With the marketplace becoming increasingly competitive for professionals, service providers, and contractors, more people are focusing on their marketing efforts than ever before. While marketing seems to be the logical answer to the complex problem of creating greater awareness of your products and services, it's not an all encompassing solution.

At the heart of every marketing issue is value.

Understanding value starts with understanding what it means. For that we consult Merriam-Webster and its various definitions.

1: a fair return or equivalent in goods, services, or money for something exchanged
2: the monetary worth of something: market price
3: relative worth, utility, or importance
4: a good value at the price
5: the value of base stealing in baseball
6: had nothing of value to say
7: something (as a principle or quality) intrinsically valuable or desirable sought material values instead of human values - W. H. Jones

When doing business, we tend to think about profits. After all, so many companies have a singular focus on achieving their bottom lines. The companies that are surviving and succeeding are the ones whose business models emphasize value; the value that they provide with the creation of products and/or services which they offer.

No matter what business you are in, the food chain ends with a consumer of the products/services created. Basic marketing knowledge will help anyone target the right consumers, but it takes more than basic knowledge to understand what those consumers really value. For example, clothes sold at Target appeal to those who are budget conscious. This is not to confuse Target clothing with cheap clothes. What Target shoppers really value is not inexpensive clothes, but quality clothing that's inexpensive. The value of the clothing is that it's affordable and fits into their budget.

Understanding where the value lies in your business functions is crucial.

Up and down the spectrum, I'm seeing more and more that value is being underestimated and overlooked. In the industry in which I spent the majority of my life, the music business, I see that there's an alarming amount of music artists who have not embraced this mantra.

As tempting as it is to think that talent reigns supreme and content is king in the music industry, it is not. Those fallacies are indicative of prehistoric thinking. The music industry is not suffering from dwindling CD sales; it's suffering from the lack of value that music fans are experiencing in their CDs, and the lack of value in their relationships with the music artists who are making them - not the talent or the talent levels.

Even with Michael Jackson, arguably the greatest entertainer of our time, talent did not reign supreme; the quality of his immense talents were at the core of the value that enriched and heightened the entertainment experience of his fans via his music, videos, and live performances. His relationship with his fans held tremendous value to them.

Value is the single factor which launched the sales of his album Thriller into the stratosphere. It still holds the record for the most albums sold.

In business, merely having knowledge of the product/service you are selling is not enough to understand its worth to consumers. The correlation between value and worth is too often understated. When you understand value, you actually move away from the selling of products and services, and begin to focus on the value of them.

People emotionally relate more to value than they do to price, and it's a larger factor in purchasing decisions.

Take for consideration designer clothing. People place value on them, which increases their worth monetarily. Many designer brands consist of the same fabrics sold at Target, but people do not get the ego boost, adulation, or improved social status from wearing clothes from Target that they get from wearing designer brands.

People value the ego boost experience of designer brands and what they can (possibly) accomplish by wearing them. That's where the value gets translated into status and the style points. How much do people value that? An amount that's equal to the worth that's reflected in the price of such items. Ditto for cars and other luxury (i.e. status) items.

Life insurance, which was once called death insurance, was more difficult to sell because the insurance companies misplaced its value. When trying to interest families to purchase insurance policies, what they placed an emphasis on was death, and the financial ramifications of it for families. Since insurance salesmen went door-to door, an unannounced visitor reminding families of the certainty of death, put many people off. They were not emotionally receptive to the value of it.

Shift the value of the policy from the morbid thought of death, to the peace of mind that can come from knowing your family will not be left in financial ruins in the event of your untimely death, and you really identify the value of having life insurance: preparation and peace of mind about death while living.

Perhaps the most challenging aspect of value is recognizing our own. Since businesses are created to make money, the necessity and benefit of value can be easily grasped for them in most cases. But what about individuals?

The value that we hold in relationships varies from person to person in the same way that designer clothes hold value to different people. It's your responsibility to not only know what values you possess (see definitions 3 and 7 above), but to effectively communicate, or better yet, demonstrate those values to people who know you. The worth that they associate with your value is what yields the dividends for them, and gives you leverage to get paid what you are truly worth (see definitions 1 and 2 above).

If you are not being paid what you are worth, it's because the person who is paying you does not value the product or services that you render. Period.

This is why positioning yourself (putting yourself in a position to be recognized in a favorable way in the minds of people who may pay you) is the most important work that you can do. It's work of the highest importance and should be done even when you have job, or a large clientele.

Ultimately, we are valued for solving problems, fulfilling needs, or catering to desires. The worth of your value will always be tied to these principles. So when it comes to a question of value, the value is usually in the experience or the relationship which yields the dividends; that's where your real focus should be, and that's where your true worth lies.

Author's Bio: 

Gian Fiero is a speaker and author who lectures around the country.