If you’re a service provider of any sort, you may be familiar with the idea of “adding value” for your clients. What does that mean? To me, and to the many organizations and/or entrepreneur/CEO-type leaders I have worked with over the years, it means offering a benefit (either tangible or intangible) that a client receives from you alone.

I’m not referring to the “buy this, get a free that” which works so well in the marketplace. To me, there’s a big difference between an “extra” and “added value,” and it basically comes down to this—added value is the organic result of the relationship, rather than the transaction between the client and the service provider. Where “buy this, get a free that” means you must make a transaction to receive the benefit, when you provide “added value” to a customer, you give them something unexpected, that they didn’t actually pay for. You give them something priceless—it’s not for sale or available for a click on the website. And it is never in response to a request from the client. It is a surprise.

The idea of “adding value” to my services wasn’t anything I invented or was ever taught in a classroom. I learned it by experience working with and for more relationship-driven service providers. These were people who saw relationship with their clients as part of the reason for their success and they were therefore generous with their time, talent, and resources as they offered added value to them. They are the role models I keep in mind as I go about my day, trying to bring added value to my clients whenever the opportunity arises.

Here are some of the ways I have seen service providers provide “added value” to their clients. I hope some of them work for you. In fact, you can probably add to this list and feel free to leave a comment about how you yourself offer your clients the “added-value” that nobody else can.

A Simple Connection. Sometimes, it makes sense to introduce your clients to each other, either for a strategic partnership or for an actual transaction. I enjoyed the time I introduced two of my home improvement clients to each other and they ended up using each other’s services! I have also recommended qualified people to my clients for open positions. My client was happy to have them!

Throwing it in. Sometimes, there are just little things that you can do for a client that don’t take much time but would mean a lot to them. Of course, these items would typically fall under the category of “billable service,” and you would be absolutely justified in billing for the service. However, “throwing it in” once in a while is a great way to show your gratitude to someone for being a loyal client. For example, recently, a client was setting up a new service and, unsolicited, I put together a list of questions for their target market to answer in order to intelligently engage with them for the new service. It was appreciated and used on a variety of levels.

In addition to gifting service to your client, speed is another way to add value to your contracted services. Getting something in before a crucial deadline for the client, even though you may have to readjust your schedule, is a way to show your value to the company. I was recently the recipient of such a “value-add” when I called my website developer about a maintenance package and they instantly installed one of the new services while we were still on the phone and I had not yet signed a contract.

Sharing. When I am working for a client, I keenly feel an affinity with their successes and failures. After all, we are all working on the same team. As a marketing leader, my job is to raise awareness of their product or service. I’m also bound to do what I can to get those who are interested in the product or service to “convert,” or close the deal. It’s a shared goal along with my clients. So I easily go into “sharing” mode with them and this can provide “added value.”

For example, if you share something personal with your client—a hobby, an organization, a faith, a school, a hometown, etc., you could share items, photos, event invitations, etc. that you know would be of interest to them as well. For the good of their business, you could take photos of their products or services, or at their events or locations so they could in turn share them on social media or other platforms. If you read an article that reflects information about their industry, a leader in their industry or a subject you were just discussing with them, pass it on so they may recognize its value as well.

One of my favorite examples of sharing an experience with a client was when I was invited to a seminar (+1) about family-owned businesses and asked my client to come along. I knew he was struggling with the dysfunction of his family’s business, and the panel discussion at the conference inspired and encouraged him with ideas to make improvements within the corporate culture. He was so grateful for the opportunity to attend and I was so grateful that it was valuable and helpful to him.

Share those opportunities you see that would be of interest to your clients as well—calls for award nominations, speakers, contributing quotes and thoughts, sponsorship opportunities, those comp tickets to an event you just received and cannot attend, etc. You never know where the smallest opportunity or act of kindness will lead. That old expression “sharing is caring” is real. Share with your clients.

And finally….

Being a Friend. Those of us in the service business understand the truth in the oft-repeated phrase, “People like to do business with those they know, like and trust.” Personal relationship is the glue that not only cements a transaction but also helps bridge the path to the next one. Only the most manipulative people befriend someone solely for a purpose. For the service provider who really cares about their client’s success, friendship will organically develop at some level.

Most of my clients and I have something very special in common—we are entrepreneurs. So it’s not unusual for our business meetings to extend into our discussion of our individual challenges related to serving clients, goal-setting, employees, resources, etc. These are special conversations I only have with clients, peers, colleagues, and vendors I know, like, and trust, and they could not be had if there was not an underlying feeling of friendship within the relationship. If you want to really understand that expression, “It’s lonely at the top,” become your own boss. But make friends with others so you’re not lonely forever!

There are countless ways to provide added value to your clients and I’m sure you have some special ones of your own. However you do it, know that providing added value not only makes you a better service provider….it usually help you become a more thoughtful, compassionate human being as well!