What’s going through the minds of your recipients in the nanosecond between the time they click on your email and your content fills their screen?

To paraphrase Rod Tidwell, the ambitious football-star of “Jerry McGuire,” it’s likely some version of this phrase: “Show me the value!”

Your recipients aren’t aware they are thinking this. But there’s a reason that your pithy and compelling subject line prompted their action – and when they open your message, they are expecting the payoff the subject line promised. If your content doesn’t deliver value, they will be on to whatever’s next in another nanosecond. If you don’t show them it immediately, you risk losing them forever.

The key to ensuring they read on is understanding that your message is not about you or your product. It’s about them and meeting their needs.

“The art of creating added value starts with the ability to see your business through the eyes of your customers,” writes Kimber Powers on the Vertical Response blog. “Consider what’s important to your target market and how your product or service will benefit them. What problem does it solve, how will it help them overcome obstacles or do their jobs better? By shifting your focus to providing content that focuses on your customers’ needs you can start helping and stop selling.”

While the value in many messages is expressed by a promotion or incentive directly linked to the sale or a product or service, value can take many other forms. That’s great news for content creators, since it gives them a long list of options from which to choose.

“If you focus on offering value, you’ll never run out of things to say to your prospects when building a meaningful relationship,” writes Forster Perelsztejn at Datanyze.

And there’s never a wrong time to deliver value. It’s appropriate – make that necessary – to deliver it before, during and after the sale, and at each stage of the customer lifecycle.

Here are six ways to deliver value in your messages:

1. Provide case studies
“Case studies are an invaluable asset when it comes to establishing proof that what you’re offering is valuable and of good quality,” writes Siobhán McGinty on the Hubspot blog. “Case studies are particularly suited to email marketing when you have an industry-segmentable list. For example, if you have a case study from a client in the insurance industry, emailing your case study to your base of insurance-related contacts can be a relevant addition to a lead nurturing campaign.”

2. Share success stories
“Success stories are powerful social proof that your product or service has value and does what it claims to do,” writes Erica Tucci on LinkedIn. “That’s because your customer or client is touting it through her own satisfied experience with it.” Success stories “give a prospect a sneak preview of ‘why’ and ‘how’ he would benefit from your product or service,” she adds.

3. Offer customer testimonials
“Customer testimonials are one of the most powerful tools that email marketers have in their conversion arsenal,” we wrote in this post. “Why? Because they work. And they work because they function as social proof – an extremely powerful motivator of consumer action. Simply put, testimonials help drive desired customer behavior – and results – because they say the things you cannot necessarily say for yourself. “

4. Help your customers solve a problem
“When you provide relevant content that actually helps someone answer a question or solve a problem, you are offering a distinct benefit,” writes Jeff Charles at Small Business Trends. “You’re giving them something valuable without asking for anything in return. In turn, that prospect is far more likely to buy your product or service.

5. Help your customers learn
E-books, e-courses and webinars, etc., can help position you as the expert in your industry and create invaluable bonds with your customers. “The most successful brands win their customers’ trust by acting as a resource, not an infomercial,” writes Cynthia Price at Marketing Land. “Sending tips, exclusive insights and educational content creates an inbox experience that subscribers genuinely look forward to. They’ll be less likely to unsubscribe, and you’ll be top of mind when it’s time to buy.”

6. Give stuff away
“Never underestimate the value of free resources,” writes Kimber Powers on the Vertical Response blog. “Whether it’s a free guide, a printable PDF, or a company branded calendar, free resources are a great way to create added value and showcase your brand’s ability to offer ‘a little something extra’ to customers.”

The bottom line: “You always need to be striving towards value,” writes Courtney Eckerle on the Marketing Sherpa blog. “People will open your email and engage with it if they perceive that it will provide some value or service to them.”