This guest blog was written by my friend Steve Robins and first appeared in his Solutions Marketing blog

Value is Key to Solution Marketing

You might think that the most important aspect of marketing a solution would be what goes into it.  What goes into a solution are just a bunch of pieces, products, or components.  But value is about the benefit and cost of those components to the user or buyer.

More specifically, value is equal to the difference between (1) the benefits as perceived by the user and (2) the total cost of the solution.  By perception, I mean that the user or buyer must appreciate and want the resulting benefit.  In fact, if they don’t perceive it as a benefit to them, it’s not a benefit but is instead just a useless feature.

Value is interesting in many ways, some of which are counterintuitive and not so obvious.  Following are a few important examples – both obvious and not so obvious.

【Value is a core component of SEVA (or SIVA) solution marketing strategy which also includes (1) Solution, (2) Education & Engagement and (3) Access.】

Value is in the eye of the beholder (not the seller)

Obvious: A cheap solution or product that delivers a lot of benefit is a great value.  If you like double cheeseburgers, then a $1 McDouble double cheeseburger is a great value.  Remember, this is about what the buyer perceives.
Not obvious: A cheap solution targeted to the wrong audience delivers NO value.  If you’re a vegetarian, a $1 meat McDouble is a bad value.  In fact, it would have no value to you.

Unique and needed solutions provide more value

Obvious: A $100 aspirin tablet delivers low value if other tablets do the exact same thing and deliver the same benefit at a lower total cost than the $100 tablet.
Not obvious: A $100 tablet of a lifesaving drug is a great value if it’s the only want to save that life.  (And in many cases, it is).  In fact, that same $100 tablet would have great value if the only comparable treatment were a $50,000 operation.

Total cost counts

Not obvious: Assuming both are equally effective, a once-and-done (only one dose required) $100 lifesaving drug, at a total cost of $100, is more valuable than a competitive product requiring 10 doses at $5 each, for a total cost of $50.

Value is core to social media

Maybe obvious: Value applies to your marketing, such as social media, as well.  At its core, social media is about sharing content – tweets, photos, blog posts, comments, and pluses – with other people who see its value.  If you share low value content – perhaps boring self-centered content (“I just woke up; going to be another crappy day”) or salesy, promotional pitches (buy my stuff now!), you’ll turn away your friends, your network, and/or your prospects. Once again, different people will perceive different value based on their interests.
Not so obvious: Social media’s low out-of-pocket costs (i.e., no fee to read content) does not mean that it delivers high value.  Low benefit minus low cost still equals low value.

Value shifts as new options emerge

Not obvious: Value is partly comparative, so as alternative solutions or products proliferate, the relative value of your unchanged solution may decline.  Once upon a time, newspapers, network TV, and radio news shows had a lock on, well, the news since few other options existed.  But once the Internet came on the scene, you could obtain news in new (and free) ways through search sites, personal portals, free online Web pages.  Suddenly, the same benefit could be achieved for almost no cost to the reader; the value of print news started declined as evidenced by a parallel decline in newspaper readership.

Value – it’s everywhere the user or buyer perceives it to be.  And it should be a core element of your solution and solution marketing strategies.

Steve Robins is the principal of Solution Marketing Strategies, a strategic marketing consultancy that helps companies to better understand and market to their customers through targeted research, segmentation, solutions, messaging, sales tools and demand generation. For the last 15 years, Steve has been transforming technology firms into market-leading, customer-focused solution providers. Steve has held senior marketing roles at FirstBest Systems, EMC, Documentum, and KANA Software. An industry thought-leader, Steve started the top-rated solution marketing blog, guest writes a CMO-focused marketing tech column for TechTarget, and was an analyst at the Yankee Group. Steve is also president of ProductCamp Boston, the world’s largest; leads the marketing committee and serves on the board of the Boston Product Management Association; and is a co-organizer of the Boston Agile Marketing Group.