Products don’t matter.

If you think that selling products or services alone will get you to a place of success, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. The most successful organizations don’t sell products. Never have, never will.

Steve Jobs never built a computer. Microsoft never coded an operating system. Google does not offer a search engine, In-n-Out does not deal in burgers and Toyota doesn’t sell cars.

These mega performers don’t sell the obvious items/services that we see on the outside. They are in the game to provide profound value to their customers. Providing value, as many of you know, is first and foremost, a mindset.

Value-thinking happens at different levels and it impacts every aspect of your business. There are 3 distinct levels of value that we want to share with you: transactional value-thinking, inspirational value-thinking and transformational value-thinking.

What kind of value-thinker are you?

If you just care about offering your product to a marketplace, then your value is limited to the product itself. we call this transactional value-thinking. This kind of thinking reduces you to a provider of goods or services and banks on people wanting your product enough to pay a fair market price for it.

The advantage: It’s easy to set up. A wave of transactional thinking has brought us drop shipping and Amazon stores galore. Because your business is reduced to minimal customer interaction (buy product – check out and pay), the implications are minimal. Quick set up, quick break down. Move on.

The draw back: besides creating a lot of noise in an already noisy market and making it harder for customers to navigate, you admit that your professional impact is limited to money making. This makes you very vulnerable at the product level: if there is a better product, if your product is defective, out of stock or too expensive, people will immediately choose someone else over you. Most of all, you don’t have anyone’s buy in. When you are transactional, people only love you for the items. This is a very non-human approach to relationship management and it always loses in the long term.

That’s why transactional businesses are short-term machines. I have yet to meet someone who was transactional and sustainably happy. 

Inspirational value-thinking takes this a step further.

Inspirational value businesses seek to use the narrative of inspiration to win their people’s hearts through their offerings. This value is much more significant because it does not just rely on the product itself, but on a mindset of the organization that finds expression in the offerings.

However, inspiration is a difficult sea to navigate. Most of the inspirational value that businesses offer end when the product is delivered, and leave the customers alone in the dark to figure out what’s next.

The advantage: people crave inspiration. They want to feel inspired to change something about their lives. Your team has much more buy in to do their work and contribute when they know that the goal of the organization is to inspire. Plus in terms of marketing it’s just nicer to use the jargon of inspirational storytelling.

The drawback: Inspiration can only take people so far. And a lot of the inspiration ends when the offer is consumed. This has led to a wealth of interchangeable inspirational offerings and confused customers who have become very cautious. Many inspirational offerings are therefore considered “transactional offerings with a little more heart.”

The real game changers operate at a different level. They employ something we call transformational value-thinking. What happens here is that everything a company does must help someone tap into positive transformation. This is not equal to changing someone (the difference between them is for another post at another time). To offer transformational value simply means to guide someone on a path to seeing something in a new light.

Transformational thinking impacts not just the product, but the story within which the product is set. It considers the problems, the developments, the needs and fears of the customer and addresses all of them along the way. These companies offer transformational experiences around their products: An airline can do what every other airline does and just sell seats to people flying. Or, it can offer a transformative experience by offering hospitality in the clouds, and treating each passenger as a guest. 

The advantage: transformational value creates love, fans and bonds. It is stronger than market powers and thinks outside of competition boxes. Because the team delivers an experience that leads to growth, they are much more engaged on a human level. Plus if your product fails, people will forgive you. You own the benefit of the doubt.

The drawback: to be in the business of transformation is no easy game. It is an investment that requires an ALL-IN mindset. It is a commitment to create better workplaces and better experiences. It is a long game that requires patience, but it always pay off!


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