Marketers like to talk a LOT about value. We formulate value propositions for our client’s brands. We work with sales teams and encourage value-added selling. We even calculate the lifetime value (LTV) of a customer.

But really, what is value? By definition, “adding value” means exceeding expectations without having your customers pay more money.

With that definition, are you providing added value for your customers? One survey found that 80% of companies believed they provide a superior customer experience (added value). Only 8% of customers agreed.

Here are 20 ways you can exceed your customers’ expectations and add value.

1.  Truly care about your customers.

Stop thinking about yourself.

Are you trying to look smart? On top of things? Jumping to solutions? Do you want to be right? Are you trying to be seen as adding value?

David Maister, author of The Trusted Advisor, points out that these are all characteristics of a self-orientation.

A business owner who constantly considers only his point of view is not adding value.

Your customers must feel that you care. If there’s a problem, address it. If you have a deliverable, deliver it. One study found that 68% of customers left a company because they felt the company didn’t care.

2.   Listen to your customers.

Ask a lot of questions. Probe for clarification. Be interested in what each customer has to say. Actively listen.

Many marketers, salespeople, and business owners are extroverts. We’re outgoing. We love to share what we know and how we can help.

But we can serve our customers better if we truly listen to what they are saying. Listening to what someone has to say is a gift.

It may take more time. It may be less efficient. But in the long run, your customers will be happier.

You’ve added value. Moreover, you just might learn something.

3.  Let’s be honest.

Do what you say you’ll do.

I recently met a professional coach and a Psychology Today author, Ilene Berns-Zare, through a women’s networking group. Ilene encouraged me to take the VIA Survey.

The survey focuses on identifying your strengths. And using them to achieve your full potential. According to the free survey, my greatest strength was “Honesty.”

Doing what you say you’ll do is at the heart of honesty and integrity. Authenticity, being genuine, is also part of honesty.

Lack of follow-through or lack of timely follow-through is not only unprofessional, it will also detract from the value of your services or products.

4.  Inject humor.

People love to be entertained. In my search engine optimization (SEO) training presentations, I include some corny jokes that illustrate key points. Other presenters include cartoons. You don’t necessarily need to tell jokes, but you can keep things light. Add some humor to your presentations or reports. Your customers may appreciate it.

In the VIA survey, humor was my second greatest asset. However, with a “get ‘er done” attitude, I often don’t inject it into work. Sometimes I see the serious expression on my face when videoconferencing. I need to lighten up. Do you?

A bit of wit and laughter adds value.

5.  Anticipate your customers’ needs.

Step out of your shoes. Client leaving on vacation? What can you do to make things easier while she’s gone? How can you move the ball forward?

Does he like his coffee with cream? Or without? What might your customers need to provide to their customers? To their board or boss? Remember their preferences, and consider the world from their viewpoint to add value.

Use your imagination, how can you better serve your customers?

6.  Follow the platinum rule.

The Golden Rule tells us to do unto others as we want done unto us. Instead of the golden rule, follow the platinum rule: Do unto others how they want it done to them.

For example, I have one customer who decidedly prefers texts. I text him. If I need to email him, I text him to let him know I sent an email. By contrast, another customer prefers I only call his landline. Always. Even if he’s not in. He prefers to check messages on his landline rather than his cell phone. If you’re not sure of your customer’s preference, have you asked?

Additionally, maybe your customer likes to chat about family, the weather, or sports before you get down to business. On the other hand, maybe she values efficiency and wants to get down to business right away. Pay attention. Choose your customer’s style—not yours.

person with rocks on back reads be kind everyone you know is fighting a hard battle

7.  Be kind.

Open a door. Walk your customer out. Help carry a package. Go the extra mile. Fellow networker Tammy Maranto recently recommended a book called The Fred Factor. In it, Jeff Sanborn quotes Philo Judeaus of Alexandria around 50 BCE: “Be kind. Everyone you know is fighting a hard battle.”

Ain’t it the truth!

Sanborn notes, “You can be a jerk in the same amount of time as you be a nice guy.”

Or gal.

Why not choose to go the distance?

I had one client who needed a video for his small business website—nothing too fancy. I offered to take the video for him.

8.  Offer choices.

Everybody loves to have choices. Give a few options. Your customer will see the value in being empowered to choose.
For example, when we’re providing branding services, we offer logo options and messaging choices.

