The Big Picture

No matter what your business does, it will sink or swim based on the value (perceived or otherwise) it creates in someone's life. And it's tough to convince someone that they should value what you do unless you can identify and meet their unique wants or needs.

It's Not Just About Building a Better Mousetrap

Many people assume that adding features to products and services is a great way to address value, but I think there's a better way. If you really want to differentiate your business and add value, then your business needs to deliver a unique experience to every customer, rather than just adding bells and whistles to your existing products.

You also need to understand the value-creation process at a strategic level, and then integrate that thinking into your tactical business decisions. In fact, this is some of the most profitable work you can do as a small-business owner. When the market recognizes the value you create as a "go-to" offering, you're on your way to a lucrative premium-pricing opportunity.

5 Keys to Driving Business Value

The bottom line: People will pay dearly for an experience that helps them get more of what they want out of life. Can your business deliver that kind of value?

Here are five things you can do that will allow you to build and execute a value-creation strategy:

1. Create a best-of-class team. One of my favorite ways to deliver value is to surround myself with a team of best-of-class providers, and then promote that team to anticipate and meet my customers' needs. This mindset makes you far more valuable to your clients, and it also makes you more valuable to your team members.

2. Empower your clients. This is something I've always promoted, and I think it's easier to do today, in a world where it's easier to engage clients on a personal level. Find logical ways to get your clients to reveal their goals, and then work on ways -- even if they're seemingly unrelated to your business -- to help them reach those goals. In the process, you'll add value in ways that will be hard for competitors to understand.

Few things build loyalty like being there to help someone face a challenge. It's true for your friends and family, and it's also true for your customers and clients. This approach requires the ability to earn and build trust beyond the traditional business relationship, and above all it requires you to be authentic. A good first step: Find ways to measure the impact your business has right now on your existing clients.

3. Instruct and impart knowledge to your customers. I've always been a big advocate of teaching your customers how to do things they want 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. You could also set up classes or seminars 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 with clients. Turn your business into a "school," and watch your value soar.

4. Learn how to filter and serve relevant information. There is so much information out there that is free to use, abuse, and consume. So how can your business actually charge for the information it offers?

The key is how you package your offering. Organizations that understand how to deliver information and services in the right amount and order, using the right channels, at just the right time, provide immense value. They can actually charge a premium for content by simply putting it in the right place or pulling 10 nuggets of wisdom from a huge pile of free content. Every customer, consumer, or business needs better information -- no matter what you sell.

5. Grow your community. Building a business today means building a community. You can do this through membership offerings and training -- both are proven ways to extend a product line and offer more value.

Yet you can also accomplish this by giving your customers an opportunity to come together. Many of them will have the same challenges and backgrounds, and they may be in the same industry. Your business could offer the perfect platform to facilitate a mutually beneficial network. Some organizations have found this idea can even become a central element of their value proposition.

John Jantsch is a marketing consultant and author of Duct Tape Marketing and The Referral Engine and the founder of the Duct Tape Marketing Consultant Network.