12 Guiding Principles for Business Success – No.6 – Stop talking about what you do, start talking about the value you add or create

So far we have focused on things you need to know or need to think about to guide yourself towards business success, but here at number 6 we turn to something you actively and consciously need to do;

Stop talking about what you do, and start talking about the value you add or create for your clients and customers.

Now that may sound like a very simple thing to do, but in reality it’s something that takes a little practice.

So, tell me, what do you do?

We have all been asked it, some love being asked it, some dread it. But we all tend to have a stock response that we dutifully roll out when faced with the question. It’s almost part of our social fabric, like it or not we have a tendency to define people by what they do, so when we meet someone new it’s part of the standard ritual of questions.  If you happen to be in a well-known profession, then it’s relatively easy, ‘I am a Doctor/Lawyer/Accountant‘ is a solid response that generally requires little extra explanation. But if you are running your own business then there is an extra layer of complexity, and opportunity.

All too often I hear business owners categorise themselves by what their business does. ‘I sell computers’ may well be literally true but unless you just happen to be talking to somebody who wants to buy a computer it’s hardly likely to elicit a ‘Wow, that’s interesting, tell me more’ kind of response. However something like ‘I make sure businesses get the maximum possible business benefit and return from their investment in IT’ is far more likely to be an opener to an interesting conversation.

So, tell me, what does your business do?

All too often though this simplistic ‘we do x’ response is extended to the business as well, to the extent that the business becomes identified and aligned only with what it does. But what a business does is not always the real benefit the customer is buying. For your customer, your business will be meeting some need, or having some problem solved, or you will be adding value in some way that in all likelihood goes beyond what you actually do. So the trick here is to identify what that underlying benefit is and start using that to define and describe yourself. For example, my answer could be ‘I am a Business Advisor‘, which is about as dull as ditch water.  But I could equally say ‘What I do is to enable business owners to grow and improve their businesses by challenging and changing the way they think about their businesses‘. Which sounds better to you?

The key to identity, USP, market positioning and a customer centric approach.

There is an extra benefit to realigning your mindset from identifying your business by ‘what we do’ to ‘customer benefit’, because it’s also fundamentally the same as the opening step to unlocking your Unique Selling Proposition (which we discussed briefly in Principle No.1 – Three Key Questions) and therefore also your overall market positioning. Deeper down though it’s also about moving to a more customer centric way of looking at the world, and that can be a really beneficial mindset change in terms of understanding your customers and what their needs are.

You need to alter your vocabulary and way of thinking to make this change, and that can take time and practice. If you ever get to the stage of pitching to potential investors or doing larger scale customer presentations then making this change becomes essential. What you do, or what product you create, produce or sell is really just a mechanism by which you deliver value to your customers.  Talk first about the value created/delivered, then talk about your product or what you do to achieve that, not the other way around.

Don’t be boring!

At an individual level, we have all met those people who are highly adept at telling us how great they are, the ones where it’s all about them, you know the type. You also know that despite the bravado and panache they very quickly become amazingly dull and boring company. I for one really don’t care how great you think you are. What I am more interested in is how you make others great, what value do you provide that really makes a difference to other people, that’s what makes a person interesting. Same goes for businesses, what you do or how you do it only interests me once I know what value you add or how you make a difference for your customers.

Don’t let your business be only defined by what you do.  Start talking about and let your business be defined by the difference you make and the value you add for your customers.

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