Branding and marketing have always been very challenging for SMEs. Products and services are relatively the same in the market. On the other hand, proliferation of media and extensive information online are also confusing consumers or professional buyers in making purchasing decisions. How can we help our target market to choose us? What messages can we deliver to differentiate ourselves to win over competitors?

BIZSPHERE has been consulting SMEs for more than a decade. There are many SMEs which have great products and superior service standards but are unable to unveil value propositions in the most relevant and convincing manner. SMEs need a simple framework to help them organise their thoughts. We recommend SMEs to use the simple model below to help craft the ideal value proposition.

Valcom 3C Model Bizsphere
VALCOM 3C™ model is developed by BIZSPHERE to enable SMEs to craft their own appealing messages to be communicated to their clientele. VALCOM = Value Communication whilst 3C refers to Customers; Company; Competitors. In our opinion, each piece of communication must bring value to both the sender and the receiver. The key is to Communicate What Matters Most. It is not only about what we want to communicate, but how customers value it and whether competitors are saying the same thing. VALCOM 3C™ model is best to be explained using a Venn Diagram. Each circle represents the core elements of customers, company and competitors.

Customers – What Matters Most to Them?

Let’s be practical. Customers want everything especially if they do not need to pay extra. We need to identify what is good to have and what is a must to have from customers’ perspective. We will not be able to satisfy everything that customers want. Our branding and marketing effort should focus on what matters most to them. For example, what matters most to a customer who goes into a café? Would it be the coffee aroma, the origin of the coffee bean, the ambience, the personalised service with a smile, the price, a nice wall for selfie, the barista or the location? SMEs can use survey forms, get the front liners to ask the customers directly or organise some contests to get their feedback.

Company – What are Your Strengths?

SMEs will need to ask themselves. Do they have what it takes to offer and fulfill what matters most to their customers? SMEs must review internally what strengths they command from the list of “What Matters Most to Customers?”. For example, your company might have five strengths out of 10 attributes that matters most to customers. Is that great? Not really. You have the strengths that matters most to them means that your products and services are “RELEVANT” to them. They might like you but not choose you. Customers will still do their research and comparisons. They will approach different suppliers based on what and how these suppliers communicate their key value proposition. SMEs must seriously look at their operations if they do not have enough strengths that matters most to their customers. For SMEs that can’t find strengths relevant to what matters most to their customers, then it’s time to review their target customers or whether they are in the right business.

Competitors – What are They Not Addressing?

There are low barriers of entry in today’s economy. The uniqueness of products and services offerred today can be copied the very next day. There is always another supplier who can offer similar products at the same or lower price. Can we still differentiate ourselves if other competitors can do what we do? POSSIBLE! We need to acknowledge that not every company is active and consistent in branding and marketing. They might have the strengths but may not be communicating it clearly, loudly and consistently. This is what we call “What the Competitors are Not Addressing?”. A simple example is the milk formula “Enfagrow”. Most other brands in the market also contain DHA, but do not actively shout it out. “Enfagrow” took the lead, advertised heavily on benefits of 4xDHA. The market thought they were the only one having DHA. They have the 1st mover advantage and taken the biggest market share then.

In short, we can gain a “Competitive Advantage” by addressing what matters most to our customers which are not communicated by other competitors, although they have the same or better capabilities. In the case where the competitors and the company do not address what matters most to customers or have the strengths, this will be the area of “Potential” where the Research and Development or the Strategic Planning unit can look at. This is the vacuum where the opportunity for the ones who move faster.

The Ideal Message/Value Proposition

A SME can craft out an Ideal Message or Value Proposition when they have the strengths to the attributes that matters most to customers and yet not addressed by competitors.

What matters most to your customers + What strengths you have to offer + What competitors are not addressing = Ideal Message and Value Proposition.

Simple guide in using VALCOM 3C™ Model:
1. List down 10 attributes that matters most to customers. (List X)
2. Filter out attributes which your company has the strengths from the List X. (List Y)
3. Filter out the attributes where competitors do not address from List Y.
4. The Ideal message will be the centre sweet spot of the Venn Diagram.

By Keng Teck Yap, Managing Consultant of Bizsphere Brand and Marketing Group.
Written for Business Today Magazine, Issue March 2020.

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