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Value-ology by Simon Kelly, Paul Johnston and Stacey Danheiser

The full title of this book by Simon Kelly, Paul Johnston and Stacey Danheiser is

Value-ology: Aligning sales and marketing to shape and deliver profitable customer value propositions

In my review of the book posted on Amazon.co.uk, I gave the book Two Stars. This means Disappointing.

Here is my book review.

Very disappointing

I had high hopes for this book but unfortunately I’m left feeling it is “intellectual claptrap”. I know that sounds harsh but let me explain.

It’s one of those books that you can read paragraphs and get no meaning from and, when you go back to read them again, you realise that it’s describing something obvious to anyone who has commercial experience but it’s dressed up in corporate-business-speak.

If I wasn’t reading a kindle version on a tablet, there were times when I was tempted to throw it across the room with frustration.

I became interested in competitive strategy in the early 1990s and on one level I understood the concept of differentiation but, on another level, it all seemed very vague. It was only in the mid to late 1990s, with the development of customer value concepts that I really got to grips with it. I had high hopes of this area of research and expertise but it hasn’t developed in the way that I’d hoped.

I agree with the authors that (customer) value is the elephant in the room. Its importance is acknowledged along the lines of “we must provide better value for money ” but it’s meaning is rarely explored so different people have different ideas of what value is a) important to the customer, b) what is actually provided through the products and services and c) how the offering compares with its closest competitors.

I found the book very frustrating as it struggles to walk a line between being academic and practical. It leans towards a big business B2B bias rather than SMEs or B2C businesses. I am surprised how much I read from the book and how little goes in. This rarely happens to me with business books. It was a struggle to finish but I kept hoping to find a few nuggets to reward my efforts.

The book is quite wide ranging across the marketing and sales disciplines and it brings in plenty of ideas from other academics and authors.

Unfortunately I never felt it was making worthwhile advances on its own. It seems to talk around the topic of value a lot but I haven’t come away with any significant new insights into understanding what customers value, how to develop distinctively valuable products and services, how to organise the company to consistently deliver value or how better to communicate that value to customers.

I don’t like writing bad reviews but I’m finding it difficult to find nice things to say about the book. I normally read and write from the perspective of small business owners. To do so here would generate a ONE star rating. The concept of value is just as important for small businesses but this book is too academic and too much about big business.

For bigger businesses I thought it had some useful things to say about bringing the sales and marketing departments together along with the more specialised groups within those functions. For a large B2B audience, I’ll give it THREE stars although I’m not sure what level of personnel in these organisations will get the most from it. Senior managers may be in denial about the disconnects or already accept much of what is said here, lower levels may lack the influence to pull everything together.

I must admit that I’m surprised at how many positive reviews this book has received.

Here are a few books I recommend that I feel will advance your understanding of value from a customer perspective much more than this one:

Competing on Value – it was published in 1991 but I feel it really gets to grips with value in a B2B context for sales, marketing and pricing.
Know Your Customer: New Approaches to Understanding Customer Value and Satisfaction  – the author wrote a superb academic paper on customer value which this book extends. Unfortunately it is quite dry to read but I learnt a lot from the paper and book and I must find my copy and review it.
Blue Ocean Strategy, Expanded Edition – a fascinating look at value for innovation and finding new markets and I feel the strategy canvas is a great way to think about the value attributes.
Delivering Profitable Value – another inspiring book I’ve read several times that I must review.


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