Have you ever played Would You Rather? It’s a lighthearted game where one person poses a dilemma in the form of a question. Some are silly like, “Would you rather own a lightsaber or have x-ray vision?” Others go straight for the jugular, asking you to choose between two undesirable options. For example, “Would you rather be blind or deaf?”

The beauty of Would Your Rather is that you think you’re playing a meaningless game. In reality, you’re making deeply personal judgments that can lead to some surprising psychological insights. The question you’re really answering is, What do you value? I have played the game with musicians who invariably choose hearing over sight and painters who couldn’t live without seeing color and shape. For them, the choice is easy because they know what’s most important to them. Roy Disney once put it this way: “It’s not hard to make decisions once you know what your values are.”

It’s true. Values guide all our decisions, big and small. They shape how we fill our time, the goals and direction of our lives, and help us move forward at each fork in the road. Yet we’re often unconscious of our true values, hard-pressed to define what may be the most important aspect of our lives. Not only that, but values change. As we grow and encounter new challenges, we’re sometimes forced to let go of old values and adapt.

What Do You Value?

Why am I waxing philosophical on a digital marketing blog? Because defining values is at the core of what marketers do. You won’t know your marketing strategy until you know the values of your company and the values of your visitors. In other words, you need to determine what you value most in your visitors and what your visitors value most in you. Where the two meet is where your own unique brand identity emerges.

Throw Out All Values That Don’t Apply

Before drafting your own definition of visitor value, take a deep breath and read these truths aloud to yourself:

  • I don’t need Amazon-level Web traffic to be wildly successful in my field.
  • My [business, organization, project, cause] is unique.
  • My visitors are unique.
  • The real measure of success is not quantity of followers, but quality of engagement.

Now that your head’s on straight, you can begin to develop the marketing strategy that’s right for you. To be precise, the marketing strategy that’s right for your visitors. Not just any visitors, and not all your visitors, but your MVVs, or most valuable visitors.

The first step is figuring out what makes a visitor valuable in your world. The second step is identifying who those worth-your-time-and-effort individuals are exactly (and that means details).

Value in Verbs

What makes a visitor valuable? Most companies find value in verbs. The best visitors are more than a number on a hit counter; they take action. They subscribe, download, buy, donate, share, link, comment, drive traffic, and then come back and do it all again.

Here’s another definition that turns conventional marketing tactics on their head: In many cases, your most valuable visitors are the ones you’ve already got. This is due to a fairly obvious fact: “It’s cheaper, easier, and more effective to retain current customers than it is to acquire new ones.”

Ultimately, no one else can define your visitor value because no one else runs your business. Come up with your own working definition, then use it to determine what visitors to both engage and retain. By the way, in case you prefer traditional marketing terms, this is your target market.

Value for the Metrics-Minded

Patricio Robles, blogging for Econsultancy, outlined “Five Metrics for Identifying Your Most Valuable Customers.” He cited five measurements for profit-driven companies focusing on customers with the most purchase power: purchase frequency, average order value, customer lifetime value, price sensitivity, and affluence. With a little bit of tweaking, I think these metrics provide a useful point of reference, whatever your unique goals may be.

  • Frequency: How often does a particular visitor clear checkout, donate, or share your content?
  • Average Value: On average, are they making big purchases? Sharing with a large number of followers? Forwarding that industry report to their CEO?
  • Lifetime Value: In the long run, what is the cumulative worth of their investment in your product or cause? One visitor might go straight for the top tier membership but cancel after a month. Another might sign up for the bottom rung but then hang on month after month.
  • Sensitivity: Are they touchy? Unpredictable? Liable to jump to a competitor at the slightest change?
  • Affluence: Think in terms of monetary and social capital. The value of one visitor might be that whopping order they just placed on behalf of a corporation. Another might not buy a thing, but they’ll retweet your content to thousands of followers.

Whatever definition of value you choose, don’t get too attached. Just like your goals, value isn’t static, and your definition won’t be the same across all touch points and transactions. Keep measuring and testing, good marketer!

Value What You Do and Your Visitors Will Too

There’s another reason it’s important to examine what you value: “Seeing the value in what you do everyday will help others do the same.” That means a more rewarding work day, more satisfied visitors, and a better bottom line.