This is the third in a series devoted to building business on value and redesigning your business to maximize customer perceived value.

Value is not just in the eye of the beholder. It has a feel to it. Customers know what value feels like as they run it through their fingers. If you, the small business owner, don’t feel it the same way, you are going to lose customers.

Suppose there are burger joints on each corner at a traffic light near home. Time in and time out, you always go to the same one because of taste, ambiance, convenience, discount coupons, a playscape or senior bargains. What would make you change your buying habits? A restaurant-borne disease, advertising, change in the drive-in access, an upgrade in the store design? A customer changes a purchasing habit because of customer perceived value.

Why don’t more small businesses market this way? Well, too many businesses cannot think themselves outside traditional costing methods, i.e. adding the desired profit percentage to the cost of doing business. Nothing in that concept, math, or need interests your customer, and the only value in it is the value to you.

Moreover, some types of business find it hard to turn this ship around. Corporate complicity and trade regulation freeze Real Estate and Insurance prices. Professional standards and insurance legislation drive the price of Dental and Medical services. Lawyers, accountants, and consultants have their sacred billable hours.

Five Easy Pieces, trying to order toast in a diner only to be told that he had to order a chicken sandwich to get the bread. He couldn’t see customer value in that.

Admittedly, this may be simpler than customizing obstetric services or tax advice, but these business climates would benefit from offering more flexibility – and marketing it! Admitting that some industry standardization brings stability to real estate and insurance marketing, there are known price variances that could be extended to a larger customer public. If, for example, you bundle your services at one price, consider unbundling them to suit the customer’s needs. If you offer one item from Column A with Item 2 and 3 from Column B, nothing stops you from allowing the customer to move the pieces around. Or, if you do not bundle services, consider price reductions to those who want a bundle.

If you are not in one of these hunters’ blinds that makes it hard to see the customers’ future, take action now to realign your services and products so you can offer a “Chinese menu,” allowing the customer can see your flexibility and responsiveness. If you are stuck in the blind, do what you can within the wiggle room you are allowed. And, work from the inside to shift the thinking of your trade or professional group.

After all, you are a small business operator, and flexibility and agility are your strength. This is not a movement you want to fall behind.
By Steven Schlagel