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If we’re all in this together, what’s in it for me?


Sounds counter-intuitive doesn’t it?  Surely our selfless motivations, if  we really believe that “we are all in it together” should prompt us to ask “where can I help?”.

But we’re not all altruistic to the point of self-sacrifice because increasingly we can’t afford to be.  Perhaps the most realistic expectation is to ask “what’s in it for us?” where “us” means our nearest and dearest as well as our broader community and associations.

Why am I talking about this philosophical stuff, you may ask…?

Because if we as organisations want anything from other individuals or organisations, I believe we need to understand the distinction between the above positions very clearly.  There is a tried and tested marketing concept called the value equation which suggests that in order to elicit the action we want from target audiences, we have to offer something commensurateand meaningful to them in order for them to perceive value in doing it.

Luv Shoes - the value equation is complete!

We think about this almost on a subconscious level; £100 for a fabulous pair of shoes can either be perceived as “they are so totally worth it and  I’m going to look gorgeous…” or “someone is having a laugh!”.  In both cases the individual has weighed up both sides of the value equation and made a judgement which results in action or inaction.  The buyer thinks there are benefits to them equal to or exceeding £100 and so acts accordingly.

To the two organisations that approached me during the last week asking for my time and contributions to their business model and to promote their programmes, for free, where is the value in your value equation (and I don’t just mean money)?

Fundraisers get this concept – it underpins any robust case for support – “if you give us this money, we will do this with it, and we will recognise your contribution and keep you involved, if you want to be, over time so you can see for yourself what a difference your donation makes…”  Sales people get it; it’s how needs-based selling works.

So why do organisations still ask for things from people without designing the value equation which will give them the greatest chance of success with their audience?  I’ve experienced three main reasons (I’m sure there are more):

  1. Some folks spend a lot of time looking inwardly in their organisations.  Being too close to the great work we do makes us believe it’s awesome and of course everyone else will love it too.
  2. Some communicators think that the value is implicit and do not specifically draw it out in their messages; that their readers or viewers are smart enough to spot it themselves.  Yes they probably are but in 2012 they probably don’t have the time to!
  3. One value equation fits all audiences right?  Wrong.  I’m advocating targeting based on more than socio-demographics and recency, frequency and value.  We should try and understand what our audiences want from us in exchange for their action, and then deliver it.

I’m guessing that anyone reading this blog isn’t doing these things but if you are, I recommend taking stock and thinking about what value your target audiences want from you in return for doing what you need them to do.  Then build the resultant value equation explicitly into your messages.

Thoughts welcome as always.

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