Every business sells products and services. Needless to say, every business spends time pointing to its “differentiators” that make it stand out from the pack. But the companies that stand out are the ones that add value, combining what the client or prospect perceives to be in favour of them combined with what the company perceives is in favour of the brand. That is what adding value is about.
Think of a brand like Apple which has been very clever in making its products seem cool and synonymous with creativity and self-expression. As a result, their products typically are 25 to 50 percent more expensive than competing products. Their enthusiastic and loyal customers don’t really care about that. They’re prepared to pay extra because of the value add from coolness and creativity.
So how does one add value?
The management consultants at David Skyrme Associates say that companies that do this know how to identify their users’ real needs. That means talking to them and really getting to know them. They should also segment the market and put clients into groups with common needs. They should create a unique product, right down to the look and feel, function, and often have something with a tangible manifestation. At the same time, it has to be something clients can’t buy anywhere else. Evaluation and feedback will help companies fine tune their product offering and marketing strategies.
Three simple but effective ways of gaining feedback include using a feedback sheet with every item you send out; keeping it short e.g. two to three questions, such as asking how they used the information provided, and how much time and money it saved. Companies should also maintain a call log to analyse the pattern of demand and identify any patterns over time and publish the results. That will generate even more feedback, and also maintains visibility. They also suggest doing things like selective outsourcing and building partnerships.
Mary Ellen Bates from Bates Information Services says CEOs should ask some key questions when they’re looking at adding value: What business(es) am I really in? Is there an additional service I could provide that dovetails nicely with my existing services? What business have I wanted to get into this last year? Where is most of my revenue coming from? Is that where I want to be making most of my money? Is there something I could productise? Or would that just turn me into a commodity in the eyes of my clients? What am I really excited about? What do I look forward to working on? What kind of project is particularly satisfying for me? If what I really love to do won’t support me directly, how can I take that passion and convert it to a revenue-producing effort? What are the primary industries that I am known in right now? How strong are those industries? Should I expand to a new market?
Megan Tough, who runs Complete Potential, a company that helps businesses solve their strategy and people problems, says the value add process considers the client’s problems and then addresses them. Much of this, she says, can be done with give-aways offering things like free e-courses to overcome the problem and a free report expanding on the problem and showing people how to overcome it. Provide lots of strategies, tips and case studies if you have them. Be detailed in the implementation section and add value by directing them to various websites for more information. Aim for about three to five pages.
How would you add value?