I opened up the bright blue Val-Pack envelope this morning like I sometimes do, more out of a marketer’s curiosity than anything else. I don’t use coupons; it’s too much of a hassle for me to save a few bucks. But I do leaf through the coupons just to see who’s advertising, what they’re advertising, and if can find anything in there to blog about. Just kidding. That’s just and added bonus today!

So as I’m perusing endless pizza and car wash coupons I noticed a huge difference in how the bigger companies advertised compared to the small local companies.

Holy cow—this is exactly what I am always ranting and raving about and here it is in print. In full color even! Eureka, I’ve struck marketing consultant gold!

But before I get into analyzing the coupons, let’s see if you can spot the difference. I’ll give you 60 seconds. Ready? Go!

OK, time’s up. What did you come up with?

Give up?

I can best sum it up in one word: Value.

Did you notice that the local companies automatically assumed that all we care about is price? And the bigger national companies spoke to our need, want, or pain? Do you see that?

Petrillo’s says: “Professional Automotive Repair—For Less.”

Translation: We say we’re professional ,but we don’t expect you to pay us like professionals. We expect you to pay us less than you’d pay a professional.

Lucky Cleaners says:

“Stop paying too much for dry cleaning…we’re the finest quality cleaners in town!

Translation: We are the finest quality cleaners in town, but we don’t expect you to pay us like we are—you can pay us less than you pay the other, not-so-fine, not-so-quality cleaners.

Now in the real world, aren’t “quality” and “cheap” mutually exclusive? Really. Be honest. Think like a consumer not a business owner. Can you really get quality, and cheap? Not usually. That’s why we buy name brands instead of generic and why we choose Starbucks coffee over McDonald’s, and Safeway over Food4Less.

Cheap to me says it’ll taste bad or it’ll break in a day. Quality says, it’s better, it’ll last a while. So how can a company be “quality” and cheap? It can’t.

Now compare that messaging to what the national companies say:

Sports Authority:

Got what you need for Spring? Find all the gear you want here.”

Translation: We know what you need and we know you’re willing to pay for it. But because this is Valpak and you expect it, we’ll give you 20 percent off. But nowhere does it say, “shop us because we’re cheap”—and anyone who has shopped there knows that even with 20 percent off, it’s far from cheap.

Anderson Windows:

Why deflate your home’s value with cheap, ugly windows?”

Translation: You don’t want your home to look ugly do you? So then why would you buy cheap windows? We charge more—but we know you’ll pay it because you want to protect the value of your home and you don’t want ugly windows.

The lesson?

The bigger companies understand value. 

They understand that when they communicate to potential customers in their words, on their terms, and with products and services they really need they don’t have to be the cheapest to get their business.

The reason I do what I do is because I’ve worked with huge multinational corporations and I’ve worked with small companies and I wanted to take the tools and practices that the huge companies use and teach small businesses how to stop wasting money chasing bad marketing. This example makes that point perfectly.

Doing the groundwork is crucial. Studying your customers, your competition, and your market are fundamentals. Knowing your target market and why they buy what they buy is critical. Figuring out how you’re different from your competition is essential. And learning how to communicate these things effectively is mandatory. Or you will always have to fall back on price. Who wants to compete on price? Who wants to be cheap? Wouldn’t you rather charge what you’re really worth and be known as the quality company?

AvatarCarolyn Higgins

Carolyn Higgins is the President and founder of Fortune Marketing Company. Her personal mission is to help small businesses stop wasting money on advertising and promotions that don’t deliver and help business owners implement an effective marketing system that will bring in more customers—consistently. For more information about Fortune Marketing Company visit the Fortune Marketing Company website or blog.