Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on August 2, 2018 and was updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness on June 25, 2019.
Ads are everywhere! From our phones to other traditional media outlets like print and television, brands are constantly fighting for our attention. This has made it increasingly hard for brands to get noticed as customers develop what many are referring to as “advertising blindness.”
With 64% of customers describing ads as annoying or intrusive, this advertising blindness shouldn’t come as a shock. Over 615 million devices currently have an ad blocker installed, and these numbers will only continue to grow. Clearly customers are tired of traditional forms of marketing, and are looking for other ways to engage with the brands they shop with.
So where does that leave us? If customers don’t want to engage with your ads and are actively trying to avoid them, how are you supposed to attract and retain new customers?
The answer is simple: value-add marketing.
Value-add marketing puts the customer first
At its core, value-add marketing is defined by its ability to deliver more than your customers are expecting. It’s an empathetic approach that seeks to delight customers by giving them more than they expect or pay for, emphasizing your brand’s desire to deliver value instead of simply making money.
This is particularly important in a time when customers are not shopping with transactional brands. Customers want to engage with brands that offer them experiences beyond making a purchase.
With value-add marketing, you have the opportunity to turn your marketing content into a product of its own that pushes the needle from transactional relationships to emotional ones by putting the customer’s needs first. As a result, the content you create arguably becomes your most valuable product and what ultimately makes your brand appealing.
Types of value-add marketing
Value-add marketing can take many forms. Some of the most popular include:
- Expert advice and blog content
- Referral and VIP rewards
- Educational content such as how-to videos, webinars, and workshops
- Surprise samples and free products
- Priority service and shipping
No matter what type of value-add marketing you choose to start, the key is to make sure that your customers find it valuable. After all, you are looking to create engagements, not just brand awareness!
Why you need to start value-add marketing
There are a number of reasons you need to include value-add marketing as part of your ongoing marketing strategy.
Traditional advertising isn't sustainable
With ever-increasing competition in the world of commerce, acquisition marketing costs continue to skyrocket. It’s more expensive than ever to purchase ad space and as the demand for this marketing real estate continues to climb, it will only increase in cost.
As fewer customers continue to trust traditional advertising, it becomes an even more unsustainable strategy. People don’t want to be sold to, which means they’re less likely to make purchases based on the expensive advertising messages you’re creating.
Value-add marketing creates a marketing ecosystem that allows you to improve and expand your strategy without eating into your margins. Instead, it helps you invest in profitable customers who will continue to engage with you over time, raising your bottom line and setting your business up for sustainable growth.
Builds emotional relationships
Loyalty isn’t a thing — it’s an emotion. Too often we discuss the idea of customer retention as building customer loyalty, when in fact it’s all about building sustainable, lasting customer relationships. These relationships are only possible when customers trust your brand and, as a result, the products and services you’re offering.
Value-add marketing is the key to establishing these relationships because it instills a sense of trust in you and your brand. By delivering exceptional experiences by sharing your expertise, running a rewards program, or improving your customer service, you build a strong base for long-term emotional connections between your brand and customers.
Retains more customers
When customers feel you have their best interests in mind, they will choose to do business with you instead of the many other competitors they could choose from. The emotional relationships you establish with a value-add strategy are what set you apart and will help keep customers engaged with your brand community.
This not only allows your business to continue growing but also saves you significant resources on ad spend. These factors are what allow you to transition from being a business built on transactional relationships to one rooted in emotional connections.
Inspires brand advocacy
One of value-add marketing’s greatest strengths is its ability to build trust between your brand and your customers. Whether it’s because you position yourself as an expert in your industry or consistently deliver fresh, exciting content, value-add marketing has the power to influence how much your customers trust your brand and the content you’re producing.
This is extremely valuable because customers who trust your brand are more willing and likely to share it with others. People are communal creatures by nature, which means we like to share our positive experiences with others. Value-add marketing is the perfect way to inspire a sense of brand advocacy or ambassadorship in your best customers, unlocking the potential for your brand community to continue growing and thriving over time.
How to start value-add marketing
Value-add marketing can take a number of different forms. This allows you to tailor it perfectly to you and your brand community.
Here are the 4 best ways to get started with value-add marketing.
1. Create rewarding experiences
Rewards have been a vehicle for exceeding expectations for over a hundred years. From simple punch cards to elite VIP rewards, they are undoubtedly the best way to build sustainable brand communities because the best reward programs always make customers the priority.
