By now, I'm assuming you've already discovered your True North: You Mission, Your Purpose, and Why It Matters. (If you haven't I'd suggest you read that article first and start there). And if you know your mission and are clear on your purpose, then it's time to identify your special "perk". That is, what is something special that I get just for doing business with you?

Imagine you were filling out an online dating profile for your company and trying to answer this question. As an individual, you might say something like, "I'm an amazing cook", "I know how to select the best Italian wine from the menu", or "I'm a black belt in self-defense and I know how to protect you." Now think about the possible perks you could provide for someone who is doing business with your company.

To be clear, a "perk" is NOT what your customers are already paying for. If you're an accountant, your perk is not that you study tax law each and every year--that's expected of you if you're handling my taxes. Or if you're a headhunter, that you'll find me the best candidate I can hire. That's expected.

What's not expected is that special perk that sets you apart from everyone else.

For example, back when she was an executive recruiter, a friend of mine used to buy high-end shoes for anyone who recommended a candidate that was accepted by a company who had an open position she was looking to fill. We're talking Prada, Christian Louboutin, and Louis Vuitton. Usually, the shoes were about $1,000 to $2,000, but when you considered that she made upwards of 20% of that person's salary for the first year, suddenly those extravagant shoes seem downright reasonable. And many of her girlfriends gladly took her up on it (a few of her guy friends did too if memory serves).

Another friend of mine would send "Thank You Cookies" to everyone when they became a new client. This included a handwritten card and a full tin of a variety of different types of cookies that could be shared at the office (or easily re-gifted to a friend or family member who's birthday you forgot.)

A colleague who was a real sports fanatic had season tickets in a prime location and would often use the excuse of "extra tickets" to take his clients out on regular outings, but the deal was that they either would both bring their spouses OR a close friend to the game. This deepened their relationship through shared personal experiences on a fairly regular basis.

So, what's the perk of doing business with you?

It doesn't have to be a physical gift or even an event. There are many possible perks you can give your clients, but they are only as valuable as your client believes them to be. Think your newsletter is a perk? In most cases, probably not. While your insights and information has value, newsletters and blogs have become an expected part of doing business. What may have been special when you were the only one doing it is now more common than you might want to acknowledge.

A perk is something special. Think of it as part of your brand and the delivery of that perk as part of your brand experience. For Zappos, you might think that their perk is free shipping both ways, but really it's that they empower their employees to "deliver happiness"--which means that perk is usually incredibly customized to you and your individual needs. It might be that they send you something extra that you didn't order. It could be Zappos branded items. Or it could be flowers to brighten your day. That's the point. With Zappos, you never know what that perk is going to be, but you can be sure you'll be happier when you get it than when you first placed your phone call or sent an email to their customer service.

Take some time to think about what your perk should be, and then make it part of your standard business practice. Don't advertise it. Instead, let your customers discover your perk and tell their friends about it. If you're lucky, your perk will become as famous as the secret menu at IN-N-OUT burger.

Published on: Mar 3, 2015
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.