October 12, 2015
Establishing Value Within Your Brand
Value is defined as something of relative worth or importance1. Consumers use value to make decisions on things like purchases or activities that they pursue nearly every minute of the day. The computer you use, the food you consume, and even the clothing you wear are all directly related to value.
Marketers work with their own brands to teach you value without even being in contact with you directly. They do this by offering a large variety of options wherever you shop. Some of these options are cheaper than others and thus are perceived to be of lesser value. Whether they are or not, sometimes its just a matter of perception among the audience these marketers are targeting. Using these tactics brands are sometimes extremely successful at telling their story. This gets consumers to opt-in in a heartbeat.
We can all learn a lot from some of the big brands out there in terms of getting your audience to opt-in. Marketing campaigns, product placement, packaging, as well as offering different options within your own brand can prove to increase profitability inside your own business. Your clients need to know they are getting what they pay for otherwise, they will almost always jump ship.
Value comes down to psychology. Consumers are often taught, by more established brands, that those products and services have much more value when in reality they could be just as good or bad as the rest of their competition. A consumer must make a decision on what products or services to buy. They say not to judge a book by its cover, but most consumers do exactly that.
They say not to judge a book by its cover but most consumers do exactly that.
Some part of your brain impulses you to make a decision on a product or service. That triggers as a result of persuasive tactics from marketers as well as your own perception of value.
My own experience
I started freelancing about 7 years ago. I worked part-time alongside a full-time job for the larger portion of that timeframe. For the longest time, I was extremely strict with my budget as I was making very little money freelancing in the beginning. As with most designers or developers, you tend to need a way to share larger files.
Enter Dropbox. While I loved the product, the free plan was limited. I managed to use the free 3GB worth of space in a matter of weeks which left me out of luck for sharing some files I wanted to with my clients or my friends (This was years ago, the free plan now offers more space). I was too cheap to buy the pro-rated plan at first because I only used it when I needed it. A year or two went by and I decided it was finally time to upgrade.
What made me opt-in? I needed it. Dropbox is the centralized underlining of how I worked then and now. Sharing files via email or using random free plans on other apps just wasn't cutting it. The fact that I perceived Dropbox as a need and not just a want is what separates a value from materials.
Now there are other applications out there for sharing files like Box or Google Drive but because I've had a history with Dropbox I view it as superior. This same principle applies to all brands alike. You develop a relationship with your goods or services. That bond is a tough one to break.
Building value for your own brand
Value, from a designer's perspective, takes time and patience. Making your own brand appear as of high value is a challenge in itself. You're going to have to start small and build your way up. Every business that has ever existed started somewhere and followed the same path.
Value is more than just how things appear on the outside. For products and services, value is about solving problems. Your customers have to need your products rather than want. Sure, there are exceptions to this rule. Some customers, don't need everything they buy but placing your product in such a way makes it appear as though they need it. This is marketing at its core.
People like options. Take a stock photography subscription service like Shutterstock for example. Users can purchase image packs or buy a plan that allows them to download all the images they want for a monthly fee (with some restrictions).
These options appeal to larger audiences who are in need of photography. If Shutterstock only had one plan to choose from you can probably bet they would be missing out on business.
Options inside your own projects
If you freelance, for example, you may often need to give a potential lead a quote for a project they have inquired about. Within your quote, you might offer options to give your customers a sense of choice. Options could include up-sells or simply adding something like a monthly maintenance package for a website they wanting to have built.
Get feedback and share it
Testimonials, whether you think so or not, are huge. Think of testimonials like a review on Amazon. These encourage customers to put faith in your brand. If they don't have any proof of your worth what makes you think they are ready to drop thousands on a project if they don't know you or can't relate with someone else.
Getting testimonials can be a challenge at first because in order to get them you have to actually have a client or two agree to it. This means landing a few clients without testimonials to share. This is where having a good portfolio or website to show off what you do and how you do it comes in handy.
Case Studies vs. Portfolios
Portfolios are known as a collection of works you have created. These are great for showing off your style, but, unfortunately, they lack context. You're only showing the client or on-looker where you ended up. People are more interested in seeing how you got there.
To prove your value as a designer or developer you have to push the boundaries and document your process. Case studies show how you got from point A to point B and every major milestone along the way. If potential clients can see your process they will know more about how you work and make the fee you charge that much more tolerable. You can certainly charge more if you prove your value with case studies, but keep in mind there are a lot of determining factors within every project.
Blog about it
Blogging is a great way for potential leads to come in direct contact with your thoughts and ideas. People get a kick out of reading articles that create buzz around the brand. These articles sometimes make it to the top of news feeds around the web as a result of one person's voice, which I think is pretty cool.
If your articles get shared that also typically means your brand does as well. People who read what you have to say can sometimes identify with you which in return adds more value to your brand. If people identify with your brand they will likely continue to do so. This process builds brand awareness and allows you to grow your network. From there, more people trust what you have to say.
Most blogs start from nothing but slowly gain readership. The author must make sure constant quality content is being delivered otherwise it could result in the reverse effects of value.
There are tons of ways to add value to your brand. I suggest taking a step back and learn how successful brands made their way to the top. We all can learn something from these brands, but you have to also consider your own while doing so. What works for others may not work for you. Distinguishing yourself from similar brands is what it takes to get where you want to be.
I've discussed how to start small by offering options, getting feedback from your clients or consumers, documenting your process, and finally blogging about it every step of the way. Sometimes developing your brand out in the open denotes a lot of value. People like to see what you've accomplished and how you came to be. They then identify with your brand and will always consider it more valuable as a result.