What it really means to create value for customers and your audience
We’re plagued with the need to constantly create for our audiences and customers. It’s the done thing to produce free stuff in exchange for our target’s time, attention and hopefully down the line, money.
However, to truly connect with people online, we need to reach them first. This is usually done by creating a little something known as ‘content’. Love or hate the word, it basically means the creation and sharing of online material. This includes blog posts, video, podcasts, even emails.
“Content is anything that adds value to the reader’s life.” – Avinash Kaushik
If this strategy of reaching people is your thing, i.e. creating free stuff to get eyeballs on your business, then how exactly do you create value for customers and your audience?
This question is important because, as business owners, we have a finite amount of time and energy we can dedicate to free stuff. Because everything public facing you produce online is essentially free (yes this includes social media posts), you’ll likely want to work out how you can get the maximum benefit from the time you spend doing it.
This quality over quantity model is at the heart of value. Making sure both your audience and you benefit, is key.
Before I get into the post, I want to start by saying that creating free ‘stuff’ is not the only way to reach your online audience. In fact, there are many businesses who don’t have social media, or even blogs and still thrive. The techniques they use are an article for another day.
However, if you enjoy content creation, then keep reading.
What is value anyway?
Value, in this case, is about the benefit you can give to the lives of your audience or ideal customer. It’s about connecting with them on a deeper level. Understanding their needs and concerns and providing them with something which makes an impact on their lives for the better.
Traditional advertising shouts at potential customers, whereas value-driven content marketing talks with them.
Take for example the highly detailed and value-packed Instagram posts of Bojan Novakovic. Bojan creates self-contained Instagram posts which provide immense value to his followers.
He produces gallery-style mini-posts that are instant and satisfying learning experiences. As a result, his content is shared widely for its value and he’s praised for not selling, but giving.
This doesn’t mean Bojan loses out in terms of clients or customers. In fact, Bojan has seen great success by demonstrating his design skills and knowledge by gaining a wide variety of high-paying clients.
Why create value for customers/your audience?
People’s connection to businesses is constantly changing. What used to be a ‘shove it out there and they will come’ model, has now transformed into something completely different.
Potential customers are rightly more careful with their online purchases and often require some level of ‘know, like and trust’ factor to go through with making a purchase.
In a 2017 survey done by Social Media Today, they found that 86% of people say authenticity is important when deciding what brands they like and support.
The sheer number of people who want to ‘get to know’ a brand before buying is quite staggering. This means that us online business owners not only should be creating products/services that truly benefit our customers but should also be showcasing why potential customers should buy from you.
This ‘why’ isn’t a list of reasons why your product is the best, it’s the foundation your business is built on, your story, values and connection to the wider world and your customers.
How to create value for customers/your audience
Knowing that every audience is unique, the following set of guidelines are filled with a few questions you can ask when thinking about how to create value for your customers/your audience.
Determine the ‘why’ behind your business
You may sell knitted baby hats, coaching packages, or books, but why are you doing it?
It’s this ‘why’ which will bridge the gap between you and your potential customer. It will turn a suspicious and nervous customer into a trusting one.
Take for example the toilet paper company Who Gives A Crap. They sell toilet paper, but their ‘why’ is: good for the world, good for people, good for your bum. They are striving to be 100% plastic-free, they don’t use trees to make their paper, they build toilets for those who need them and they create the best quality paper they can.
Who Gives A Crap put value front and centre by showing that you’re not just buying toilet paper from them, you’re buying so much more.
The ‘why’ for Limit Breaker is: to give introverts a voice, one that’s authentic, true to their natural instincts and serves their wellbeing and empowerment. This ‘why’, which is present on our mission page, underlines our whole ethos, from the articles we publish, right down to the free Facebook Group we run.
Ask your customers/audience what they want
Creating an avatar or persona for your ideal customer simply doesn’t work like it used to. People are complex beings with a variety of wants and needs which most of the time, aren’t predictable.
You may have a niche in mind for your business (which is great), but the people within that niche may be harder to define than you realise.
The simplest way to understand what your audience really want in terms of value is to ask them. Trust me when I say that it will make your life easier down the line. By asking, you can truly create products, services and content that your customer actually wants.
Here’s the catch: asking with surveys, lengthy emails and mass-social media posts probably won’t work. Most people hold the belief that businesses should know what their customers want, so here are a few tricks I’ve used to delve deeper into what my audience truly want:
- Directly email or message them – don’t send one mass generic email, most people can tell it’s not personal and probably won’t respond. But if you send a select number of personal emails to your subscribers or messages to your social followers you’ll get much better results. Keep it casual, thank them for supporting you and simply ask them what they need. In this way, you’re showing that you realise your customer is an actual person and not just a number on your list.
- Do a social media poll – if you have a Facebook page or group, create a poll asking your audience/customers what it is they need help with. To guide the poll, create a few example topics and leave it open for people to ask more. Although this is a more blanket approach, it’s easy for people to do and so should yield good results.
- Do a search on Twitter using keywords related to your business – this is an excellent way to see how people talk about your industry and what frustrates them about it.
Combine all of these and save your findings in a document. Any time you come across something useful, add it in. Before long you’ll have a comprehensive document which will help you create value for customers and your audience.
Become your favourite teacher
We have your ‘why’, we understand your audience, now it’s time to give them what they want.
Do you remember your favourite teacher from school? What was it about them that you liked? Did you engage more with your education when they were teaching you?
The likely answer to the last question is yes.
We learn better when we’re enjoying ourselves and feel some sort of connection to the teacher. Whatever medium or platform you choose to deliver your value on, you should make sure that it’s something you enjoy, are willing to dedicate some time to and can focus on.
Answer these questions:
- Which platform do you enjoy using the most? (for example, email, blog posts, Instagram, Facebook, video etc)
- What practical skills do you have? (writing, design, editing, creativity, speaking etc)
- If none of the above, which of these could you potentially learn/improve upon?
Put it all together
You’ve been through the steps, so, how could you combine your answers to the above questions with your ‘why’ and your audience findings to create something that will provide your audience with true value?
What could you create that would be focused, with a clear message that you can produce less frequently but of higher quality, specifically made for your audience?
Featured image by Nicole Honeywill
The answers to these questions are up to you, but I’d love to know if you had any initial ideas. Please leave them in the comments below.