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     Seven Ways To Add Value

There is a lot of talk these days about “adding value” to your business. Well that’s a nice concept, how do you go about doing that? What kinds of PRACTICAL steps can you take to make your product or service seem like it is worth more to the customer than a competitors? And how can you add value to your company without going broke in the process? If you are willing to invest a little extra time and effort, there are a number of INEXPENSIVE or even free ways to make your customer feel special -- to stand out above the crowd.

Sometimes what people really need is INFORMATION. Customers appreciate it when you go out of your way to provide them with a useful tidbit -- updates about what’s going on in your industry, a checklist for choosing the right product or service, and article about a topic that might interest your customers, some free tips or suggestions -- even if they don’t buy from you right now. They will be a lot more likely to buy later if they see that you are willing to share some of your EXPERTISE for free upfront. 

For example, at our website (www.onlineorganizing.com), we offer a lot of free information -- including a free checklist for choosing the right professional organizer. This is available to ANYONE who visits, whether they shop with us or not. But the number of people who tell us that they visited our site for the free checklist and then decided to use our referral service to find an organizer in their area -- or stayed to buy organizing products through our website -- is amazing! That one bit of info on our site brings in more business than any other “freebie” we offer.

Notice I didn’t say “throw in a complimentary product” -- the fact that it is free is great, but it’s more important that the gift you give away be RELATED to in some way to the product or service you are trying to sell. As a professional organizer, I give away giant paperclips with my logo and contact information on them -– they are eye-catching, useful, and they get people thinking about organizing their offices. Plus, it has my web address on it so potential clients can contact me easily the next time they think about doing something more with their papers than clipping a big pile of them together! Any freebie you offer needs to REMIND that potential customer of your company. 

One thing that people are looking for today is CONVENIENCE -- they don’t want to have to put forth any more effort to make a purchase than they absolutely have to. So ask yourself what you can do (that your competition isn’t) to make it incredibly EASY for people to do business with you. Could you extend your hours? Make house calls? Provide free shipping? Accept several forms of payment (cash, checks, and credit cards)? Shorten the amount of paperwork the customer has to deal with? Help a client make a decision by doing the research for him or her?

The reason that I work exclusively with one insurance agent is his commitment to convenience. Howard always arranges his schedule around whatever is most convenient for me. When we meet, he has researched all of the available OPTIONS for me and presents a summary of plans along with his recommendations. He also comes to my location -- no matter where I happen to be that day. In return, I REFER anyone and everyone who needs insurance to Howard.

No matter what your industry, customers always appreciate it when you take some of the burden off of their shoulders. And an easy way to do this is to provide a free service that goes above and beyond what they have paid you for. My printer provides free pickup and DELIVERY of my printing orders. And I absolutely love the fact that when I take my car to have the oil changed, they vacuum the rugs for me while I’m there. I don’t know about you, but that makes me a pretty LOYAL customer!

One of the most valuable services I offer as a professional organizer is the DROP OFF of donations. I keep a list of local charities that accept different kinds of donations -- and when I help a client clean out a bunch of old clothes or housewares or whatever, I offer to drop their “discards” off at the appropriate charity for them. I pick up a tax RECEIPT and mail it to the client with a thank-you note for their business. It takes me all of 15 minutes to do this, but I earn my clients’ never-ending loyalty for taking care of this bothersome chore for them.

As a business owner, you are in a position to know a lot of other business owners throughout your community. And you can use this knowledge to your advantage. It greatly behooves you to develop strategic ALLIANCES with related industries, and to get to know other business people who can be of use to your clients. Think about which businesses are already working with your POTENTIAL clients.

I tend to hand out a lot of business cards for my colleagues in other FIELDS. People who hire professional organizers are almost always in need of other service professionals -- administrative help, cleaning services, professional coaches, bookkeepers, custom closet designers, you name it. Not only have I made my clients happy (because they are now able to make use of valuable services they didn’t originally know about) and made my colleagues happy (because they have a new client), but I am rewarded with LOYALTY and increased referrals from both parties.

You probably have two kinds of customers -- “one-timer’s” who drop into your life for a moment and then leave, and REPEAT customers who make up the core of your business. There is nothing wrong (and many things right) with treating those clients a little bit differently -- REWARDING their loyalty. You can do this by offering preferred customers a special discount, flexible payment terms, a “membership rewards” program (“buy 6 items and your 7th is free”), extra-speedy delivery, or even a small “thank-you” gift to show your appreciation for their continued patronage.

I recently sent out cards to all of my “core” customers thanking them for their patronage. In addition, I offered a special SALE just for those clients. I was astounded at the number of clients who contacted me for appointments -- some of whom I hadn’t working with in months. It just goes to show that all it takes sometimes to encourage a sale is making that customer feel special.

Nothing lets a client know that you care like remembering those special occasions. Many companies send a CARD on major holidays like Christmas, but how many businesses acknowledge your birthday? Your child’s graduation? Your moving to a new home? The more important life EVENTS that you can make note of and recognize, the more your company will stand out in your customer’s mind.

My hairstylist is a master at making people feel special during important times in their lives. While he’s cutting hair, he asks how the kids are doing, what’s up with your spouse, and how your job is. Since folks love to talk about milestones and changes in their lives, they almost always mention things like promotions, awards, and pregnancies. Then, when he leaves the room, he has his receptionist make a note on the CALENDAR to send a card (with a discount off of your next visit) for each of those occasions. He not only has more clients than he can handle, but his customers all consider him a FRIEND rather than a “vendor.”


Copyright 2000-2009 Ramona Creel -- you are welcome to reprint any article, but you MUST include this resource box.

Ramona Creel is a Professional Organizer and NAPO Golden Circle Member. A former Social Worker, she has always enjoyed helping people find the resources and solutions they need to improve their lives. Ramona now travels the country as a full-time RVer, sharing her story of simplicity with everyone she meets. She leads by example -- having worked for more than 10 years as a Professional Organizer, and having radically downsized and simplified her own life as a full-time RVer. Ramona now considers herself a "Renaissance Woman" -- bringing all of her passions together into one satisfying career. As a "Virtual Organizer", she can create a customized organizing plan for your home or office. As a "Simplicity and Accountability Coach ", Ramona provides a proven program for making every area of your life a little bit easier -- perfect for those who want to make the time and space to focus on their true priorities. As a Professional Photographer, Ramona captures powerful images of places and people as she travels. And as a freelance writer and blogger, she shares organizing techniques, travel tips, and social commentary with others. You can see all these sides of Ramona -- read her articles, browse through her photographs, and even hire her to help get your life in order -- at www.RamonaCreel.com. You can also follow her on Twitter, check out her  Facebook profile.

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