The Real Challenge for Value Brokers: Reminding Companies Where Value is Created

Today we welcome Ralph Oliva to Voice of Value. Ralph is a Director of the Institute for the Study of Business Markets (ISBM; www.isbm.org) and Professor of Marketing at Smeal College of Business, Penn State.

Companies are getting sick. As we move through the rocky start of 2016, leaders and researchers at the Institute for the Study of Business Markets (ISBM) are noticing that companies are facing a huge problem—and it remains to be seen whether this sickness is curable.

Value is Created With Customers

The root of the disease is that companies are losing sight of how and where value is created. It is not created by optimizing ties to shareholders. Value is created when organizations remember why they exist: to create value together with their customers.

Unfortunately, in practice, this concept is not as obvious as it may seem. Take a look at what’s happening to DuPont and Dow, Tyco and others and you’ll see high-level management teams dismantling their firms and distracting their employees from a focus on customer value. Instead, management teams are off in the quest for “Shareholder Value.” Companies which were once national treasures of value creation—and brands with equity built over many years—are going away. Leaders have lost sight of a clear focus on customer value, and in their quest to please shareholders, seem to have forgotten why their companies were created in the first place.

Value is Connected to Purpose 

Simon Sinek in his excellent TED Talk, and his book Start with Why, points out that successful organizations remember why they started.  Everyone in the organization focuses on his or her unique capability to create value together with customers. The purpose of their organization, in the first place, was to do something that made the world a better place, to solve an important problem, and to innovate. It’s then and only then that real value is created in the world.

Everyone in the organization focuses on his or her unique capability to create value together with customers.

Steps for Sales and Marketing Professionals

As sales and marketing professionals, we need to build a voice to remind companies that it is customers who enable us to create new value. We need to remind companies that that is why we exist. Value is NOT created on Wall Street.

So as marketers, provide the tools and services your sales and marketing teams need to remind them of your company’s unique ability to create value, when you focus on customers. Make sure to watch out for the soul of your company. Don’t leave shareholder communications solely to “Investor Relations.” Marketers need a voice on Wall Street. And that voice needs to be the voice of our customers: customers who rely on our companies’ competencies and unique strengths as part of their success.

Don’t think that is it not your job to re-focus on value. It is your job.  And if we don’t get around to focusing on this, your job may not be around for long. Join me in this evangel. Write me at rao8@psu.edu.

About the Author

Ralph Oliva

Ralph Oliva

Ralph is a Director of the Institute for the Study of Business Markets, and Professor of Marketing in the Smeal College of Business Administration at Penn State University. Since 1997, Ralph has been working with B-to-B firms in building better, more profitable business marketing practices. He has worked with Fortune 500 companies including DuPont, Honeywell, IBM, and GE. Previously, he was V.P. of Market Communications and Design at Texas Instruments.  Ralph holds a Ph.D. and M.S. in Solid State Physics from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and a B.S. in Physics from Fordham University.


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