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Quality, saving time, reducing risk and of course, price are typical headlines for marketing and sales as we seek to win customers and it can be difficult to differentiate ourselves from other competing businesses.

So, what if we could change that conversation; enabling customers to have fun, feel more motivated or become part of something, creating an opportunity for your business to stand out and attract customers rather than pursuing them.

During #mystrategyis workshops I ask business owners to list the things that their customers value, on a good day we start to run out of steam at around 8 - 10 however management consultancy group Bain & Company, having spent decades on consumer research and observation, have identified 30 distinct elements of consumer value.


Bain researchers categorised these elements into four tiers from the functional, practical needs to the higher more aspirational needs, drawing comparisons to the different levels of motivation identified in Maslow’s hierarchy. Whilst the relevance of each element and combinations of elements will depend on your specific industry, unsurprisingly quality was found to be a universal requirement.

So why is this important?

Bain’s research concluded that businesses that scored highly on at least 4 elements ‘reap big gains’ both in increased revenue and customer loyalty with consumer ‘power house’ brands such as Amazon delivering on 8 and Apple on 11 elements. Evaluating these elements can allow you to improve or create new products and services or to exploit gaps in your competitors offers.

So how can you use this in your business?

Based on Bain’s work I have turned their 30 elements into 30 questions to ask yourself or to stimulate and structure discussion with your team; What elements does your industry currently compete on? What do your competitors compete on? What other elements are important to customers or could provide opportunities to create a differentiated offer?

Starting at the functional values, these should be relatively straightforward to evaluate however as you move into emotional, life-changing and social impact expect these to become increasingly complex to address but which can deliver increasingly greater impact.

The 30 questions to identify market changing value


These are based on the more practical, physical jobs to be done. These are the typical areas that business focussed on, however analysing this group can provide some relatively ‘easy win’ ways to increase value.

How do we (or could we) help our customers

· to get things done with less effort

· avoid or reduce hassle

· reduce costs

· by providing good quality

· by providing range or variety

· by appealing to their sight, touch, hearing and other senses

· by providing reliable and trusted information

· by connecting them with others

· by integrating our products/services with different aspects of business/life

· become more organised

· to reduce risk or protect them from loss

· to make money

· to simplify things

· to save time


Imagine you are peeling away the layers of an onion in understanding the things that customers value, these areas may not be immediately obvious and require you to explore these areas with current customers.

How do we (or could we) help our customers

· improve their physical or mental state

· by soothing or providing therapy

· have fun or be entertained

· feel more attractive

· gain access to other things of value

· demonstrate status or achievement

· own something which is aesthetically appealing/attractive

· feel nostalgic with positive connections to the past.

· gain rewards for loyalty

· to worry less and feel more secure


These values can be deeply important even fundamental to customers and therefore can generate greater loyalty and advocacy.

How do we (or could we) help our customers

· To be more motivated to achieve their own goals

· To make an investment for future generations

· To feel a sense of belonging or part of something important

· Achieve a sense of self accomplishment or improvement

· To feel more optimistic


Ok, so this seems like a big one but is increasingly becoming an area that large organisations focus on through ethical, community/charity and environmental programmes. This factor is becoming increasingly significant in peoples buying choices, however seeking to deliver on this value must be genuine and meaningful rather than simply ticking the box or this can have the opposite effect and switch customers off.

How do we (or could we) help our customers

· To help society

Choosing which elements of value to deliver on is one of the key choices in your strategic planning, and delivering on even 1 additional element could be significant but remember that ‘Value is what is the customer says it is’ – you need to have or develop a deep understanding of what is important to your customer in order to ensure that you really deliver something they want rather than simply a nice to have.


If you plan to spend some time looking at these elements perhaps at the next team meeting or strategic review and would like some external facilitation and guidance please get in touch.

(Bain & Company's original article published in the Harvard Business Review in September 2016 can be found here hbr.org/2016/09/the-elements-of-value)

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