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.