9.  Surprise and delight your customers.

One way to surprise and delight a customer is to deliver your product or service sooner than anticipated. While we can’t always provide our marketing services ahead of schedule, we certainly strive to. Furthermore, we try to anticipate needs and set expectations.

10. Get it right.

To most customers, quality is more important than speed. Deliver on time (or sooner), but don’t let your haste affect quality.

lady jumping text reads don't jump to solutions

11. Give free advice.

Give your expert advice. But only if your prospect/customer/client wants it.

Maister discusses how to build trust through listening, building relationships, and a client/customer orientation. Once your client trusts you, then you can offer advice.

Each month, I publish a marketing blog. I hope it gives my marketing clients, small and mid-size business owners, and entrepreneurs, some tips they can use to accelerate the growth of their businesses. They can read it (or not) on their schedule.

During the winter holiday, I sent a video with what I believed to be one of the most important marketing steps they could take for their business in the upcoming year—developing their Google Business Profile page.

12. Thank your customers.

When was the last time you thanked your customer for his or her business? For a referral?

Heed your mother’s advice. Remember to say thank you.

Now and then, I send my clients a handwritten note. It takes a bit of time and effort. But they deserve to be thanked. I appreciate that they’ve chosen our online marketing agency for their email automation, brand identity, website development, or SEO services.

13. Make it pretty.

Delivering a report? Brand it.

Make your products aesthetically pleasing. How does your packaging look? Does your product (or website) look dated? Attractive?

We partner with graphic designers. They can elevate the look of just about everything.

Be creative.

dandelions in rainbow colors reads be creative

14. Keep customers informed.

If you’re working behind the scenes on your client’s behalf, let them know. Send a status update so they know what the trajectory of the project is. Amazon does this when tracking packages. They let you know it shipped and even when it’s been delivered.

15. Provide more.

Free stuff. Everybody loves free tchotchkes, discounts, and promotions. Something as small as a nice pen with your logo can brighten your customer’s day. What can you provide for free?

Customer events are also a great way to show appreciation. Is it your business anniversary? Increase value in your business. Throw a party for your customers.

16. Make the process easier.

Have you thought about how easy it is to do business with you? How is the buyer’s journey? Make sure it’s simple to find you and buy from you. This is why I love SEO! It’s all about enhancing the customer experience. Faster website speed. Ease of finding information. Mobile device and desktop performance. These are all part of SEO.

Additionally, minimize the number of clicks it takes for customers to find what they’re looking for on your website. Ask for less information on a form.
Discover ways to simplify the process.

Take a load off your customer’s plate. Do you offer automatic payments? Or does your customer have to write a check, find a stamp, address the envelope, and find a mailbox each month.

17. Ask your customer’s opinion.

When was the last time that you surveyed your customers to see what they’re really thinking? We develop surveys. These can be e-surveys or customer phone calls to assess how your customers feel about your products and services.

Asking the questions adds value. Responding to their feedback adds greater value.

18. Deliver results.

None of this matters if your product doesn’t deliver what it’s intended to do. Make sure it does. Part of the reason I love digital marketing is that it’s measurable. We can see what results we’re generating.

Outthink the competition. And understand that your biggest competitor is mediocrity.

19. Be positive.

Offer a can-do attitude. Not sure of an answer? Research it, and report back in a timely fashion. Can’t provide a product or service? Offer a referral to someone who can. Going to take more time or resources? We can do that, AND (not BUT) we can have this by x date, and/or it will take a bit more budget.

20. Do it for the right reasons.

If you’re enhancing value to get accolades, more sales, or 5-star reviews on Google or Yelp, you’re offering value for the wrong reason.

Moreover, providing value is an opportunity—not an obligation.

“Fear nothing but wasting the moment,” writes Sanborn.

“The impact you have on others IS the reward.” That should be your “why.”

Nancy Burgess

Nancy Burgess is the owner of Nancy Burgess Strategic Marketing, a marketing consulting firm and online agency. In that role, she integrates her corporate success as a digital marketer along with her marketing agency experience in marketing communications and branding to help businesses prosper. Nancy's specialties are search engine optimization (SEO) and content creation. She graduated from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana, holds a master's degree, and also multiple marketing certificates from DePaul University's graduate school. She is a frequent presenter on SEO strategies and has worked in digital marketing since the late 1990s. As someone who can strategize AND execute, Nancy offers digital and traditional marketing services to SMBs. Agency value without agency fees. Along with SEO and content strategies, Nancy's agency offers website design, marketing automation, integrated marketing strategies, and branding to her clients.