The one thing above all else that successful businesses do, is to add value so that their clients keep coming back for more. It doesn’t have to be unique, but giving your clients something that they really want, and doing so more effectively than your competitors, is a powerful asset for any business. So how do you know if your services or products are adding the right kind of value to your existing and prospective clients?
What does value mean to your clients?
The first thing you need to do is ask yourself, ‘What value do your services or products create for your clients?’ Then ask, ‘What does added-value look like to your client?’ All business clients want to increase sales and grow their customer base, but each will have different priorities.
Get specific, write a list of your clients and beside each name write something about their perception of value. Ask yourself, ‘How do you help them gain a competitive advantage? What is your client’s perceived value in working with you?’ Put yourself in the shoes of your clients and see the world through their eyes.
Going the extra mile
Look at the service or product you provide as having 3 key elements. For example, let’s take a company/supplier that makes eco-friendly bags.
1. The company has just won a contract to provide an IT organisation with eco-friendly bags. The bags will be used as a give-away for conference attendees, when the organisation exhibits at – LeWeb in June. The contract also includes the printing of their logo and design, which the IT organisation will supply.
2. In conversation with their client, the company gains a real understanding of the design concept the client wants to get across on the bag. So, at no additional cost, the company’s design team comes up with a cool design which the client loves.
3. During their conversation, the supplier also discovers that they have a particular blue-chip company on their books, that their client would like to meet. They then set about connecting their new client with their existing client.
If we break this down into the value that is being added, then this is what is happening:
1. The core element is what the company is contracted to provide, ie eco-friendly bags with a printed design which will be provided by the client.
2. The bonus is the way in which the company adds value. In this case, providing a suggested design for the client’s consideration at no additional cost.
3. The potential game-changer is the personal value the company brings to the table, ie connecting people.
How do you think the client feels after experiencing this type of service from a supplier? How likely is it that they will use them again and also recommend them to other people, both inside and outside the business? The challenge entrepreneurs and small businesses face, is to stop thinking about the selling, and start thinking about how you can provide a great service that goes beyond the actual product or service you are selling.
Making the intangible tangible
There are a number of practical steps entrepreneurs and small business owners can take to make the intangible tangible. Effective branding is a key component in making this happen. It is important to make your offering appear simple and easy to understand; clients who are confused will not buy. Below are the key steps you need to undertake:
- articulate your value proposition
- explain the journey the client will take by working with you; how will they feel? What experiences will they encounter?
- tell your client how you are unique among your competition and the result they will get working with you
- humanise the benefits so your client can start to make an emotional connection
- give a guarantee or allow your prospective client to try your services/product before they buy
Getting to know your client personally
Creating genuine relationships by spending informal time with your clients, will help you to understand them better and also their business. Remember to research your client’s industry, and understand what’s important to them and their business; the return will far outweigh the investment you made. When you get to know your client inside out, you can personalise the attention you give them. The more you woo your clients the better off you will be in the long run. The aim is to be seen as a trusted adviser, and when your input is greatly appreciated by your clients, it’s less likely they will engage with your competition.
The most precious commodity for business is creativity, but when you are in the thick of things, your thinking can often become stifled and the creative neural networks may not be firing up as they need to. As a supplier, you have the chance to offer a useful outsider’s perspective on your clients’ businesses. Your objective view can help take your client to the next critical step in growing their operation – now that is really providing a lot of added-value. Being creative is often about problem solving, being able to step back and see what the real issues are. Creative people are normally very observant of other people and what’s going on in their environment, they tend to be keen listeners and they soak up information like a sponge. Your creativity could play a huge role in highlighting issues your client may not have yet considered, and if you’re input helps them reach better outcomes, then your value will soon be appreciated.
Communication is key in adding value, and it’s important to tell your client how much value you have added to them personally and for their business. To do this well, you need to remind them a couple of times a year. Ask for a feedback session – not only does this give you the opportunity to find out what you are doing well and which areas you need to improve on, but it naturally gives you the opportunity to remind the client all the ways in which you have added value to them and their business.
The day to day running of a business can be all consuming for any of us, but it is very important to stay focused on not just meeting the needs of your clients, but finding ways to exceed them. Whatever industry or field of work you operate in, there are likely to be competitors out there who want your client’s custom as much you do. So being creative, and going the extra mile to add value to your client’s business, and to make yourself as close to indispensable as possible, is all important. And, it doesn’t hurt to highlight and emphasise the contributions you’ve made every so often either!
I’d love to hear about your challenges, or the creative ways you have added value for your clients, in the comments below…