I was in Maryland last week. I learned a great deal. Including how to pronounce the state in question. I had assumed it was pronounced as if it was the ‘land’ of ‘Mary’ – two separate words joined together. I now know it flows as a single word. Merriland. (It’s the best I can do). The additional nuance being that – as with many US words – the emphasis is all on the second syllable ‘ril’ and – unlike most UK words – isn’t on the first syllable ‘Mer’.
I also learned science last week – it was a scientific conference after all. And I met with many of our customers, partners and sponsors. These big scientific symposia present wonderful opportunities to network and socialise, to debate and discuss, because so many of us are in the same place at the same time.
I learned something else…something I remembered being taught previously by one of our Business Development team members. I relearned the power of Immediate Value over Future Value.
My BD colleague asked me if I ever see ‘buy one get one free’ offers when out shopping for packets of oranges. Yes. What happens? I come home with two packets of oranges. He then asked what would happen if the sign above the oranges suggested that if I ‘eat an orange a day for six months I won’t catch a cold next winter’. Nothing.
Buy one get one free, along with other point of sale discounts and special offers, are classic examples of ‘Immediate Value’. Making a purchase in order to gain some possible benefit in six months is all about ‘Future Value’.
In the world of commercial sales, Immediate Value is much more important than Future Value. Both together is OK; but if we have to choose, we always choose Immediate over Future.
And value is absolutely not the same as price. Price discounts are simply an obvious manifestation of Immediate Value. Immediate Value could as easily – or as importantly – be a near-term start or delivery date. Or it could be the people or team we would be working with. Or the expert advice or guidance offered regarding the product or project we are buying or working on together.
Many businesses in many industries inadvertently find themselves emphasising their Future Value. Quality is a classic example of Future Value. Our product will last longer, will have less errors or faults…will delight you for longer. All of these are good, but in truth, we all know that many of these events (or benefits) will never materialise any time soon.
Companies who sell with ‘quality’ as their mantra can often struggle in competition with others who discount on price…unless that manifestation of quality is very real (and ideally very quick). Brand is important. A brand that inspires trust, quality or status can often materialise as Immediate Value. I feel better wearing my Apple watch today even though it doesn’t tell the time any differently…and even though I doubt I am any fitter.
In all of my discussions last week, current and future partners were most interested and passionate about what we could do to help them today…help them to solve problems or seize opportunities they have immediately in front of them…
Whenever our discussions moved onto how we could help them in the future…when we develop capabilities we don’t have today, or when their projects move through the R&D phases…they were less engaged and excited. They could see and understand…but we were describing Future Value. Immediate Value will always supersede Future Value.
Now where are those oranges I have to finish before they go moldy…