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Home arrow Marketing arrow Value-ology: Aligning sales and marketing to shape and deliver profitable customer value propositions

Customer and Individual Level Research

Moving to the top two levels of the value proposition stack, it’s important that the research has a level of granularity that helps you truly understand whole customer and individual issues. Only by knowing this will you be able to develop truly resonant and relevant CVPs.

At customer level, we need to answer the plea of the financial services C-level executive we met in Chap. 2: ‘Don’t treat me like any other financial services company, recognize that I have unique issues and challenges.’

The investor relations sections of company websites can provide a rich source of performance data and analysis about individual companies. You will find annual reports and presentations to shareholders here. Some questions to answer when looking at annual reports include:

  • • What were their major achievements last year?
  • • What were the biggest issues/challenges they face?
  • • What are the top initiatives they are focused on this year? (Growth, expansion, client acquisition, building a stronger culture, etc.)
  • • How do they plan to achieve their goals?

Some of the sources we identified earlier will also provide commentary of individual company performance. The Financial Times, The Economist and Wall Street Journal provide insight into issues and performance for, say, HSBC. Websites such as Investors Chronicle ( will give you trend and share performance along with commentary on issues affecting the company and its performance. If you set up regular feeds from reputable sources it’s amazing what opportunities you can develop.

Here you need to get to a point where you can build value propositions that really resonate; for example, ‘XYZ Paints and Coatings company is looking to increase the speed of bringing innovations to market in order to grow revenue and keep its leading industry position.’ This is the agility issue for XYZ paints.

The difference at these two levels to what may have gone before is that your research is geared to producing MUSICAL value propositions that help you develop and close sales. In order to do this you will need to understand:

  • • M—how you can arrive at a monetary value of the benefits your solution can deliver
  • • U—what’s unique about your offer that can deliver these benefits better than competitors
  • • S—how much the customer is prepared to pay
  • • I—how it will positively impact the customer
  • • C—what capability you have that helps make this impact: this may not just be a product, it could well be a set of skills that you have
  • • AL—what the key customer needs are so that you can develop something that delivers value against these needs

At this stage the skew of sales to marketing input swings heavily. Lots of the calorie burning will have to be done by sales to translate the theme and sector level value propositions into something meaningful not just at a customer level but for the 5.4 (CEB Research) individuals who are typically involved in purchasing. Marketing can usefully help run workshops, as we have, encouraging sales to bring in selections of press clippings about their customers to think about the potential opportunities that can be developed. In one session we ran for a client, the salesperson was able to find out about a security hit on a customer website which occurred on that day. The ‘double whammy’ for him was that the problem could be resolved by his own company in the shape of a website security offer.

Here the research takes a further shift, and becomes even more about people than it is at sector level. Who are the key people in the account? Do we have a relationship with them? Do any of our senior executives know any of their key players? What issues are they facing? What motivates them, in or out of work.

It is highly likely that sales guys have received training from reputable organisations to help perform this kind of analysis. Understanding who’s involved in making decisions, the decision-making process and key influencers in the account are things they know they need to know in order to be successful. At this level marketing needs to help sales successfully tailor value propositions, offers and messages to resonate with the customers. They need to be humble enough to accept that sales is the key player here.

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