The Secret To Understanding Marketing

It’s always all about value!

I peach one thing time and time again: Marketing is about value. Not the value you think is important, but the value that other people desire and want.

The common trap most people fall into in marketing is “assumption.” They assume what they offer is of value to others. Never assume in marketing, always ask. Ask your customers, friends and associates what value they are looking for. This is why we have a tool called market research.

The value is to me, not you!

To be successful in marketing, be it business, personal, or social, you need to focus on the value to others, not you! Unfortunately, most of us have it backwards. They think just because they have a good idea, or like someone, the other person should feel the same way.

Marketing’s role in society is to make the lives of others better. The purpose of business is to provide products and services that help us function more efficiently. All businesses in the world are in the same business, and that is to solve other people’s problems.

To be successful in marketing, be continually externally focused. How can you help others solve their problems, and how can you bring the value they want and desire? Most people’s have the whole thing backwards. They are so in love with themselves, their products, people, or technology, they often forget they are in business to serve others.

I learned this lesson in 1988, when I first came to look for a job in America. I was given the opportunity to interview with the U.S. parent company of a U.K. company I was working for at the time.

They did not have any formal position in mind, so I had to meet as many people as possible in one week, to see where I could best add value. During the course of the week, I had about fifteen interviews, each lasting about two hours.

Every night I would come home exhausted, and depressed, since no one would extend me an offer. The third night the coin dropped. I figured it out what marketing was. I had to bring value to others and focus on them, not me. I figured out they really did not care that I had flown eight hours on a plane, drove two hours to get there, and was jet lagged and desperate to land a position. What they valued was how I could help them in whatever project they were working on. How could I make their life easier? Once I figured it out, the rest was easy.

So the last two days, I stopped talking about myself and what I wanted, and changed the focus to what they were working on, the projects, challenges, and solutions they desired, and how my marketing experience in Europe could help them. That was it! I had an offer by the end of the week!

Once I showed the value I could add, they asked me, “So what do you want?” I learned purely by accident the process of bringing value to others.

Let me remind you one more time, marketing is about serving others. Help others get what they want, deliver them the value they are looking for, and you will get what you want: more money, a better relationship, a job offer.

Remember value is not absolute; It is relative

Value itself is an abstract concept. But it will always come up in any conversation before a product, service or idea is transacted. Someone will mention “That’s good, but what’s the value to me?”

So what is value? Value is the level of importance that someone places on something. Values and value are two different things. Values determine how you evaluate something, or even if you are prepared to evaluate it.

Any product you see in the marketplace today is really no more than a representation of a normal curve. Not everyone likes the same thing.

Some may like a product more than others, some will hate it. But overall most people fall within a normal curve. It has a different relative value to the population in general.

Also, what people value depends on their background, religion, culture, and upbringing. It can sometimes change by the minute, depending on what they have been exposed to.

New products and services come into being because they bring added value to the marketplace. In fact, the word “innovation” simply means adding value.

When I go to a different country, I look at the most popular products, and I can tell the society’s underlying values. For example, in Japan I see people not buy just one pack of cigarettes, but about five at a time. The society does not value health. Conversely, Americans are big on our health, and we have more health clubs than any other country in the world. Any business really just responds to its society’s values.

Where is all this leading? It is the concept of “personal marketing.” To be really successful, develop a marketing plan for each and every person you deal with, since each person has their own perception of value.

Everyone prefers to be treated differently. This is why any quality sales course will teach you how to deal with different personality types. Remember value is in the eyes of the beholder!

Value has two parts: intangible and tangible

Tangible benefits are the quantifiable ones. When you buy a product, certain benefits can be spelled out in black and white.

Most people think that by simply spelling out tangible benefits, people must take advantage of your offer. But they forget that value has two parts: tangible and intangible.

We evaluate offerings through two value filters. One is tangible value, the other is intangible. Intangible value has nothing to do with your offering. The best way to think of intangible value is the way people like to be approached.

Several years ago, I sold high level scientific software to an academic institution. I went with the local sales rep to visit a doctor, and presented our solution. It was obvious it was of tangible value to him, and it would have certainly saved him time and money. But for some reason, this guy just did not connect with me. But he really liked our local sales representative. After about thirty minutes I figured it out. It was because I did not call him “Doctor” and the other guy did.

Although my offering had very clear tangible value to him, I did not provide him with the intangible value he wanted.

Was he being egotistical to want to be called “Doctor”? It was of tremendous value to him. I suppose if he spent years earning a Ph.D. it was important to him to be called by that title. As soon as I did, he connected and I got the sale!

Value has two sub–components: Intrinsic & Perceived

When I demonstrate to people what marketing is, I take out a dollar bill and say, “What if I burned this dollar bill. What would happen?” Would it be worth nothing? Maybe from one vantage point- Perceived Value. But at the same time, we keep value in another form. Sure, the paper molecules have been degenerated and converted into other molecules, and have returned to the atmosphere. However the intrinsic value of this one dollar bill has simply been converted into something else.

Value has two parts, perceived value and intrinsic value. Perceived value is “perceived in the eyes of others,” intrinsic value is the value inherent within something. Intrinsic value cannot be created nor destroyed at any time. It can only be converted from one form to another. It is matter!

It goes back to the basic laws of physics. This is how my science training helps me with marketing! Intrinsic is the natural value that is inherent within any person, product or thing. In a person, it could be natural skills or talents. In a product, it could be the potential application. In a natural resource, it’s potential properties.

Silk is basically “caterpillar spit,” but marketing people recognize the intrinsic value of caterpillar spit can be converted to perceived value, something that people perceive to be important. It’s the potential property of silk to be smooth, shiny and very attractive. Marketing in the true sense is the bridge between intrinsic and perceived. Smart marketing people can very quickly recognize and make the connection to convert intrinsic to perceived value.

An agent (for example, a staffing agent, theatrical agent or literary agent) sees the intrinsic value in someone’s talents, and presents them to a company, movie producer or publishing company.

But the person always had this natural talent, this intrinsic value. All it took was a “marketing agent” to convert it to perceived value, something others can benefit from. The world does not pay for potential or intrinsic value, it pays for perceived value or the application of value to something it feels is relevant. So the secret to marketing is to recognize intrinsic value first, and then how to convert it to perceived value, or the application of this value to the benefit of others.

When I taught job hunting at California State University I told the class, “I can’t give anyone anything more than what you currently have. Each of you has intrinsic value, your skill sets and natural talents. But what I can give you and what I am trained to do is to identify these talents and skills and help you bring them out into the open. I can show you how to package, position and present them for the benefit of others. This is what the market will pay for and this is what we call marketing.” It is this very simple distinction that has allowed me to have a 100 percent success rate with students I have personally helped to get a job.


Marketing is about value, and value is the heart of marketing. The secret to personal marketing is to increase your own value, so people come looking for you, versus you having to look for them. The secret to business marketing is to increase the value of your product so everyone wants it, because it benefits them.

Remember, if you truly want to be an ace marketer, keep that external focus, focus on others at all times and deliver the perceived value they want. Andrew Carnegie said it best. “You will never become rich, unless you can enrich the lives of others.” Marketing allows you to serve others, and when you do, you will be immensely satisfied, financially, spiritually and emotionally.