Imagine you asked a group of business owners what “value” was, what do you feel the most popular answer would be?

“Our products” would likely be the first thing that came to mind. In some respects this is true, but it can be a limiting lens to approach customers with. However business owners aren’t to blame–with the advent of the internet age, keeping up with developing trends can be a painstaking and exhausting process.

In just under two decades we’ve witnessed abrupt changes in how many businesses operate. Ordering toilet paper online would have seemed absolutely absurd ten years ago. However, getting similar household items online is becoming more and more commonplace. Want to find a good restaurant? A quick Google search and some Yelp reviews will help you zero in. And businesses cannot survive without a web presence. Things have definitely changed, and this has only been accelerated by the smartphones we carry with us wherever we go.

Navigating this evolving landscape can seem intimidating, especially since many of these changes have occurred so recently. It’s no wonder that the concept of creating value seems so alien to business owners trying to adapt. That being said, understanding it can mean the difference between growth and stagnation for your company.

By the end of this article you should have clarity on:

  1. The definition and understanding of “value” from a marketing perspective
  2. Implementing these modern concepts in your business
  3. Why you need to start now

Defining and Understanding Value

I’d like you to ask yourself a question: “When is a 10% off coupon from a store valuable to me?”

The most common answer is: “When I am going to use it to buy something.”

Which leads us to the next question: “What are 10% off coupons when I don’t plan on using them?”

Answer? “SPAM.”

One of the biggest disconnects between businesses and customers, is a lack of empathy for the customer perspective. Think of your customer’s inbox like a doorstep. If you keep leaving flyers there, even when it’s clear the customer doesn’t intend to use them, your marketing becomes an annoyance and a chore to get rid of. Understanding the effects of your interactions on your customers is crucial to building a lasting relationship-and even more crucial for building a strong brand in the post internet era.

For the purposes of this article you can define “value” as “specific engagements that are useful for the customer.”

How to Apply the Concept of “Value” in Your Business

Each business is unique, and as such, the method for creating value will vary accordingly. Just as an example let’s say you’re a seed company. Rather than pounding your clients with non-stop 10% offers-why not figure out (pull the emails) of customers who purchased a specific seed type, and then send them great recipes for that crop.

If it’s not an edible crop, you could provide tips and tricks specific to the cultivation of that seed type. Creativity serves a premium here. As long as you can keep your interactions specific to each client’s needs-they will appreciate what you’re trying to do (helping them with the information they might find useful).

Let’s look at another example, this time it’s an online clothing retailer. If a customer recently bought black shoes, why not send them style tips and clothing recommendations specific to that purchase versus beating them over the head with mindless coupons?

It’s a simple, but often missed distinction, but this perspective can be the difference between being a discount outlet or a brand powerhouse. In the sports nutrition space, gets nearly 10 million hits per month because of this very concept. Not only does it sell supplements, but it also creates valuable content for users on a regular basis through supplementation guides, workout regimens, and inspiring weight loss stories.

According to Internet Retailer did business in the hundreds of millions in 2014. Not small potatoes by any means. One could easily argue that without the customer-focused content creates, it would not be where it is today.

Without getting into the weeds of list segmentation and email marketing, we want to emulate these value-creating principles. In order to do so, try reducing things down to their most basic components.

Ask yourself: “What can I do to serve my customer’s needs beyond discounting?”

It can be as simple as dropping a heartfelt thank you note into every order. A simple gesture that brings a smile to someone’s face is valuable. Making your customer laugh is valuable. Showing you understand their pain, and that you want to fix their problems is valuable–I’m sure you get the picture.

Go beyond pricing to show your customer you authentically care.

Why You Need to Start Providing Value Now

Anyone can sell a product online. What’s really going to make your customer pick you over someone else is going to be your relationship with them. Are you going to be a resourceful friend or a mindless (and faceless) corporation?

There is a huge opportunity on the internet, but also a ton of noise. Thinking creatively and being useful to your customer will allow you to gain the edge you need.

When in the history of the human species has it been possible to reach five thousand potential customers for ten bucks? If you told an ad agency that in the 1970’s, you’d be made a laughing stock. However you can accomplish exactly that kind of reach with a Facebook ad campaign-no advertising executives, no middle men-just you, the platform, and the customer.

This is an enormous change from the advertising paradigm of the past, and is likely why there has been such a disconnect for businesses adapting to the internet.

Succeeding in this new landscape doesn’t have to be left to luck, no matter what your sector is-so long as you keep the concept of value creation in mind. Everything from how you answer the phone, to how you deliver emails, every single interaction matters and represents an opportunity to create value.

Having trouble coming up with creative ideas? Try reversing the perspective-instead of asking how you can create value, ask yourself if there are areas that could use improvement. And be honest. Just removing simple inconveniences like unwieldy menus on your website, copy that’s difficult to read or follow, a weak FAQ section, and so forth can make a difference in your customer’s experience.