These days, the rapid pace of technological change and advancement has made it pretty tough to win market share simply by touting your product’s specs and features. Instead, the emerging paradigm in marketing hinges on your firm’s ability to seek out, identify, and address your customers’ needs. But the process of making the connection between what your products can do and what your customers need done can often be harder than it sounds.
For VARs with a technical background, it’s easy to look at a bullet-list of product features and understand exactly how those specs can translate into real-world value for your clients. But the majority of your clients probably won’t be able to connect the dots without your help.
So, how can you transform a humdrum bullet-list of product specs into a broader message of customer value? First, you have to figure out what “value” means in the minds of your customers. After all, value is in the eye of the beholder—it can mean a thousand different things to a thousand different buyers. In order to position your products’ features in a way that makes sense to your customers, you have to go beyond merely ‘customer-focused’ marketing and really try to look at the features from their unique perspective. Use this checklist to help you get started.
Cultivate an intimate understanding of the market terrain. Take a long, hard look at your segment of the market from a typical customer’s perspective. What’s available? What’s missing? What sells? What flounders? Which features and factors seem to be driving the decision-making process? Which features seem to fall by the wayside?
Find out when, why, where, and how your customers define value. In order to be able to position your products’ features as offering unique value, you must first develop a multidimensional understanding of what value means to your customers. Undertake a series of analyses to help pinpoint value drivers in the decision-making processes of the average customer in your target segment of the market.
Identify marginally-met needs and value gaps in the market. What kind of minor and major nuisances and problems are your target customers putting up with? What kind of technological constraints are their businesses bumping up against? How can you frame your products’ features as the best way to overcome these deficiencies?
Once you’ve figured it out, you get to start all over again. Although a focus on customer value is a great way to market your product’s features, there’s just one catch: the concept of value is dynamic, rather than fixed and static, and it’s constantly in flux. As your customers’ business needs change and the market expands, you’ll have to go back to the drawing board and rethink your value proposition.
Have you faced any challenges in the process of translating product specs into customer value? What’s your favorite method of “connecting the dots” between features and value for your customers? Give us your side of the story in the comments.