I had been thinking about this post for some time now and a conversation with Josh Kaufman, author of The Personal MBA, kind of pushed me over the edge in terms of completing my thinking. (Look for a podcast episode with Josh)
I’ve always maintained that the best way to think about marketing is to think strategy before tactics. In my book that means identifying an ideal customer or market and finding a way to stand out or differentiate your business from everyone else that’s trying to attract that same customer.
Of late, I find myself adding a third dynamic as part of the strategy component and that’s value creation. No matter what your business does it will sink or swim based on the value (perceived or otherwise) it creates in someone’s life. It’s tough to convince someone that they should value what you do, it’s got to meet an identified need or want or it’s not value. (I wrote a piece called 5 Attributes of a Sure Fire Start-up if you want more on this idea)
Further, if you want to differentiate your business from others that are already providing value to a market, you’ve got to find a way to create more value as a competitive edge. Many people default to adding features to products and services as a way to address value, but I think the real impact in value creation comes from strategically finding ways to add value in the way your business delivers a unique experience to its customer rather than through some sort of product enhancement.
The beauty of understanding value creation at the strategic level and then forcing that thinking into every tactical decision is that this is some of the most profitable work you can do. When a market comes to value what you have to offer as the “go to” choice you’re on your way to a premium pricing opportunity. People will pay dearly for an experience that helps them get more of what they want out of life.
Below are five ways to think about value creation beyond your core offering
Promote Your Team – One of my favorite ways to deliver value is to surround myself with a team of best of class providers that can produce every result that my clients might need and then play a role in promoting that team to help meet their needs. There’s no question that this mindset makes your more valuable to your clients, but it also makes you more valuable to your team members. (Here’s a nice example of someone promoting their team – Superheroes In Your Back Pocket)
Goal Achievement – This is something I’ve always promoted and I think it’s actually become easier in this more social personal business world we now live in. If you can find logical ways to get your clients to reveal their goals and then go to work on ways, even if seemingly unrelated to your business, to help them reach those goals, you’ll add value in ways that will be hard for competitors to understand. Few things breed loyal bonds like being there to help another face a challenge. This approach requires the ability to earn and build trust beyond the traditional business relationship, but if it’s done authentically it can be hard to replicate. The first step might be to create a way to measure the impact your business has right now for your existing clients.
Teach and Loan – I’ve always been a big advocate of teaching your customers how to do things they want to know how to do, no matter what it is. If you as a business owner have mastered a skill, even if it’s just a better way to get your taxes done, you can add massive value to your client relationships by loaning your expertise, skills and knowledge or setting up classes to teach other business owners how to do the same. This is also a great way to build a platform for your strategic team members by offering them the opportunity to teach and connect. Become a school and watch your value soar.
Filter and Aggregate – There is so much out there that is free to use, abuse and consume, that some may wonder how they can actually charge for much of what they offer. The key is the package. Organizations that understand how to deliver information and services in the right amount, order, device, and timing provide so much value that they can actually charge a premium for content by simply putting it in the right place or pulling the ten nuggets from the rather large pile of free. Every customer, consumer or business, needs better information, no matter what you sell.
Provide Access – Building a business today means building a community. You can do this through membership offering and training that are proven ways to extend a product line and offer more value, but you can also do this by giving your customers an opportunity to come together. More often than not they have the some challenges and backgrounds and may even be in the same industry and your business could be the perfect platform to facilitate a mutually beneficial network. Some organizations have found this idea can become a central element of their offering.