and in print, on your trucks and yard signs, on your invoices and business cards. You want as many people as possible to know your company values.
To reach and influence today’s consumers, companies must express and demonstrate, with transparency and authenticity, what they stand for and why. By putting your company’s values and those of your consumers above price or product features, you will win not only consumer business but their loyalty.
Sources Used for this Article and for Further Reading
Dovetail Marketing is a full-service rep agency whose goal is to match kitchen designers and remodelers with the cabinet manufacturers best suited to their business’ style and clientele. Owner Bob Aungst III represents Brighton Cabinetry, US Cabinet Depot, Holiday Kitchens and StyleCraft.