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How Does Quality Relate to Value?

Posted by Darrin Fleming on May 29, 2013 11:34:30 AM
Darrin Fleming

I've worked with many clients to help them craft value propositions. One mistake they often make is to mistake quality for value.

When it comes to communicating your value, quality doesn't really mean anything to your customer. That’s because quality is highly subjective. It may well be that a Toyota is a high quality car because you never have to take it to a mechanic to be repaired. But it may also be that a BMW is a high quality car because it is, as they say, “the ultimate driving machine.” In each case, the customer gets to define what quality means.

Say you’re selling a measurement device. You could say it’s the highest quality device on the market because it’s so reliable. In fact, it will last 50 years and require no repairs. But to a customer who only needs a device to last 3 years, longevity beyond 3 years means nothing. On the other hand, the fact that the device lasts 50 years would be important to a customer who wants to use it in a satellite that will operate for the next 30 years. That’s a clear case that you’re providing value.

Similarly, you could say the device is the highest quality because it measures to 0.001 percent accuracy. But to a customer who only needs 1 percent accuracy, 0.001 percent doesn't represent additional value over a device that delivers their needed 1 percent accuracy.

This is where sales and marketing teams often get stuck, because the definition of value is not always based upon how your offering will impact the customer’s business. The definition of value is what it’s worth, in quantifiable terms, to solve a problem for the customer. Quality is too generic and cannot be measured that way.

There’s a concept in Six Sigma called the five “whys” that’s relevant here. If someone says, “This is the highest quality product on the market,” you have to assume the customer will go down the line of “why” questions. They might include:

Why would I want to buy your device? (Answer: Because the device will last 50 years.)

Why do I care that the device will last 50 years? (Answer: Because you’ll have fewer failures downstream.)

Why do I care that I’ll have fewer failures? (Answer: Because eventually you’ll have to pay maintenance and service costs, and our device will save you those costs.)

The concept here is that you need to continue to ask “why” until you get to an answer that finds the root of the customer’s need. That’s where value lies.

How do you define your value in your market? Share your thoughts in the comments section.

Topics: Value Proposition, Market Strategy