Valuable Motives

“Buy our features,” said the German software company representative. “You vill like our features.”

The way he said it sounded vaguely threatening.

More to the point is that nobody buys features, his or yours. Not in B2C markets and not in B2B ones either. Advertising features, and to a large degree benefits, misses the mark in marketing communications. The reason is that features and benefits do not describe what drives a buyer’s intent.

What motivates buyers, both logically and emotionally does.

Hunger provides motivation. So do natural sexual impulses (which often leads to children, which then launches a thousand new motivations, including the desire to find very dark and quiet places in which to hide). A person’s motivations force them into seeking ways to achieve something (their expected outcome) or make them instantly aware of a possible solution when it is thrust under their noses.

That last one only applies if the value proposition presented addresses their motivations.

value-intersectIt is the intersection of a buyer’s motivation and your differentiated offering that define your value propositions. You must itemize the motivations of your buyers, identify which features of your product satisfy those motivations, and what subset of those features are unique to your product (after all, if you solve the buyer’s problems in the same way as your competitors, then you are selling a commodity and the buy decision boils down to either brand preference or price).

Where nearly every marketing organization goes horribly wrong is in the first or the last point. Many never map the motivations (and expected outcomes) of their buyers, much less different buyer genotypes and different market segments. They fail to express these motivations in the language of their buyers. They don’t bother to know why someone wants to solve a problem, and lean on merely understanding the problem alone. Alternately or in combination, they toss whatever feature the marketing team thinks is hot, trendy or buzz worthy – even if thirty thousand competitors are promoting the same thing, and in the process are buried in a noisy tomb.

Blood drains from the faces of start-up CEOs that I coach on this aspect of value proposition identification. They often realize that they have no differentiation, that their differentiation makes no difference to buyers or, that they spent their second mortgage creating a product with the same value points that Google, Microsoft or Apple deliver. The same thing happens to marketing directors in large conglomerates who I council. There is nothing worse than not being appealing to the person you want to seduce (just ask the gold chain wearing, balding, potbellied, toothpick chewing disco relic haunting the single’s bar every night who always goes home alone).

The process for listing motivations and identifying differentiated intersections is not always difficult, but it is dangerous because many marketing tacticians take shortcuts. They assume that they understand their buyers well enough to understand their buyers’ motivations. Yet this is more often than not mere introspection, or worse, the skewed last recall of a lost sale. Their a priori process often fails to document emotional motivations of buyers and incorporate those into viable value proposition. Apple’s dancing iPod silhouettes said nothing about the gizmo’s frequency response and how many songs it could store, but it said volumes about how their target market felt (emotion) about music.

Do your motivation mapping homework, and if in doubt outsource it to someone disconnected from your market. When you find these magic intersections you will articulate the value that you provide and can develop your own dancing silhouettes.


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