When I give presentations and workshops about research strategies, I often include a mention of the need to create value-added deliverables after you’ve found all that great information. But what exactly does that mean? Isn’t everything you do added value, just because it took your skills and expertise to find the information?
Actually, value-adding is more than “merely” finding the information. It means transforming it into something more. One metric I use to evaluate a deliverable:
- If most of what my client reads is my own writing, I’ve provided added value.
- If most of what my client reads is others’ writing, I’m providing little value.
You provide value by distilling the information, by enabling your client to gain insight without reading more than a couple of pages or a short slide deck. Look at what you send to clients and consider what they will focus on. Are they reading your analysis and synthesis, or are they reading a lot of third-party content?
Look at the last few projects you sent out to your clients or patrons. Is it primarily a collection of material from other sources? Or does it feature your distillation of the information, your summary of the key facts, your charts and graphs that highlight key trends?
This sometimes means moving beyond your comfort zone… so take a deep breath and do it anyway. The only way to differentiate yourself from anyone with Google, and the best way to build fiercely loyal clients, is to see yourself as your client’s strategic partner. And how do you do that? Just ask!
Every time you talk with a patron or client about a project, you must learn what they will be doing with the results of your work. That usually involves asking. “So, I’ll be looking for trends in Brazilian widgets and the industry’s impact on the US electronics market. Now, so I can make sure that this is as useful as possible for you, tell me a little bit about what you’ll be using this for. Are you incorporating this into a larger report? Would it be helpful to have a slide deck of the key findings? Would you like a five-minute briefing on the phone with your project group? Do you need a fact sheet to share with your team?” Then stop talking and just listen… for ideas of other ways you can enhance your deliverable, for other services your client needs, for other questions your client didn’t anticipate, and so on.
By asking these questions, you let your client tell you exactly what it will take for you to gain another client for life.