Ten Tips to Add Value to Your Customers

Posted by Heather Villa, CMA, MBA, MSM on September 27, 2010 in: Business - Plain & Simple, Tips in 10

Customers buy when they perceive that there is value in the relationship. If they don’t see the value, they will spend their money somewhere else. Your job as a small business owner is to “wow” your customers with value so they won’t even think of spending their money elsewhere.

So, how do you do that? Here are ten ideas:

1. Call them up periodically and DON’T sell to them. Customers expect you to sell to them (that’s what makes them “customers”, right?). But if you call them up and DON’T sell to them, you will surprise and impress them. Now, that doesn’t mean you should call them up and shoot the breeze with them. They’re busy. But it does mean that you should genuinely take an interest in their well-being – both as a professional and as a human. If they sound stressed, offer to help. Don’t take money for it but do something for them that will make a difference… even if it means driving to their house to take out the trash. (Disclaimer: obviously you’re not running a charity and the point here is not to be busy with all kinds of trash-to-the-curb giveaways every day. The point is to find out what they need and help them with it. Most frequently it will be a paid service you provide, because that’s what they know you for, but from time to time be willing to step up and do more for them).

2. Become an expert in THEIR business. Think about the industries your customers are in (chances are, there are only a handful of you are marketing yourself appropriately) and become familiar with those industries. Subscribe to industry newsletters, read up on industry trends, and follow the happenings of your clients and their competitors. When you sit down to talk to your customers, you’ll know more about their situation and that will show.

3. Proactively meet their needs. Don’t wait for your customer to come to you with an order. Periodically, contact them with recommendations. If you’re a web designer, contact your customer and say “I noticed that three of your website pages have dead links. I thought you might like to hear it from me instead of from a prospect or customer. I can clean that up for you today, if you’d like”. This adds value because they might never have realized their site had dead links. You don’t have to spend a long time creating large proposals. In fact, these proactive projects might be small… but it’s the small things that are often missed! If you adopt “adding value” as a mindset, you won’t have to schedule the time to go looking for proactive work.

4. Ask yourself: Does this content add value? Look at all of your communication. It’s easy to talk about your business and unintentionally become self-centered. No business owner ever plans to talk about themselves but we just naturally trend that way because business owners like to talk about their businesses. So, from time to time, you need to revisit your communication – blogs, newsletters, etc. and make sure that you give people a reason to read it. (Disclaimer: Of course you’re going to have content that talks about yourself – “About Us” pages, etc. – but most of your content will be more frequently read if it adds value to customers… And by the way, even your “About Us” pages can add value to your customers, it just takes work!)

5. Work your network. You know lots of people. More than you think you do. Just look at all the people on Twitter and LinkedIn and Facebook and your Rolodex and wherever else you’re networked. They aren’t just “names” you collect. They aren’t just potential or current customers. They are resources to help you add value to your customers. Spend a few moments each day to think about what your customers need and see about setting up an introduction with someone who can help.

6. Recommend your customer to your other customers. You (hopefully) don’t just have one customer but many. Why not introduce them to each other if you think there is a fit and that one could potentially do business with the other. Some disclaimers: Ask for permission first! And, when introducing them, point out why you introduced them with something like, “Jim, this is Mary. Mary buys gadgets from us but from time to time she also needs widgets. So when I learned that, I thought of your widget store, Jim.”

7. Customer appreciation days. Some businesses open up the barbecue and have customer appreciation days. That’s fine for local business, but we live in a larger business community now. So what can you do? Find a great book that is a valuable resource, buy it on Amazon and have it sent to your customer. Obviously, make sure it is relevant to them and solves an important need that they have. Nice little gifts like wine or a gift basket are okay but they don’t add value in the same way that a helpful resource does.

8. Attend a conference with your customer. Okay, this one may seem crazy to you small business folks but it’s not that unusual in big businesses, particularly B2B businesses. You just need to figure out how to make it work for you (so you’re not spending a fortune or all of your time). Here’s what I recommend: Identify your top 3 customers. Find a conference that they each might be interested in going to and, if it’s in your budget, cover the cost of admission for both of you. You’ll have their ear for the whole day, you’ll demonstrate your focus on their business, and when they introduce you to their peers, they’ll mention that you are a supplier for them (hello networking and automatic positioning).

9. Help their business. If you’re a business that works with other businesses, most of the tips so far have had to do with adding value to your contact at your customers’ business. Remember that there might be other staff there, too. One of the reasons my customers continue to come back for repeat business is to train their internal staff to do work that aids in our projects together. I work with so many people that think training others is losing job or client security. Don’t think that way. Your client’s best interest has to be in mind and training their staff to complete or maintain some of the ongoing work is in their best interest! (Oh, and do I even need to mention that you’ll be able to get past the gatekeeper from now on because they’ll recognize you and think of you as a part of their business?)

10. Spontaneous freebies and giveaways. From time to time, offer something for free (or, better yet, offer something extra as a bonus)… like maybe a bonus newsletter, like I’ve done with this one. Or maybe add an extra donut into the dozen your customer ordered from you. And when you do it, point out that you’re doing it for them. From time to time, add something extra to their order. Some disclaimers: This is trickier than it sounds. Don’t do it regularly, and don’t schedule it, or they will come to expect it. Make sure you give something to all of your top customers or someone might get wind of it and call you up wondering why they didn’t get something for free. It’s okay to periodically give away something that you normally sell (i.e., “a freebie”), but instead consider creating something new and giving it away. (One example might be a free report or ebook, which is easily and affordably replicable). Giveaways have the perception of higher value and they can also be more lasting than simply adding that extra donut.

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