We all know that value encompasses far more than simply having the lowest price. But -- if true value isn't tied to price, then how do you define it?
We asked the Promo Kitchen community how they define and provide value in our industry. Here are 6 ways you can implement to increase the value of your own business!
1. Align with Your Customer’s Idea of Value
Just as each of us has a different approach to defining value, our customers will all have their own interpretation. So how do we tweak a business model to meet so many different expectations? The answer is to remain flexible and open in your approach.
Marshall Atkinson with Atkinson Consulting LLC uses this formula:
Your customer's perception + expectations + emotions = value
“Value is not a benefit,” he explains. “The perception of value is created by the customer in their mind. It is based on their perception, expectations, and emotions. People usually don't buy based on data. They buy based on emotion. When your actions resonate with the customer, that alignment creates the value.”
Jay Buselle with Printa Systems agrees. He defines value however the customer defines value.
Marcia Tarnoff with Blank2Branded says, “Value is what your client deems your purpose is to them. It is a combination of quantitative and qualitative measures you offer as solutions for their success.”
2. Listen, Ask Questions, and Build Relationships
After you’ve listened to your client’s definition of value, after you understand their goals and expectations, keep listening. Let them tell you about their needs and challenges before pitching. Asking the right questions to get them talking. That is a vital part of being a promotional consultant, and to building a genuine relationship your customer will value.
Lisa Pine with Axis Promotions says, “Understanding the client’s project objectives is key. Then,” she explains, “you can add your own professional opinion and quality information to help them flesh out the project. Your client should recognize and appreciate that you can bring a different perspective, and they should trust your ideas.”
Katie Meenan of Alphabroder adds, “As I get to know each customer, I value the time they spend talking, emailing and requesting me for assistance for their opportunities. It means they trust my judgment and knowledge of our company but also genuinely value my relationship with them as well.”
Another part of building a great relationship is to show that you recognize your customer’s value, adds Shell Love with 3K Consultants. “I point out the unique and specific value my customers offer to their own clients in their respective industries and then compare that to the value I will offer to them. I also ask tons of questions like:
o Do you know if the products you have been previously ordering are Prop 65 compliant?
o Do you know if you can find those products locally to save on shipping costs?
o Do you know if the suppliers of those products will stand behind them should a problem occur?
o Will the people you have previously ordered from pitch new ideas for your upcoming events? Will they attend and assist you?
You can also ask your client or prospect why they’re buying a specific promotional product and how it will help them get your message to your audience. If they can’t answer, you can step in and assist.
“These questions help them understand the value of having their very own personal marketing consultant who is an expert in the promotional products industry,” explains Shell.
3. Customization and Creativity
Whether you’re a supplier or a distributor, your customers and partners will feel more appreciated when you offer a personal touch.
Kathy Cheng with Redwood Classics Apparel notes that being able to tailor your products and services to enhance your client's guiding principles is a key way she adds value.
Kelsey Rankin of Warwick Publishing stressed the importance of providing out of the box ideas and creative use cases tailored to each distributor client and their end user's specific goals and needs. “I’ve seen a much better response from distributors when we take the time to customize a presentation, video, or flyer for them. It’s the small extra effort that resonates.”
“Offering turnkey solutions-- a total package of unique (or seemingly so) products focused on clients' needs and goals is a great way to show your value, says Judy Sharp of Sharp Ideas.
4. Embody Exceptional & Reliable Customer Service
“Something that has a high value projects an incredible amount of expectations from the start. Every time you break your promise, you chip away at that value,” Says Marshall Atkinson.
So, how can we protect and preserve the value that we claim to offer?
Kerry George with Gill notes, “While price is important, reliability is priceless. If you can consistently provide a quality product, at a fair price, in a quick turnaround time, you'll have a customer for life. If they have confidence in your line, they'll sell it. How well we service our customers sets us apart from competitors. Service with a smile!”
Barbra with Axis Promotions believes that “Value = Ease.” We should always ask ourselves, “How easy do we make it for customers to work with us?” Minimize any extra work for the customer, and you’ll win them over.
Melanie Taylor with Warwick Publishing stresses the importance of quick turnaround times and attentive replies to all communications with her customers.
