Valued-Added Articles

How To REALLY Set Yourself Apart and Build Value-Based Relationships With Value-Added Articles

By Jim Domanski

Do you want a fast, simple, cost effective and easy way to to stay in touch, build value and give yourself an edge with your customers and prospects?

Sound impossible? Not in the least.

One of the most effective ways to differentiate you and give yourself a competitive edge is a simple process that I call the VAA: Valued Added Article. It’s a powerful strategy that works!

What is the VAA?

On a purely literal level, a ‘value added article’ is just that: an article, a special report, a white paper, a news clipping from a magazine, a website address, a journal..virtually anything that you provide to your prospect or client so they might derive benefit, pleasure, enjoyment, knowledge, interest, and ultimately value.

On a deeper, more subtle level, a VAA is the little something extra that you add to the relationship that shows you were thinking of your prospect or client.  It’s something that goes above and beyond the norm in terms of selling. It’s something that positions you as unique and distinctive. It’s something that is seen as a positive and often personable gesture that marks your character. It’s something that helps get you remembered.

The 2 Types of VAA

The first type of VAA is business related. A business VAA is an article, journal, report etc. that relates to a product, a service, the industry or the marketplace that may be applicable to the client.

It might be something related specifically to your product or service such as a white paper but this approach has a somewhat self serving aspect to it. A more effective approach is to provide a third party or independent source of information that educates your client. This is seen as an extra bonus and something that the average run of the mill sales rep does not provide.

The second type of VAA is the personal VAA and there are two kinds. The first kind of personal VAA is something that reflects or relates to a hobby, a passion or an interest your client might have.  For instance, suppose you learn that your Canadian client is a NASCAR fanatic. One day you see an article on a NASCAR event coming to Montreal. Clip it and send it off. Or suppose you discover your prospect is sending her daughter off to Notre Dame to earn a history degree. You search for an article on the web about the history faculty at ND and pass it on to your client.

Here’s the real point: it shows that you listened and that you remembered. It shows you took the time. It shows the client that there is more to the relationship than just a set of transactions.

The other kind of personal VAA is something that reflects a hobby, passion or an interest that you might have and would like to share with the client. Suppose you’re an avid BBQer.  You might send your client a recipe of your favorite rub or an article on “10 Things Every Person Should Know About Smoking Ribs.” It’s a lighthearted gesture. It reveals a little about you and advances the relationship a step or two.

Either way, you are doing something that isn’t typically done. And that usually gets remembered.  It may not guarantee you a sale but it guarantees you an edge.

How to Build a VAA Library

The trick to making a VAA strategy work for you is to have a library of articles ready and available at your fingertips. From a business perspective, one way to do that is to scan industry trade journals, magazines, e-newsletters, web sites and the like. Look for and keep copies of articles or sites that relate to your market or business.

In effect, you become a clipping service for your client. Remember that most of your clients probably get the same magazines but most do NOT have the time to read the material. By doing so, you save them time and effort. You keep them apprised of events, ideas, trends and the like. At some level, the client realizes the value you create. (And as an added bonus your scanning keeps YOU on top of things in the industry. At some point, you become the “resident expert” and are seen as such. Nice edge!)

Relative to your passions and interests, keep a stack of your favorite recipes or articles or whatever handy so that you can use them if and when appropriate. Of course, your clients’ interests or hobbies will vary from individual to individual.  This means customizing your VAA. For example, if you hear something that might be of value to your client, note it, and the next time you read a newspaper or visit a bookstore or surf the web keep it in mind. You might stumble on something relevant and meaningful. Use it.

The Reactive Approach

The reactive approach occurs when you see something that might be of value to the client and you send it along with a little note.  Use phrases like “Kathy, I thought of you when I read this article…” Or, “Janice, I remembered you said your daughter was going off to Notre Dame this semester and I thought I would pass along this link about freshmen at Notre Dame.”

These are flattering statements that appeal to virtually anybody and everybody. This ‘out of the blue’ approach surprises and delights prospects and customers alike.

The Proactive Approach

The proactive approach is a little more calculated. There are 3 steps to implementing a proactive VAA strategy.

1. Make a commitment to a VAA. When an opportunity arises (for example, the client says something that goes ‘click’ in your mind and you think of a VAA) go out of your way to make a commitment. Be bold and say something like,

“Don, by the way, I saw an article regarding…that I’d like to send on to you.”

“Sarah, that reminds me, I have a website address that I’ll send to you that talks about…”

 “Leah, let me send you a special report I just read…”

What’s important to remember here is that most of your clients have heard promises like this before but reps fails to send or transmit the article.

Now here’s the sad thing but the thing that makes the proactive approach so effective: the client didn’t really expect it to happen so he or she is not overly disappointed when it doesn’t occur. I don’t mean to be cynical but the fact of the matter is people break small promises and commitments every day in every walk of life. It is not that they bad people it just that their follow up is weak.

Having said that, when someone actually GETS the article, the link or whatever, he or she is bound to be surprised and delighted. They think, “Oh, he remembered.”  At some level, your stock or equity with that client goes up a notch. At a conscious or subconscious level it registers that you kept your word! This resonates strongly with your clients. It suggests you will keep your word in all aspects of business.

2. Send the VAA within 2 days. Of course, the next step in making the proactive approach work is to keep your word and send the document within two days. Not a week or two later.  Attach a Post-It note to the article if you send it by mail. Write a note in the margin if you fax it. Write a few words if you are e-mailing it. Don’t belabor the point. Simply state, “Leah, here’s that special report I promised you.” Let the VAA speak for itself.

3. Leverage the VAA. Don’t be afraid to leverage your VAA. Use it to your advantage. That’s the whole point. When you make a follow up call, don’t hesitate to reference the VAA. For instance,

“Ken, I just wanted to give you a quick follow up call regarding that Cajun BBQ rub recipe I sent you.  I don’t know if you’ve had a chance to whip it up and try it but I thought I’d check and see.”

Of course, this statement can simply be a pre-text to a business related matter but when you remind the client that you did a little ‘extra’ something powerful happens.  It creates reciprocity. Reciprocity is the need for your client to do a favor or kind gesture in return for your VAA. This usually translates into giving you a little extra time on a call, listen a little more closely, provide you with better information, give more candid remarks etc. At this stage, you’ve got the edge you were seeking.


By no stretch of the imagination does a VAA guarantee you a sale but it does contribute to the overall value that clients see in you and your company. This is particularly true if you sell ‘like’ products and services. Sometimes the little extras are all the differentiation you need.  Start your VAA today.