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Top 3 Ways to Boost Your Perceived Value
By Rose Hill

Clients who love what you do are the cornerstone of a successful professional service business. Here are three ways to boost the value your clients associate with you and your business.

1. Deliver unexpected value.

Delivering your service with excellence each and every time is the foundation of this method. Excellent service is essential. But you can't stop there if you want to create top-of-mind awareness and become one in a million in the mind of your client. You also need to proactively manage your client's expectations, and to provide unexpected value—systematically and regularly.

Management of client expectations begins with your very first contact. How you introduce yourself and your business, the messages you provide in your marketing materials, and your reputation combine to create a set of expectations in the mind of your client. And that set of expectations is why your client hires you. If you don't live up to those expectations, no matter whether or not they are realistic, your perceived value instantly decreases. Hence, it is incumbent upon you to unearth all expectations held by your client that will ultimately affect her evaluation of your service. Where it's appropriate, you need to help your client revise her expectations of you. This is an on-going process as you interact with your client over time. But you mustn't ever forget to attend to the task of managing client expectations.

Adding unexpected value is easy and has a great impact on the positive perception of your business. This can be done in a myriad of ways, depending on what your actual service is—just be sure that the unexpected things you do or give your clients are aligned with who you are and what your business is. A couple of ways you might give unexpected value are:

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Giving your home phone number to clients when you're working on a project that requires late hours or weekend work (i.e., making yourself available outside of regular business hours).

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Keeping a file of information you come across in the newspapers, magazines, and on the Internet that is pertinent and valuable to your clients. Regularly sending this information to your prospects and clients—even though they may never hire you.

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Going the extra mile with your services—regardless of the short-term expense to you.

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Delighting and surprising your clients in a personal, yet professional, manner—such as with a Happy-Completion-of-Project card or a new business journal.

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Providing extra services either exclusively for your active clients or at a reduced rate for them.

2. Ensure your client's success.

This path starts by ensuring that the service you provide is actually going to solve your client's problem. To do that, you need to perform a thorough discovery process. As part of your discovery process, you'll determine if this project is ideal for you, and if the problems it presents are ones you can magnificently and happily solve. You'll do your best work on projects you find intriguing, interesting, and just a bit of a challenge to your expertise. If the project will bore you or overwhelm you, I recommend you refer it on to someone else who is better suited to it. Give your clients the best opportunity to be successful by ensuring they have the right person for the job, even when that isn't you. Your client will respect you for this, be surprised by it, and hire you when a more appropriate project arises.

Once you accept a project, proactively reduce the risk your client faces. Your client is expected to provide a solution that meets certain criteria in the areas of schedule, cost, and quality. Be sure you fully understand what those criteria are. Every project needs to rank schedule, cost, and quality in order of importance to the project. The primary criteria could be any of these three. If you have agreed to provide a solution for a fixed fee, manage the scope of the project and your expenses so that you don't exceed the project fee. If you have agreed to a target delivery date, manage the scope of the project and the resources allocated to the project to ensure the date is met. And, if you have agreed to a standard of quality, manage the schedule and resources to ensure the standard is met. You can only hold one primary criteria at a time—the other two are movable. Of course, the ideal is to meet all three criteria. Help your client's projects come in on time, in budget, and with exceptional quality.

Don't just provide your service—provide your expertise and your wisdom.   Help your clients find an easier, safer, less expensive or quicker way to accomplish their objectives.

3. Toot your own horn.

If your client doesn't know all that you're providing her or her project, how can she possibly fully appreciate you? Clients are busy people and they frequently don't see everything you provide. So it's up to you to make sure that they know what you're doing.

But first you need to know what it is that you deliver for your clients. You aren't just providing technical writing, graphic design, editing or whatever. You are providing solutions, new perspectives, structures, planning, alternatives, strategies, resources, energy, processes, procedures, and more.

Once you know what you provide, find several ways to communicate it to your clients. For example, you can add a hand-written and personalized note on your invoice to the effect of "Terry—I really enjoyed the opportunity to brainstorm options to ABC process with you. Looking forward to our continued great relationship." Or set up several different email signatures, each one focused on an intangible you provide.

If you don't toot your own horn, nobody else will!

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Rose Hill is a Certified Business Coach who works exclusively with independent professionals who desire to create a solid foundation for their continued business success. I do this by means of a comprehensive 4-pronged, 6-month High-Impact Business-Building program. Rose can be reached at (503) 629-4804 or via e-mail to rose@coachrose.com

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