We are a couple weeks removed from Valentine’s Day – that wondrous holiday created by the greeting card companies. Snopes – that one’s not true – St. Valentines day goes WAY back. Though Hallmark did invest heavily beginning in 1913 in the notion that a greeting card was a great way to say “I love you”. Alongside the red rose growers and diamond miners investing similarly over the centuries.
Actually, the roots of Valentine’s day go back to the ancient Roman three-day fertility festival known as Lupercalia – traditionally February 13 – 15. Men would sacrifice goats, and whip their chosen women with the goat skins in a ritual believed to make them fertile! The holiday was later Christianized and it may have been Pope Gelasius that declared it to be February 14th during the 5th century AD. I would say the transition from goat skin whipping to cards, flowers and chocolates represents an advancement – and I’m certain my female friends would agree!
But let’s get back to our topic, shall we? What those card makers, rose growers (and wholesalers and retailers) and diamond miners all have in common is that they provided a product or service that the marketplace – Mr. or Miss Market – found value in.
There are many factors that go into perception of value. Businesses provide for their customer’s wants and needs of course, but all purchase decisions are not created equally. Much in consideration is whether this product or service is replacing another (comparative value), or whether it will be satisfying a perceived but not currently satisfied want or need. Sometimes, Mr. or Miss Market doesn’t even know they have the want or need and must be persuaded.
I’m not very good at explaining things without examples, (and arguably not very good, period!) but let’s go back to those cards and roses anyway. Red roses represent a product that fits more into the first example above – replacing another. The gifting of flowers to court the heart of another has been around since time immemorial – since there were men and women and flowers I’d guess. But red roses say “I love you” better than lilies or carnations or tulips (my wife would disagree with this last) but that’s the messaging from the red rose growers. And white for innocence and purity and yellow for friendship and cheer.
Oops, we stumbled right into an example of the other decision type – to fill a previously unknown want or need. Of course we need flowers to say I love you, but do we need them to celebrate friendship and cheer? Perhaps, perhaps not. How about red, white, and blue carnations to celebrate the 4th of July? These examples may be more like cards, which before the 17th century had no known usage for this purpose (due to high costs and limited availability of writing surfaces). But, after the development of paper and the printing press, cards became an accessible way to say I love you. (At least they used to be – what’s with the $8 greeting cards these days anyway?) Anyhoo, over time, Hallmark cultivated this marketplace with advertising and messaging to help people realize how they could fulfill this previously unknown need.
Sometimes a business sells into both markets, or sells the same product to consumers of each type discussed above. My own business of LoCo Think Tank is a good example. At LoCo, we sell memberships in a small business owner peer advisory chapter, with chapters managed by a give-back mindset facilitator with a small business success story of their own. Most of our members have businesses with between 5 and 35 employees, were not familiar with peer advisory as a service, and had not been presented with an opportunity to join such a group prior to meeting yours truly. Others were familiar with self-managed groups, or higher-cost groups that they may not have been qualified for (or could not justify the expenditure).
In the first example, the value proposition of perspective, accountability, and encouragement through peer advisory was adding something new to their circumstance. For the latter, they determined it to be a comparatively good value proposition to what they’d been presented with previously.
What we say to our clients and prospects, then, depends on what they value, and whether we are trying to shift current buying dollars dedicated to this purpose. In either case, as with the loved one to whom you gave the red roses and card for Valentine’s Day, the most important element is the intentional cultivation of the relationship. Be attentive to their wants and needs, watch the words that you use, adjust your behavior based on feedback and communication. The result will be Mr. or Miss Market saying I love you over and over again, and that’s how your business grows. Together, you can create new products and services together and live happily ever after!
– Curt Bear
LoCo Think Tank Founder