How to Add Value

Connect with your customer from their perspective. Your customers are always wondering what you can do for them. Knowing your customer journey and what their mindset is allows you to innovate in new ways.

This is a synopsis from an episode of the Thrive!cast series of panel discussions hosted by Conscious Branding. Each episode focuses on a new topic and brings in experts to discuss, explore, answer questions and inspire action. For more information, go to

The Thrive!cast episode, “How to Add Value,” was moderated by Alan Wallner, President and Visionary, Conscious Branding. Panelists were Mark Coronna, Area Managing Partner & CMO, Chief Outsiders; Scott Plum, Professor, Minnesota Sales Institute; and Ben Theis, Owner, Skol Marketing.

Alan Wallner

Alan Wallner

Mark Coronna

Scott Plum

Ben Theis

What is the Best Way to Create Value?

“I see many companies out there focusing on the features of their products and they use that to create the value for their customers,” said Alan Wallner. “That’s all they talk about. And by doing this, these companies begin to create a misalignment with their target audience. Over time they begin to see a drop in their sales and they struggle to attract more people and they have a hard time growing their business. I believe creating value starts with really knowing your customer. What their problems and challenges are in relation to what you offer. Being able to assist them in overcoming their challenge or problem creates this value that we’re talking about.”

“As a marketing executive, I think about inside out marketing,” said Mark Coronna, “where we take our capabilities, our products and tools, and try to find a market for them or outside in marketing, or are you really trying to understand what’s important to prospective buyers and then connect those up with what we deliver, what we can deliver in terms of products and services. And there, again, the best matches are when you’re looking both ways. A lot of organizations don’t have enough of the outside view of the world. They don’t actually have a target, a customer profile, and they don’t ask what’s most important to them. So they’re reacting on really incomplete information when you’re setting up your messaging and your communications.”

“You base it off of relationships,” said Ben Theis. “That’s how we can distinguish ourselves from other competitors. I think it sometimes is just taking a step back. I know we’ve probably heard some of these things before, but it’s good to reiterate them. A couple of things I love is to educate consumers or potential consumers so they can make an educated decision. Sometimes it drives me nuts in my industry that there are some people, and this happens to other industries as well, where people feel like they’re the only one that’s smart enough to solve that problem.

“Or they’re the only one with the secret sauce. And when you get into that, there’s a lot of arrogance. I feel like if you peel back some of those layers and are candid, are open and start with a relationship, that’s when you can see the benefits. I know one of the things was customer loyalty that we had talked about previously. And so if you’re trying to build customer loyalty, I can guarantee you 100 percent, you’re always going to have a better retention rate. If it’s built off a relationship instead of the product or service that you’re giving them. If it’s just based off a product and service, they’re going to find somebody else, if it’s based off a relationship, they’re going to stay with you because of that extra.”

“One of the keywords you used is the intangible,” said Alan. “It’s helping someone make that educated decision. And you’re giving that intangible value. And oftentimes that set of intangible value goes so much further than just receiving a product that works well. They’ll remember that you helped them get out of that emotional situation that they were in. And now that they have the peace of mind and they have trust, they can move forward and not be taken advantage of; that goes a long way. That in and of itself is a great example of bringing that intangible value to someone.”

“I’m going to put my answer in the context of a conversation between a prospect and a salesperson,” said Scott Plum, “and it seems like the best value is defined during a conflict between the status quo, the status quo in a better desired outcome. When a situation changes, we explore options. And because we need to decide whether we’re going to stay in the status quo and tolerate it, or we want to improve the current situation or not. So during this time we start to evaluate options. Everyone loves options because they feel like they’re in control, which is always good. Every time you’re working with somebody, I always give them options. The wants and needs are established, and the criteria is set. If you’re selling something that is not a need or want you’re in trouble, and you need to get emotional about what you’re selling and then the decision making process is created.”

Figuring Out What Creates Value for Your Customers

“We did a lot of, and we continue to do a lot of, speaking engagements, workshops, webinars, and then really being able to listen,” said Ben. “So on a couple of different levels, listening to questions, listening to requests. For instance, social media or different marketing, what’s getting the most attention. So the big word that I would say would be listen and how you listen, or how you’re going to get that response is going to potentially be different in every industry. But some of the examples that we’ve done have been workshops, webinars; we’ve even done polls seeing what works on social media, offline marketing.”