That’s why they’re the perfect place to start value-add marketing. By offering your customers tangible value for engaging with your brand, you create an environment that encourages reciprocal relationships. When they receive rewards that are tailored to their interests for completing specific actions, they’ll want to return the favor by continuing to engage with your brand.
This cycle draws them into your brand community and gets them excited to share their experience with their friends. In this way, your rewards program becomes your most valuable marketing tool as it mobilizes your existing customers to share its additional value with their own networks.
2. Teach customers something new
One of the best things you can do as a brand is to put yourself in your customer’s shoes. If someone’s new to your brand or products, are they going to understand how to engage with it or get the most out of it? How is your brand going to benefit them in the short term or over time?
Since nobody knows your products better than you, you have everything you need to make yourself an expert with value-add marketing. By focusing on what’s important to your customers and how you can help them get that with your brand, you start helping and stop selling.
You can help customers overcome obstacles and get more out of your brand in a number of ways:
- Video tutorials — show customers how to get the most out of your products by walking them through how to use them and what they can do
- eBooks and blog posts — add new content to your website regularly to make your site the one-stop shop for information on your products, industry, and values
- Webinars and workshops — give your community the chance to learn more about your brand and how to get the most out of your products with exclusive learning sessions offered only to your brand community
These and other types of content help transform the way customers see your brand. Instead of being about what you can get from them, it becomes how you can benefit your customers. This change of focus has a huge impact on how customers respond to your brand and delivers an incredible amount of low cost, high impact value every time.
3. Include customers in your brand story
Everyone wants to be included. Whether they care to admit it or not, the fear of missing out has the power to dramatically influence our decisions — especially if we’re already emotionally invested.
As members of your brand community, your customers are looking for opportunities to be included in your brand’s story. After all, that’s one of the reasons they chose to join your community in the first place! Recognizing that your customers care about the inner workings of your brand and developing content to include them there is a very powerful way to deepen each individual’s emotional connection to your brand.
The best part is that this doesn’t have to be complicated! Sometimes the simplest ideas can have the biggest impact. Why not take your customers behind-the-scenes on your official Instagram page, or film an interview with a couple members of your team? These are only two low effort, high value ways to expand your brand story outside the walls of your headquarters that will go a long way to enriching the experience customers have with your brand.
4. Make customer service a priority
Value-add marketing doesn’t always have to be a tangible product. Your ability to meet your customers’ needs is the foundation of your emotional relationship with them, meaning your customer service is extremely important to how valuable your community members find your brand.
That means you need to make sure your customers know they matter. Too often brands forget that the little things go a long way to making or breaking their customer experience and end up losing their valuable community members as a result.
You can avoid this by making customer service one of your top priorities. Pay attention to every type of customer interaction you have and make it easy for your customers to engage with the value your brand has to offer.
Better yet, actively seek your customers’ feedback and act on it! No one understands the effects of your customer service better than they do, which means their opinions are extremely valuable. Motivate them to share their experiences by including a regular call-to-action in your marketing emails or offering them a reward.
Regardless of how you ask for it, taking the time to do so demonstrates your commitment to making your customer experience valuable — a fact that won’t go unnoticed by your community.
5. Offer an exciting unboxing experience
Very few brands seem to remember that their customer experience doesn’t end with making a purchase. Until customers have received your product and experienced it working as promised, you’re still impacting their overall experience with your brand. Long shipping times, poor packaging, and low quality products all significantly impact how likely your customers are to shop with you again, and can influence them to share their poor experiences with friends.
That’s what your unboxing experience is so important. Not only is it fun to open something that looks beautiful and on brand, but it also positively colors every stage in your customer’s journey with your products. Paying attention to things like package design and little touches like thank you notes do not go unnoticed by customers, and can actually become one of the highlights of shopping with you!
When you pay attention to these details, you create opportunities to add value to your customers that turn into even bigger value for you and your brand.
Build a strong foundation for your brand with value-add marketing
In a world bombarded by one-size-fits-all marketing messages, you can distinguish yourself from the competition with the “more is more” approach of value-add marketing. By over-delivering with valuable content that improves your customers’ brand engagement, you position your brand as the perfect complement to their needs and interests.
At the end of the day, value-add marketing is the key to a truly memorable customer experience.
Without it, your brand's just another type of noise to avoid.