How to provide value?

Philip Morgan

For a while now, I've had a post opt-in survey (fuller description of that: I recently changed it up, refocusing my questions around vision and blockers to achieving impact.

This question came over the wire recently via that survey (I sometimes copy/paste anonymously-asked questions here w/o attribution):

I’m not sure how to provide value in the niche I chose

I was moved by the honest vulnerability behind this question. I too, sometimes wonder how to provide value to y'all. Or how to provide a more useful form of value. It's a very worthwhile pursuit, and there's room to grow no matter where we are in our indie expert careers.

"Quick, Philip... how many forms of high level value creation can you list in the next 5 minutes? Go!"

  1. Insurance - reducing risk or hedging against loss
  2. Building - building something you or someone else will use
  3. Designing - planning what will be built
  4. Deciding - choosing which of multiple options to apply resources to
  5. Insight - making the world less mysterious and more comprehensible to yourself or others
  6. Coordination - working to make a building process happen with less error, waste, chaos, or cost
  7. Entertaining - making or distributing art that makes life more enjoyable
  8. Importing - making it possible to consume or enjoy foreign creations
  9. Imagining - making it possible to do something that's never been before in quite the same way

That's probably enough. If I gave myself more than 5 minutes, the list would certainly grow.

Every single one of those forms of value creation can be relevant to business buyers.

The usual path starts with Building and that's probably for good reason. Knowing how things are built keeps designers from designing un-buildable stuff, for one.

But once you're ready to move beyond Building into some form of planning or deciding or inspiring, there are multiple options. As you make this move, keep your eyes open for the following:

  • Change creates as much opportunity as it destroys. Not for the same people, of course. Some lose while others win. Try to remain flexible and alert to change, because it signals the presence of opportunity.
  • Putting down the tools of the Builder and starting to be involved in value creation elsewhere in the so-called value chain feels weird as hell, at first anyway. If people start asking you for advice about how to do something you've done as a Builder, assign yourself this homework: outline a fixed price service offering that you could deliver with both of your arms cut off (like the mean guy here, but with BOTH of them cut off: Maybe you put the service offering in a folder and never look at it again, but I bet you two burritos (you have to come to Taos and dine with me to collect on your bet) that the act of sketching out this service offering changes something for you. Makes you more likely to consider charging for your advice. That kind of thing.
  • Sometimes the value you create and deliver is not the value you market and sell. If you came down with flu-like symptoms right now, would your doctor be delivering a cure for that flu, or the assurance that you don't have the COVID-19 virus?
  • Finally, value is contextual. The more you can understand your clients' context, the better you'll be at predicting what they value. This will never remove the "black swan" forms of value, but it will give you a better nose for opportunity.

If you don't know what will provide value in the niche you choose, do one of the following:

  • Find a fast-moving object of considerable size (a rising star platform like AWS has been over the last 3 years, for example) and stumble around there. You'll probably get lucky. If you do, don't become too dependent on the platform. "Do not, my friends, become addicted to water. It will take hold of you and you will resent its absence." -- Immortan Joe
  • Copy someone else's well-functioning form of value creation. Don't start yet another LinkedIn lead generation service, for example, but do notice what doesn't change very much on the service provider side of the market and look for things you can copy there.
  • Get to know the natives. Cultivate as much insight as you can into your chosen niche and -- if you're brave and moderately resilient -- invent your own form of value creation. It's super hard and incredibly rewarding.


Have I mentioned I'm running a workshop on point of view next month? I think maybe I have a few times here :)

Consider it! It'll make you smarter. You'll learn way more in this workshop via experiential learning than you could from a book.

It's online, limited to 20 people, meets weekly at 10am Mountain time March 6 - April 24, is introvert-friendly, gives you lots of support in exploring and formalizing your points of view, and costs $700. If this is of interest, you can sign up here: /pmc-csw-point-of-view