“I want to know what the competition is because I want to be able to reach the desired outcome,” said Scott. “But in knowing what the desired outcome is, being influential and causing somebody to really consider any recommendations that a salesperson is offering, they need to really understand some of the drawbacks. The prospect needs to understand the drawbacks. So falling short, when you have a plan to provide a solution and deliver a solution, and that can have an influence on the investment that somebody makes and then translate that into the price that they end up investing in the desired outcome that they want.”

“There are two other means of really obtaining better insights into what’s important to customers,” said Mark. “One of them is I find when I go into companies and join their businesses as a fractional CMO. I honestly ask, what do you know about your customers, your markets, your competitors, because we’re big on insights in Chief Outsiders. And a lot of times they don’t get very complete answers to both questions. So typically on the customer side we’ll do a brand audit, which has four parts. One is we ask about buying the attributes. So we go to prospects and customers, we say, when you’re considering a supplier, you’re considering a product, what’s most important to you?

“And we give them a list and then they rank them and we get pretty good insight from that. Then the second thing is we ask them to rank us on those same attributes. So the first time it’s like any supplier, what’s important to you. Second one is the specific company.”

Once You Know Your Value, You Can Innovate Ways to Grow Your Business

“The market’s changed and if I don’t change, I’ll get left behind,” said Scott, “and it’s because of the coronavirus and how sales has changed from in-person to online, but also how my traditional services needed to evolve. And how I have in a way failed in the past, I get hired to come into a company and I perform the classes. I do the project and that’s a success, but then I leave and the current management, the leadership, doesn’t reinforce everything that I introduced. And then the salespeople start to revert back to old behaviors. And what could I have done different is, I could have engaged a longer engagement period. I could have engaged other services when it comes to training, but also reinforcing over time. And I could be able to deliver greater value to the company, but I need to reposition the conversation differently when it comes to the services that I offer.

“And now I’m getting into a longer engagement where I’m involving consulting for the leadership. I’m involving coaching for the management, and then I’m involving training for the sales team. So between all three of those over a longer period of time, I’m able to work on creating a sales culture, reinforce it into successful habits that are then going to continue after I leave because they’ve been established and it’s been reinforced, but the entire sales channel has evolved.”

“You’re onto something there,” said Alan. “People think that once it’s sold, they’re done and I just deliver my value, but in reality, it’s ensuring that individuals are implementing or applying or actually doing whatever you sold them correctly. So they can reap the benefits of the value that you sold them.”

“What really helps is confidence and realizing the value you can bring to someone, actually proving this, finding that out,” said Ben. “It’s exciting, especially for those that are just starting a business, or even if far into the business, it really starts with that confidence to be able to do that. And then Scott alluded to some of this too, is growth and being able to innovate. That was the big word Scott was using. It’s true that if you don’t keep trying to offer not only more value internally, but also externally with your clientele or prospective clients, it’s just going to whittle away, it’s going to be complacent.”

“There’s an adage that the time to innovate is when you cannot, when you have to, which is particularly important, I think in this health crisis,” said Mark. “The idea is that the time to innovate is when you have the time, when you have the financial resources and you can afford to make a mistake, rather than wait until you absolutely have to innovate because your business may be at risk and then time is not on your side. You may not have the financial ability to invest in growth opportunities. And your risk is going to go up because you can’t try several things and then figure out what works, because that doesn’t work when you’re under the gun. I think that’s great advice.

“One of the things I’ve often employed during recessions, like the 2008, 2009 financial crisis or even today is to think about what can you offer your customers, your clients, that’s high value to them and low cost to you, That’s not the way people think about trying to organize or prioritize. So now that assumes that you know what’s important to them, but if you think about that, here’s something we could do that would be really, really well received. It’s really important. And actually when we look at how much it would cost us to deliver it, it’s pretty nominal, that is, those are the go tos in times of whether you’re talking about COVID or any other recession. And you’ve got to be innovative to come up with that list. But innovation should be a growth engine. It shouldn’t just be a growth plan, It should be an evergreen process within your business to look at those opportunities and to rethink your value proposition on a pretty regular basis.”

It’s a Bold New World!

All Thrive!cast episodes focus on leading business owners to discover ways to create success for them and their businesses in this bold new world.

To hear more from the panelists on this and other Thrive!cast episodes, click below.