I’ve been reading Mark Stiving‘s book on pricing (Impact Pricing) and was struck by the concepts of real value and perceived value – and the gap that sometimes lives between them.
Real value is what’s actually in the product. In technology markets, it’s what engineering designs into the product. Perceived value is what the customer thinks the value is – and what they buy. Hence it’s very important to pricing.
Perceived value may reside in things outside of engineering’s control, or in something considered unimportant by developers. I’ve known cases where customers raved about a minor feature that engineering put in as a debugging aid.
Marketing’s role is to:
- Translate real value into perceived value – particularly at the start of the product lifecycle.
- Discover perceived value in the market once the product is out – and adjust content marketing efforts to champion that value where possible (playing to your strengths) or course-correct if it’s a problem.
- Feed back perceived value to the engineering team for further development.
If you stop at step 1 (which many engineering-driving organizations do), then you will miss the opportunity to align your messaging and your solution with customer perceptions, and acknowledge what they value most. If you keep insisting on the superiority of your features and no one cares, then you’re wasting marketing efforts.
How do you measure or track perceived value? Customer interviews, trade show conversations, online buzz and user groups, surveys, market research – there are many methods for listening to your market.
We can influence what the customers think the value of our product is, but ultimately that’s out of our control. Smart companies will not only try to shape perception, but also listen to what customers are really choosing and tune their messaging accordingly.