As a somewhat frugal father of four little ones, there's a big joke among my friends and co-workers that I'm somehow, well... cheap. Not thrifty, or frugal, mind you, but a penny-pick'er-uppin' skinflint. I have no idea where this slander comes from! Just because my wife and I know every kids-eat-free restaurant within an hour radius of our house along with the days they offer the discounts, and just because, when we aren't cooking at home, we happen to plan our meal outings around said discounts, doesn't necessarily prove their point. 

As proof, we don't ALWAYS drink water. (Yeah, sometimes the free kid's meal depends on a drink purchase.)

Places that offer two free meals per adult meal purchase are the absolute best. There's a Tex-Mex place in our area, Barbaritos, that offers such a deal on Tuesday nights. For just over $20, we can buy a spread that would make a medieval king blush. Unbelievable! Sometimes I feel guilty that we're contributing to their financial demise, but then again I guess they wouldn't be offering it if they didn't make SOME money, right? 

At any rate, one of the things that binds us all as humans is the fact that everyone, no matter how much or how little money they have, absolutely loves a good deal. Different kinds of good deals, for sure, but good deals nonetheless. Not everyone is in heaven over free kids meals and restaurant coupons, but then again not everyone enjoys eating as much as I do. But the fact remains that when you walk out of a transaction with more cash or more value than you originally expected, it's a good feeling. 

Sure, the service has to be there, and quality is a definite must, but when you come out with those two things AND value too, well, that's a recipe for a special kind of loyalty. For the purposes of my point, let's call it the 'free meal' feeling, because whatever that 'free meal' is, whether its an actual free meal or something else entirely, if the business that give you one are already offering great quality and service, you'll do business with them again and again.

And you'll tell your friends. (Heck, maybe you'll even write an article about it!)

In our business, the staffing industry, adding value is what can differentiate your firm from the dozens of others that are all competing with you on price and even service. Sure, if you are competitive on price and have superior service, you may stay in business and even be successful, but if you can also give your clients a taste of that 'free meal' feeling by adding value somewhere they didn't expect, you'll create more than just a client/vendor relationship - you'll create loyalty.

Here are a few easy ways we staffing agencies can do just that:

Food - Why not start a conversation about 'free meals' with an actual, well, free meal? Take your client reps to lunch every so often. You'll get to know them better as well as their expectations for your service. If you have several temps working at a plant, ask your contact if it would be OK to bring in pizza for each shift. It's a minimal expense, plus you get to meet your associates as well as the regular employees. You might get some referrals out of the deal, but you will definitely get goodwill and appreciation. After all, who doesn't enjoy a free meal once in a while, and who doesn't feel good, at least for a little while, about the company, or staffing agency, that made it happen?

Promotional items - Everyone uses calendars, pens, notepads, and the like, especially your clients. If they don't have all of the above plus several other items (the possibilities here are truly endless) with your logo and contact information on them, you aren't doing your job!

Safety walk-throughs - Even if you don't have an in-house safety manager, chances are your branch managers and even your staffers have lots of experience walking through various plants and assessing risk to your company, especially before bringing a client on. Why not offer a safety walk-through to your clients as a value-added service? It'll help you learn even more about the companies you do business with, and it'll help your clients create a safer work environment for not only their folks, but yours as well. It's a win-win!

HR advice - If your staff are Certified Staffing Professionals through the American Staffing Association's certification and continuing education program, they already have a fantastic working knowledge of current legal regulations and potential pitfalls that can happen to any business that employs people. And chances are, especially if they have multiple years of experience, they've seen it all, or at least most of it, in a variety of different industries. As such, staffing suppliers are in a unique situation to be able to advise our clients, not in any official legal capacity of course, but in a knowledgeable, consultative capacity. 

Continuing education - Just as your people are Certified Staffing Professionals, your customer reps are likely members of SHRM or some other certified entity that requires continuing education. Hosting breakfast briefings or lunch & learns, and bringing in qualified speakers on a variety of topics, are a great way to provide not just a free meal, but knowledge and continuing education credits that will help your clients stay informed and certified. Plus, as host, you can hand out plenty of those promo items at your table in the back!

Those are just a few of the many ways to add value for our clients. The possibilities are as limitless as your imagination, and your budget. 

Oh, and the law, of course. Be sure to check with your attorney and make sure you don't cross any lines, especially depending on the type of industry your client is in. For example, certain federal contractors may not even be allowed to let you take them to lunch.