Navigating the Value Landscape: Understanding Your Customer’s Perspective

By Aimee Meester
November 17, 2023
Smiley face icon on the street

Recently, I read a thought-provoking article by the Harvard Business Review, and it’s a piece I’m eager to share. This article revolves around reviewing your business on three scales: commoditized vs. customized, rational vs. emotional, and assessable vs. unknowable. The premise is beautifully simple yet impactful: understanding where your organization stands on these scales can launch you toward creating value that deeply resonates with your customers and increases your company’s competitive advantage.

Commoditized vs. Customized: Crafting the Price-Value Alchemy

The first scale, the commoditized vs. customized spectrum, highlights the distinction between products and services regarded as mere commodities and those tailored to customers’ needs. Price often reigns supreme for commodities, equating to perceived value, while elements such as quality, innovation, and trust are more prominent in customized offerings.

Unveiling where your product or service resides on this spectrum is pivotal to devising sound pricing and differentiation strategies. For instance, if your offering leans toward the commodity side, say you’re in the food industry, competing primarily on price might be your most effective approach. In contrast, if your company delivers customized products, such as personalized gifts, fine furniture, or luxury vehicles, quality, innovation, and trust become your cornerstones for carving a unique and formidable competitive edge.

Rational vs. Emotional: The Pull of Emotion in Decision-Making

The second scale, the rational vs. emotional continuum, focuses on the emotional facets of customer decision-making. This gradient underscores the influential role that advertising and branding play in molding the emotional value linked to products, especially in sectors like cosmetics, automobiles, travel, and soft drinks.

Developing strategies designed to evoke positive emotions, trust, and customer loyalty is important in industries where emotions drive purchasing decisions. On the other hand, the approach demands a different orientation in domains like real estate construction, where decision-making is mainly rational and centered on factors like quality, delivery, and service. Grasping the emotional aspect of your offerings enables you to steer your marketing and branding initiatives with precision and efficacy.

Assessable vs. Unknowable: Fostering Trust and Informed Decision-Making

The third scale, assessable vs. unknowable, spotlights the accessibility of information and knowledge about your product or service. For instance, consider a product like a smartphone. When a customer is in the market for a new smartphone, they possess a clear understanding of the essential features that constitute a good phone: factors such as camera quality, battery life, storage capacity, and various other capabilities. Their decision-making revolves around assessable criteria aligning with their preferences and requirements.

Conversely, when customers lack comprehensive knowledge, such as a highly intricate surgical procedure, the level of understanding about the service is considerably limited, making it more on the “unknowable” side of the spectrum. In such cases, businesses must offer thorough information to empower their customers. This includes showcasing expertise, educating the customers to discern what to look for, and leveraging testimonials to cultivate trust, aiding customers in making informed decisions—particularly in areas where they heavily rely on external sources of information.

If your product or service falls into the “unknowable” category for your customers, it becomes paramount to bridge the knowledge gap. This can be achieved through transparency, insights from experts, and the presentation of customer testimonials, all of which collectively work towards nurturing trust and instilling confidence.

Unlocking the True Value: Grasping Your Customer’s Vantage Point

Deciphering what your customers truly value can be challenging, but it isn’t impossible. By evaluating where your company sits on these three value scales, you can pinpoint the distinctive attributes of your products or services, be they tangible or intangible, and discern how your customers perceive them.

Much akin to knowing your customer’s “job to be done” (a term from another article I highly suggest reading), where you think about the reasons behind their specific decisions and priorities when seeking a solution, your organization must align with these customer-centric objectives. Finding that meeting point or setting your business apart, based on your customer’s “job to be done” and priorities, is the essence of a thriving enterprise.

The crux of a successful business strategy hinges on aligning your value proposition with your customers’ genuine needs and priorities. Instead of making assumptions, embracing a data-driven approach that unveils your company’s standing on these three vital value scales is imperative. By doing so, you’ll deftly navigate the intricate terrain of customer expectations, creating meaningful value and ultimately securing a robust and enduring competitive edge within your industry.