Vail Daily column: What’s your value proposition?
Everyone is interested in features, the proverbial “bells and whistles” that help differentiate our favorite products or services from the competition. Features focus on what a product or service will do.
When you “sell features,” you essentially describe some element of your product or service in the hope that the customer will be suitably impressed. For example, “our destination has 10,000 short-term rental units in four different villages plus other areas!”
Blah. Boring. And more importantly, feature selling is ineffective, because with the possible exception of the occasional data geek, customers usually can’t figure out why a particular feature or function is meaningful to them in their decision making process. Selling features just doesn’t resonate with customers.
CREATE EMOTIONAL CONNECTIONS
Apple has long been an advocate of framing their products in such a way as to create an emotional connection with their customers, rather than focusing on the features and benefits of what their products do. Consider the iPod, or the iPhone. How do you think Apple decided to frame the magic of the iPod? Around its technical prowess, or what customers could do with it?
The framing of Apple’s message has persistently been both effective and persuasive because, in the words of Seth Godin, it was all about “Me, me, me. My favorite person: Me.” Gigs of data have nothing to do with me, but a pocket full of my favorite songs certainly does.
Less effective marketers like to focus on benefits. When you sell a benefit, you are still essentially describing a product feature — but it’s a bit better because you tie it in some way that it better resonates with the customer and their needs. For example, “Our destination has over 4,000 short-term rental units in a variety of lodging accommodations ranging from boutique lodges to full-service resorts, including branded properties and condominium vacation rentals, providing you plenty of options.”
Focusing on benefits is generally more effective than selling features as you’re doing a better job of connecting with the needs of the customer. But it isn’t always clear to the customer why that benefit is important to them; using the bed base example above, the customer may know that having “lodging options” is a generally good thing, it’s hard to compare the variety of lodging available to the reason they are considering a stay in our destination.
Instead of selling features (bad) or benefits (better), we can sell value (best). When we sell value, you start by focusing on the ultimate goal that the customer would like to achieve, and then tie that value back to a specific benefit, which is often generated by a particular feature. For example, “Our destination has enough lodging options to fit any size of family, so you can focus your time on creating lifelong vacation memories.”
In other words, the “value” that you’re selling is not the amount of product for the price, but the impact of the purchase to make a difference in the life of your customer. Continuing on the lodging theme, our visitors come to Vail and Beaver Creek to spend time with their families, and more so to create lifelong vacation memories — that’s the value that our lodging options create.
What’s a business to do? Think in terms of results. There’s nothing wrong with the term “benefits,” but if you refocus the problem to think in terms of “results,” then the situation becomes clearer. Our challenge isn’t features vs. benefits, but rather features vs. results. Start with your current features, and then take each one into the results phase.
When you ask yourself “What results do I get from this feature?” the answer isn’t “this is convenient for guests” but rather “guests can spend more time with their families” (that’s why they visit, after all). Then, just to be sure, take the results one more step: “And I don’t have to waste time on these tasks while I’m trying to meet a deadline!”
When you use this “results” or “value” approach to discovering your business’ benefits, you can be sure the marketing messages you use to reach your customers will be right on target and will resonate with them on an emotional rather than practical level. And that’s the surest way to not only get business, but to create loyal repeat customers who are ambassadors for your business.
That’s what “selling value” is all about — creating that emotional connection with your customer and differentiating your product or service in a crowded marketplace.
Chris Romer is president and CEO of the Vail Valley Partnership.