I recently posted about “The Wider Value of Marketing – Relationship Equity”, and how through marketing we try, as a company, to add value back to our clients’ businesses, rather than just furthering our own business development interests. This, to us, creates relationship equity.
I now want to take that idea further, and think about how B2B companies can continue to add value to their clients, over and above the product or service they offer.
How can they truly add value? Not the type of value you read about in marketing material, or the type of ‘partnership’ that gets thrown around in every corporate brochure.
But true value that adds something to them personally or to the business as a whole.
What is value?
Firstly, what is value? It can mean different things to different businesses. For some, it might only ever mean money. For others, it could be furthering personal career prospects through the completion of successful projects; an area that suppliers can assist in. At C24, we like to think of value in terms of adding value to a client’s business. In effect, helping them to grow their business by working with C24. Because, as they grow: we grow.
Why attempt to add value?
The old way of selling was all about features. Then the new way focused on cost reduction. Our way believes that cost saving alone is not enough. If something isn’t going to save you money or grow your business to compensate for that elevated purchase price, then you would be mad to buy it!
We try to look for ways in which working together with a client can bring about revenue generation for their business.
This strengthens the relationship equity we discussed in our last article; as put up against another supplier who just wants to collect a PO, we feel we can hope to truly differentiate by looking for ways to increase business generation.
Technology is an enabler to business growth
We are lucky to operate in the technology sector. There are very few industries that deliver products which can contribute to business growth or significant cost savings as radically as technology can do. For instance, a hardware refresh can often reduce operating costs and pay for itself within a year. Or a new software solution can improve staff productivity to such an extent that you don’t need to add to your headcount.
When we start to work with a new client, we like to understand their business goals. Not so that we can align our product set to those business goals, but so that we can align our businesses and look for ways to achieve both of our business goals.
This has worked well when we have partnered with one of the UK’s leading accountancy firms, and we sponsor some of their key annual events. This helps them to continue putting on successful business generation events, and we become a business partner rather than just a supplier. We don’t just sponsor, we also attend the events, speak at the events and interact with their existing clients who are in need of hosting or analytics support. We can support them by bringing engaging topics to their client base for events and marketing activities, so we can add value over and above the IT services we deliver to them.
New ideas, new business models
We also look for ways to craft new business services between ourselves and our clients. We are fortunate to work with some of the UK’s leading law firms, and through our data analytics tool we have been able to investigate ways we could partner with key firms to roll out new data services, in conjunction with those firms. It’s still early days, but it demonstrates the way in which we view partnering. It isn’t just a word we use, we really see it as a business partnership between two companies.
Many times we have engaged with a client and then gone on to launch a joint solution to take to their customers, especially on the software vendor side where we work with software vendor clients to deliver software as a service solutions out to their customer base. Some hosters see ISVs as customers. We don’t – we partner with them and see them as close business partners, and we work alongside them on individual customer opportunities, from design, to meetings to implementation and support calls.
Thinking outside of the box
Outsourcers have got the right idea when it comes to adding value. An article from Raconteur named “Revealing the added value of outsourcing” discusses how outsourcing companies have become sophisticated in their sales approach, to try and add value in many different ways.
They look for opportunities to grow the client’s business, through offering new services or finding potential new revenue streams to attract. They can’t just outsource and deliver the same service as before; they have to show growth and progress.
For instance, in the past we have provided marketing services to our ISV partners, creating specific content for them to take out to their clients. Rather like providing them with our tech support services, we extend it to our business services to help them grow their (and our) revenues.
Some of the ways outsourcers try to add value is through helping companies to improve their corporate and social responsibility, employee engagement and risk management. Often these aren’t the core services the outsourcer was originally brought on board to tackle. These are complimentary ‘free’ extras to make their service as attractive (and sticky) as possible.
One of the questions they ask when positioning a solution with a client is: “How can we make this solution realise significant commercial benefits for the client?”
So for your next customer project, why not keep that question in mind:
How can we make this solution realise significant commercial benefits for the client?
When designing a solution for the client, we often fall into the trap of looking inward, and only hinting at the superficial benefits to the client, such as reduced costs etc.
But if we try to expand our solution to look at the client’s entire business and think about how we can realise significant commercial benefits for the client then it’s a win-win scenario for us as the supplier and the client too.
How do you add value in customer engagements? Do you offer services that go above and beyond what the client is paying for?
Image provided courtesy of Courtney Carmody.