Communicating value is an essential responsibility of business owners.

As much as we may like, our services won’t sell themselves. Learning how to effectively communicate the value of our offerings is a key business skill that we must learn.

Communicating value enables you to command the price you want.

My dictionary defines value as: “relative worth, or importance”; “the monetary worth of something”; “a fair return or equivalent in goods, services, or money for something exchanged”.

If we’re unable to effectively communicate value, people will continually challenge our price. We may feel forced to charge a price that’s less-than-fair, which erodes our self-esteem over time. Especially in the creative and health industries, where we often invest our total passion, attention, and self-identity in what we do and where our work is often highly personal or interpersonal, being constantly challenged on our price can be hugely deleterious to our self-esteem, happiness and enjoyment of work.

When you have a service rather than a product, you don’t have anything for would-be clients to look at, touch, smell or try on. What we have, instead, is words to describe what we offer.

The magic equation to communicate value

Start by clearing defining your target audience and their wants and needs, and then digging deep to uncover the core benefit of what you offer to this group. A middling description would be: “I am a hatha vinyasa yoga teacher.” A better description would be: “I help people become aware of their breath and its power to heal.” Better, but still common.

A middling description would be: “I teach hatha vinyasa to middle age women in menopause”. A better description would be: “I help women minimise the physical discomforts of menopause while celebrating this important rite of passage.” Delving deeper: “We create a celebration for menopausal women to look back in gratitude while inspiring joyful anticipation for their next life stage.”

The equation is: I offer [specific benefit] to [specific group of people] undergoing a [specific problem or issue]. Not so magic, but not so common either.

Tara Gentile in The Art of Earning puts it thus: “Get very clear on what it is that you are actually doing for people regardless of what they are paying you for… what you actually do is worth so much more than what you think you are doing right now.”

The importance of pricing

Your pricing signals to would-be clients the quality of your offering. This is why people pay 10 times the price for a garment that has been created by the same seamstress in the same factory – because the price, supported by branding, signals to people that the quality is superior.

When everyone is offering the same thing, people are encouraged to compare on price. If what you offer is one-of-a-kind, it can’t be compared by price. Simple as that.

Price your offer according to the value of what you’re providing, not some vague equation which is really based on the average of what everybody else is charging. Differentiate yourself through offering something remarkable and communicating quality through your words and branding.

Seek to serve

Be constantly on the lookout for ways to better serve your tribe (your clients, would-be clients, colleagues, social media fans and email subscribers). Anything that makes life easier, more enjoyable, that is relevant to their needs and wants, is something that you can look to add to your business. It might be the post-class catch-up over a cup of tea or the text message from your masseuse offering a discount on a last-minute spot. It may be additional services or products that compliment your offering or go deeper into your subject.

One of the most important intangible services we can offer is personalised service – remembering and using people’s names, birthday greetings, and acknowledging people through touch and eye contact. Online, this becomes targeted emails to a segment of your list, personable tone of voice and automated birthday gifts (such as a free class).

Value is creating tangible positive change in people’s lives. Once this happens, they will become advocates for your business.

The delights of surprise

Satisfying someone by fulfilling what you promised does not make for an advocate. You gave them what they expected. They were satisfied. They didn’t complain but nor are they likely to tell all their friends about it. Surprise delights will help exceed people’s expectations.

Think of what other businesses you could align with to offer a surprise gift. If you offer services, consider an appropriate product as a giveaway to new clients, and vice versa. It could be as simple as the cup of tea after class.

Give clients your surprise value after they’ve left rather than as an enticement to come. We spend so much energy finding new clients rather than thinking of creative ways to thank our existing clients.

I went to a new café this week to meet someone for the first time. The barista asked me if I was looking for someone and then asked my name, so he could look out for me. Some time passed and it became apparent I was being stood up. When my coffee arrived, it had a ‘B’ on top.

If the coffee had been merely hot and strong, I would have been satisfied. But the barista had created a unique, personalised experience while demonstrating that he cared.

When I left, I thanked him and became I’m an advocate for that café (which has since closed).

Managing expectations

Sometimes people don’t feel they’ve gotten value because their expectations haven’t matched what you gave. You may have over-promised in your marketing and under-delivered. Or perhaps you didn’t provide enough detail in your marketing, so people drew their own conclusions with inaccurate expectations.

Or it could be that you’ve simply attracted the wrong person to your business who isn’t your ideal client, doesn’t really want what you offer, and doesn’t ‘get’ your true value. And that’s okay – trying to please these people will be a waste of everybody’s time.

Don’t compete on price. It won’t communicate your value. Create something remarkable, invest time, effort and funds into communicating this through your marketing and branding, and hold something back to deliver a surprise delight. It will turn a simple coffee into an expression of kindness.

Learn how to communicate your deeper value in my Hustle & Heart group coaching program.