How Value-Based Marketing Works

So here's Mark's problem in essence:

Mark is chasing opportunities, not giving value or building relationships.

His opportunity-based marketing approach means he tries tactic after tactic, looking for the holy grail that will connect him with a flood of "hot leads".

But it doesn't matter how good his elevator pitch is or his persuasion skills or his questioning techniques.

Since the vast majority of potential clients he meets aren't ready to buy yet, they just don't care. They don't see any of that as valuable to them (yet).

And that's especially true for high value services where you need to build considerable credibility and trust before someone will be willing to put an important part of their business or life in your hands.

Mark's approach is a bit like a guy who wants to get married deciding that the best people for him to talk to are brides on the eve of their marriage.

Because they're "hot leads" right? They're people who have decided they want to get married and they're very close to "sealing the deal". He doesn't have to waste his time with tyre-kickers. All he has to do is convince these brides who are ready to get married that he's the best person for them to marry.

Of course, when I put it like that, it sounds ludicrous.

Brides on the eve of their wedding are ready to get married all right. Just not to you.

They're ready to get married to someone they've built a relationship with.

It doesn't matter how great your "elevator pitch" is or how good a husband you'd make: you're going to have a hard time convincing them to marry you instead of the person they've been going out with for ages.

Perhaps George Clooney could make that strategy work.

But the rest of us? Not a chance.

And it's pretty much the same for Mark.

If Mark does manage to find a "hot lead" who's ready to buy, are they likely to put their vital strategy work in the hands of someone like Mark who they've just met?

Or are they more likely to give it to John. The consultant who, six months ago, opened their eyes to new possibilities with an insightful presentation. Who followed up by keeping them updated with news on an emerging trend in their customer base they were interested in. And who alerted them to an important investment their competitor was making.

Mark's a good guy and he knows his stuff. But no matter how credible and persuasive he is, he won't be able to overcome the strong relationship that John has built up and the impact of the value John has already delivered to his potential client.

And that's the key to Value-Based Marketing: be more like John than Mark.

Offer something of value to high potential clients to start your relationship with them well before they're ready to buy.

Invest in nurturing that relationship by continuing to add value over time.

Become a trusted advisor to your potential clients without waiting for them to pay you to do so.

If you do that, you'll have no problems finding potential clients happy to speak to you or connect with you: because they'll find it valuable.

Any of the common marketing and lead generation tactics can work for you. Doesn't matter which ones, as long as you're adding value.

(And conversely, if you're not adding value, it doesn't matter which tactics you use, you'll struggle. That's Mark's problem and it was my problem when I first started out).

And if you're adding value, you'll have no problems following-up and keeping in touch: because your potential clients will find it valuable (and you'll feel good doing it). 

And when the time is right for them to buy, you'll be in pole position.

You wont win every time, of course.

But you'll be John, not Mark.

The guy (or girl) who's built a strong relationship over time and demonstrated their expertise. Not the guy who's turned up at the last minute and claims he's the right one for the job.

If you want to make that switch, you need to reshape your marketing.

You'll need to be selective in which clients you focus on so you're only investing your time on the people you can add the most value to. And you need to figure out what it is they value. 

Then you need to switch around your lead generation so that instead of trying to tell people about you or what you can do for them, you offer them something that's immediately valuable to them (in an area where you can later work with them).

And you need to be systematic in your follow-up so that you continue to add value to your best potential clients both personally and through automated campaigns.

And finally, you win clients by engaging them in valuable conversations they find useful, and that lead to exploring the problems you can help with.

Will Value-Based Marketing work for you?

I honestly don't know.

It's worked for me, of course. And my clients.

It works best for high value services where hiring a professional to help is a big decision and takes time. Where clients aren't interested in being pitched at or grilled about their problems: but are interested in getting useful information about areas they could improve in.

And it's worked for some very successful businesses in the past you may have heard of.

Bruce Henderson

Bruce Henderson used Value-Based Marketing to grow the Boston Consulting Group from a tiny startup to a global powerhouse.

When he first set up, he didn't have the contacts, the reputation or the inside-track to clients that his more established competitors like McKinsey or A D Little had.

But what he did have in abundance was ideas. Ideas that were valuable to his potential clients.


Rather than holding on to those ideas, he published the best of them in little pocket-sized pamphlets called “Perspectives” and mailed them to senior executives in the client organisations he wanted to work with. 

By leading with value and giving those ideas to potential clients he proved he understood their challenges and their goals and had new ideas and insights into strategy that could help them.

Within a few years, BCG had become the number one strategy consulting firm in the world and Henderson had cemented his place in history.

Legendary marketer David Ogilvy used Value-Based Marketing as his weapon of choice to market the services of his agency, Ogilvy and Mather.

Whenever they needed new clients, Ogilvy would commission a "house ad" to run in a prominent magazine their clients read.

The ads were unusual. Unlike most ads of the time that were big on claims and promises, Ogilvy's house ads shared some of their best ideas in the area they hoped to get hired for.  

They covered topics from launching new products to creating advertising campaigns to running promotions and making TV ads.

All things they were looking to get hired to do by clients.

And they did it by giving away some of their best ideas.

Like Henderson's Perspectives, Ogilvy's house ads were valuable in and of themseves.

It wasn't just the promise of great ideas once you hired them. The ad itself shared great ideas that potential clients could immediately use.

That meant clients paid attention to the ads, rather than just flipping past them as they did with so many other ads. It helped that the ads looked different too, more like articles.

The ads were not only interesting and valuable, they proved that Ogilvy and his team really knew their stuff. Way more than any clever slogans, beautiful imagery or persuasive ad copy could ever do.

And instead of pitching their services directly, they suggested that interested readers should contact them to get more valuable insights from them directly.

Which, after a bit of qualification of course, would lead to meetings with potential clients interested in the topic and who already saw Ogilvy and Mather as experts.

Not surprisingly, the house ads drummed up a ton of business for them. And they've been copied countless times in different formats since.

Now back then, Henderson and Ogilvy didn't call what they did "Value-Based Marketing". For them it was just an effective way of attracting potential clients while building credibility and trust.

And it's an approach to marketing that you can use too.

It's not for everyone, of course.

Value-Based Marketing works best in businesses like consulting or coaching where investing in delivering value and building high trust relationships pays off through long-term, high-value, repeat clients.

And it only works if you're prepared to put in the work to build a marketing system that enables you to give value in advance to your potential clients and to nurture relationships consistently over time.

If that sounds like you, you can get started completely free with my Value-Based Marketing Blueprint.

It's a step-by-step guide for consultants, coaches and other professionals that shows you exactly what you need to do to become a Value-Based Marketer and build your own powerful marketing system. 

You can use the button below to sign up for the blueprint and the free companion "Fast Start" videos then help you get your system up and running quickly and starting to generate leads and clients.

If you've been paying attention, I'm sure you've noticed that the blueprint is my way of giving you value up front à la Value-Based Marketing. After all, I really ought to practice what I preach :)

Ian Brodie

Ian Brodie
Value-Based Marketer