Do you struggle to quantify the value of your services to clients? Not sure how to measure value on every project?
In this article, you’ll discover how to make your value more obvious to clients.
What Does Value-Economy Mean for Businesses?
Value is subjective. What you value in your life probably is different from how other people understand value in their lives. It’s important to know that value has many dimensions and is a big piece of the economy. Understanding what that means at an individual level is key.
Think back to when you were a child, and maybe you participated in Easter egg hunts with your friends and family. Let’s pretend there are two egg-hunting teams.
Team A is operating under the economy and how we do business now—they want more eggs (more money). So, Team A runs a muck—they’re trampling eggs, running into each other, and are a sweaty mess at the end. Sure, they got some eggs, but it wasn’t pretty.
Now, Team B is particular about their approach. They are more interested in the eggs with Reese’s peanut butter cups inside because that’s their favorite candy. So, as a team, they’re using the same lens to be more systematic and deliberate about the eggs they pick up.
In the end, Team B avoided collisions and perhaps gathered fewer eggs in total, but had a basket of whole, peanut butter-filled eggs because they worked together and knew what they were going after.
Team B succeeded based on their self-defined parameters of value—not just amassing sheer quantities of eggs. To prove the value of your marketing strategy in today’s value economy, you have to shift your focus to consistently driving and delivering value to your clients while staying focused as the industry and your marketing investment continue to evolve.
How Agencies Prove Value to Clients
Value is defined uniquely by each person. Successful agencies begin by listening to identify their client’s problems and potential solutions.
For example, Katie Burkhart founded Matter 7 as a comprehensive design studio. Over time, she focused on where her skills and interests intersected with her clients’ needs. This led her to create MatterLogic Company, a strategy and execution firm. She started her companies by listening closely to her current and potential clients and shifting focus based on their needs.
#1: Shift to a Value Mindset
Katie gives five primary shifts businesses must make to embrace a value economy:
Redefine Why You Exist. At times, easy revenue fails to provide real value. As difficult as it may be, you need to say no to easy money if it does not align with your purpose for existing or the value you’re delivering.
Change How You Think. Being strategic often means choosing what not to do versus what to do. Get comfortable saying no to opportunities that don’t fit. You don’t need to be doing everything, despite what our ever-more economy has taught us.
Reimagine Productivity. Evolve from emphasizing inputs and outputs to desired outcomes. For example, Katie doesn’t need to monitor whether a collaborator at Matter Seven is doing their job. She will know very quickly if the draft of the due article does not show up. She doesn’t need to watch them type it. Assess whether the work effectively delivers your intended value.
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Rethink How You Treat People. Regard your team as human beings, not just labor—treat them as someone, not something. You need to be able to deliver value to them, too. Compensate them fairly for their time and respect it once you hire them—don’t put your team on aimless projects or meetings.
Respecting that they’re actual human beings and they’re coming to work to learn, to grow, to do things beyond just taking that paycheck home will not only make it a better team, but you’ll hopefully be bringing the best people along for the ride. Ultimately, you’re co-creating the path forward for your business with your team members.
Reframe How You View Money. See money as a necessary resource to deliver value more deeply, not the end goal itself. Connect revenue sources directly to the people you serve. The best businesses figure out how to inextricably connect where they’re getting their resources from to the person that they serve.
For example, Substack, the subscription network for independent writers and creators, is working to ensure that it’s not an ad-driven platform, so it’s not getting its primary revenue from the people it’s supposed to serve. Substack will only be successful if its user is successful. It’s essential to know who you are delivering value to.
#2: Use Ongoing Feedback to Measure Value
Value stems from your client’s definitions, not your assumptions. Identifying desired outcomes based on your client’s specific needs and language is essential.
Instead of “Hey, here’s my cool new widget; you need it,” sit down with your clients and ask them what they want. Pay attention to the language they use, not the flashy lingo coming out of the marketing machine. Then, you can start to determine outcomes.
First, ask yourself what you need to help people achieve or experience so that they get that ultimate value that your business exists to deliver. Value is multi-faceted, so some outcomes may have to come together to get that ultimate value.
Next, implement regular feedback loops—client conversations—to gauge whether you truly achieve those outcomes. Annual surveys, interviews, and usage metrics can help quantify outcomes, even without perfect data. Use something deliberate and set up with specific questions that allow you and your client to understand how well you’re doing against those outcomes.
Then, determine which offerings drive maximum value and where you have flexibility. Aim to deliver as much value as possible within each client’s constraints. It’s also helpful to run experiments on better delivering value because consumer behavior is ever-changing.
Understanding what your clients want is one half of the coin. The other is what you bring to the table—your experience, expertise, and willingness to experiment. You’re bringing them the car when they asked for a horse.
