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Value engineering your marketing

Does that phrase even make sense, asks Rick Osman, who thinks the finishes in a hotel are the most important part

At CIMCIG we believe absolutely that the last budget that should be cut in a recession is the marketing budget. And with things improving, or rather with people starting to say that things are starting to improve, now is the time to ramp up your efforts to be ready for the upturn.

Sadly many marketers will be facing budget cuts resulting from unenlightened management. There are those who believe that it is more important to get ever fewer invoices out on time rather than focus on getting more work so as to create more invoices, even though, horror of horrors, invoicing might be a week late as a result.

So this week we’ll be considering the role of value engineering in marketing and how it might be applied.

In a construction project, value engineering all too often results in the nice stuff that people relate to, the wall finish, the textures, the depth of colour, the fabrics, the seating, the carpeting, the balustrades, being reduced in cost and qualit. This is because these are the easy areas to cut. Sometimes there is even an element of hairshirtedness about it all; the architect or interior designer wants everyone else to know that they have made the sacrifice. What a load of misplaced twaddle.

For most customers and clients obvious reductions in quality will result in loss of business.

If you are constructing a hotel the finishes are the most important aspect of the build; get them wrong and the promise implicit in the hotel brand will be lost and return bookings lost with it. Make the lifts 10 per cent slower and the odds are the customer will not notice.

Value engineering is not about cutting and especially it is not about cutting the things the customer interacts with. It is about being ingenious, about finding new ways to do things. The same applies to value engineering your marketing. Don’t cut the things the customer interacts with; instead be ingenious. You should be about adjusting your costs so that there is no obvious reduction in quality or perceived quality.

Let’s look at value engineering in the context of marketing’s 4Ps: product, price, place and promotion.

Product: Value engineering had its origins in product development and that is as good a place as anywhere to start looking at value engineering from a marketing perspective. Can the existing products be made lighter?There are usually savings in making things lighter, from materials used to transport and in modern construction lightness is sometimes seen as an added value. Can your existing products or services be extended or new uses found for existing products? Product extension is always a profitable exercise with low development costs.

Price: The most important thing about price is to maintain it. Price cutting reduces profit and, more importantly, in the long run reduces the perceived value of your product. You can’t value engineer prices.

Place: Your position in the marketplace is the result of all your previous marketing effort. Wise marketers know the value of market positioning, better to reach up with a more expensive product than to reach down by price cutting. No harm in moving sideways though; consider your products and services and how they might be extended within the industry. Many products designed for industrial use have found their way into becoming fashionable accoutrements.

Promotion: This is what most non-marketers understand to be marketing and is the one that is most prone to being cut. It is also the one that your customers will most notice is being cut. Like the finishes in a hotel it is what the customer sees that matters. If your literature is not in the architect’s library it can’t be read; if your website is out of date and slow, users will move on; if you don’t advertise you disappear, all in all your name has to be in the hat to have a chance of being pulled out.

The good news is you can value engineer your promotional activities without any reduction in perceived quality. All advertising is very soft at the moment so you can probably get greater ad exposure at less than last year’s budget. Update your product literature bit by bit rather than by redoing the whole lot in one go.

Each individual update is an opportunity to reach customers and after a year or more you will have updated all your literature and have generated a lot more activity in so doing. Increase your electronic activity, email is cheap and you don’t have to send a giant, all encompassing newsletter every time.

Short pithy relevant emails will be read and remind people, even if they don’t read them, that you are in business and can be contacted. If you’ve won a contract, tell people, they’ll be both reminded and reassured about you. And let us never forget that reminding and reassuring are at the heart of marketing.

Rick Osman is a partner in Highwire,, a design and marketing agency that specialises in the construction industry, and one of the team that created as well as being a CIMCIG committee member. For further details visit

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