Katie Meenan with Alphabroder finds value in honesty and consistently standing true to the message you portray to your customers. “You are not always going to be the lowest in pricing. Turnaround times vary, high-quality products depend on budget, and having a large selection can have its cons. Despite that, customers always want to be treated with respect. When you are honest with them, especially delivering "bad" news, they know they can trust you.”
“Adding value is what they are not paying for,” adds Marcia Tarnoff. “Yes, we look at a product and determine column, coding, etc. However, the consultative approach means giving them what they did not ask for, and more importantly, what they didn’t know they needed. That’s the difference between being an expert vs. order processor.”
5. Go Beyond with Your Specialization
You can’t be everything to everyone in this industry, so it’s important to know what your unique value is.
Kathy Cheng notes, “We are specialists, not generalists. We clearly define our value propositions & stay in our lane, allowing our distributor partners to be efficient in their sourcing strategy, in turn, better servicing the end-user. As an end-user driven brand, after the scope of work is defined, we drive end-user leads to the appropriate distributor partners within our tight distribution network.
“I provide strategic ideas for how to communicate a campaign and I bring marketing concepts into the process. I don't just slap a logo on it, I brainstorm with the client, think of complementary products, consider the number of touches an item will receive, etc. Basically, I do everything I can to differentiate myself from a website or straight order taker, explains Andrea Pereira with Innovation Products.
“You have to find the right clients for your style. My most rewarding clients are ones who make me think outside the box,” adds Judy Sharp with Sharp Ideas.
6. Research and Education
While more and more end users are doing research online before they make a decision, there’s a lot of information they don’t have access to.
“We really try to educate our clients. An answer isn't a yes or a no. We pick up the phone and walk through projects and needs with our clients so that they can understand and explain to their team. Our clients look to us to be the experts. We want them to feel comforted and handheld,” shares Johanna Gottlieb, with Axis Promotions.
“I add value by displaying confidence in the experience and history of my company, by doing my research to select target markets that are more willing to purchase value over price,” says Shell with 3k Consultants.
“I educate our distributors by using case studies. I also make product suggestions based on cost-effective quantities. Offering friendly advice and being someone who genuinely cares about the big picture is key, and that value always wins over price,” says Melanie Taylor with Warwick Publishing.
Responsible sourcing is another vital piece of educating clients. Tim Brown with Quality Certification Alliance (QCA) notes, “You can provide great value and brand safety through responsible sourcing. Protecting brand reputations by being a brand steward of the client’s reputation can set you apart as a promotional consultant.”
Bringing Value to the Table
In short, there are many different ways to provide value. Whether you’re a distributor, supplier, or a service provider in the promo industry, you must first understand how your customers interpret value in order to be effective at building meaningful business relationships.
Larry Alford with Axis Promotions sums all of these ideas about value up beautifully.
“Value is really a blend of service, product, and what we bring to the table. If you are a low price provider and that is your value, you may not be a high service or highly creative provider, therefore you may struggle with a long-term relationship. However, that equation can be written in any way. If you are highly creative and the highest price you may also struggle. The goal I feel is to find how to become indispensable. We need to always be out thinking the client and our competitors to become a valuable resource to our client’s team. We solidify that with high service and quality products at a fair price.
Amanda Delaney with Imagen Brands agrees that value is a multi-faceted concept. “Value is so much more than being able to provide great products at a great price with a quick turnaround. So many suppliers have that, and it's more of a necessity to play ball these days than it is a true provided value. Value is being relevant. It's being available. It's following through with what you say you're going to do. It's having a solid inside team to partner with to fully encompass the support your customer gets from the company as a whole. True value is not just telling, but showing your customer that you care about the product their client is getting just as much as them, and doing everything you can to help them grow that business, even if it means losing the order to a competitor once in a while. Value is defined on such a deeper level than just great product at a great price, and it's different to each customer. Value is knowing that difference and being able to cater to each customer individually.”
“Think about what your legacy looks like,” Challenges Marcia Tarnoff. “Ask yourself…what do you leave behind? What do your clients think of you? What do your suppliers think of you? Your co-workers and employees? The values you impose on yourself and extend to others is what they will remember.”
We hope that these definitions of value have sparked some inspiration for you. How will you add value to your promotional products business this year? We’d love to hear your thoughts. Leave us a comment below, or share your input with us on Facebook!
Be sure to check back next week to see the follow-up post titled, "Increasing Value: How Distributors and Suppliers Can Help One Another."