#3: Foster a Value-Focused Team Culture
Building a value-focused marketing agency is the goal. As a leader, you should help your team understand their role in creating a value-first ethos.
Focusing on the value you deliver to real people and engaging them is an excellent equalizer. It’s about something other than whether Bob’s idea is better than Bill’s or whether Tim’s department is more important than Sally’s—it’s about the collective team.
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Communicate frequently, particularly in value conversations. Don’t assume that this is exclusively an external-facing conversation. You need to be able to communicate the value you and your team exist to deliver. Aim to communicate actively through stories and conversations, not top-down messaging. This will foster back-and-forth conversation and active connection.
Then, solicit your team’s perspectives and insights. They may envision their contributions as creating value in unexpected ways.
#4: Common Challenges With Value-Driven Agencies
Delivering consistent value can come with its own set of challenges. You must discipline yourself to avoid shiny object syndrome, Katie says. For example, despite seeing what other agencies are doing, you may not need an artificial intelligence (AI) strategist on your team. Katie believes it’s essential to step back and ask, “What’s the point?” before making decisions and moving forward.
For example, one of Matter 7’s team members was recording an event for a client. The team member wanted to interview many people because the camera was already there. But they didn’t ask themselves the point of interviewing those people. You can make much better decisions if you understand the point of what you’re doing before you go about doing it, and that is a level of discipline that is action-focused.
Asking better questions is also crucial to collaboration. Check in with your team and clients often. Having regular touchpoints keeps you connected. For example, at MatterLogic, Katie and her team have a “calibration process”. These regular check-ins help to calibrate the plan—yearly, quarterly, or even monthly. This handles surprises, good or bad. It keeps everyone connected to the big picture, not just their part.
Additionally, Katie says to pick a niche and stay in your lane. It can be easy for a client to come to you for one thing, and you do great at that one thing, and then they want to bring you something else. Your impulse might be to say yes, but sometimes you might have to go out and find other experts to help your client. Stick with what you know. You want to avoid having the client change their perception of you if you can’t deliver value.
Katie believes that once you become a jack of all trades, you are a commodity. You’re no longer an advisor, an authority, specific. You dilute yourself into being a largely exchangeable pair of hands that could be cut up and parceled out.
#5: Focus on Your Purpose as the Marketing Industry Shifts
When new technologies and tactics emerge, ask whether you should adopt them rather than simply if you can. For example, just because you can have AI write an article does not mean that that’s something that you should do.
So much of having a value-driven business is about fostering human connection—having a relationship with a person. Stories become conversations, and that’s where the magic happens.
View innovations as tools to support your ability to deliver value, not as ends in themselves. It’s easy to think robots are coming for our jobs, but people still need to be able to use these tools effectively—they need to deploy, monitor, manipulate, and understand them. Katie believes tools are as good as the hand you stick them in, so focus on your purpose first.
There will always be some threat, whether from technology, another marketing agency, or an app that does what you do now. For example, Matter 7 used to be a broader branding agency, and now they’re a software company where anyone can type in a couple of keywords and out pop a whole branding identity. Ask yourself, what’s the best way I can deliver value? What tools can I bring to the table? Instead of fearing disruption, look for opportunities.
What does AI mean for the people you serve as a value economy business? Matter 7 specifically serves high-trust companies at an inflection point—consultants, agencies, lawyers, nonprofits—people you will have to trust before you buy from them. So their clients want to know the responses they’re getting do not sound like they’re coming from a robot. Position your agency in a way that cultivates trust and authentic human connection.
#6: Advice for Value-Driven Agencies
If you are launching a new agency and want to adopt a value-driven approach, start by identifying potential customers as specifically as possible. Who do you serve? The more specific you can get, the more specific you can be in the value you deliver, the words you use, the tactics you employ, etc. A niche focus makes your value proposition more apparent.
Next, have extensive conversations with potential clients—human conversations are indispensable. Ask them curious questions and test their willingness to pay for your product or service, even hypothetically.
Making the time investment to validate your value proposition is critical—you don’t need shiny new marketing materials or a gorgeous website to start talking to people. All you need is a commitment to genuinely being curious and figuring out how to assemble the pieces.
Katie Burkhart is founder and CEO of MatterLogic Company, a strategy and execution firm, and Matter 7, a storytelling studio. She is the mastermind behind MatterLogic™, the only system for running a business in the value economy, and has quickly become one of the go-to experts in the space. Her newsletter is called WTP (What’s the Point). You can find her on LinkedIn.
Brooke B. Sellas is host of the Marketing Agency Show, a Social Media Examiner production. She is founder and CEO of B Squared Media, an agency that helps people connect, converse, and convert on social media. Her book is called Conversations That Connect. Find her on X/Twitter and LinkedIn.
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