Marketing a product and a service are very similar in some ways: You have to identify your customers and their needs, and then craft your pitch to speak to their pain points. Apart from that, however, there are quite a few differences that make marketing a service business more complicated and difficult.
For one, you can’t mass-produce services like you can with products, and the customer’s input is much more pronounced. An uncooperative customer can degrade service quality significantly, unlike products which you can design to be fool-proof. Nonetheless, marketing is a crucial part of success in any service industry and you must get it right. Here are a few tips to do just that:
Differentiation for initial awareness
Unlike with products where there will be reviews and even the most minute differences will be highlighted to place rank one product over another, most service businesses are similar in what they deliver. So to break into a market, you’ll need to identify one area to center your unique selling proposition around.
It could be lower pricing, faster turnaround time, or specialization, but there must be something that will make customers consider moving to your service as opposed to the more established firms. After they hire you, you can help them see other ways your service is better, but that initial differentiation is key to landing new customers.
Rene Langer, CEO of PICKHVAC — which developed an online tool to connect contractors and clients — says that, “When trying to establish your presence through pricing, it’s important to be cautious in your approach. Too aggressive and you’ll find yourself relegated to the low-end of the market with razor thin margins, while if you don’t go low enough, you might not be able to turn enough heads to give your business the critical mass it needs. It’s better to focus more on value than on price per se. Use incentives and bundles to make customers understand they’ll get better bang for their buck with you.”
Stellar customer service to gain referrals
Nowadays, customer service is one of the most important considerations for any service-oriented business. It’s also a crucial factor in how likely your customers are to refer their friends and family, so getting it right must be a focal point of your marketing efforts.
The first step is to train your staff extensively to be sure they understand the value of exceptional customer service and how to provide it. Many customers will not bother to report, but bad customer service from any of your staff will leave them determined to stay away from your business in the future. Apart from training, providing great customer support is essential, even after a service has been concluded.
It’s important not to go overboard though – you do not want to become that person who is always sending spammy emails and eventually gets blocked. Instead, reach out occasionally with valuable information related to your service. That way, you’ll keep your business top of mind and also ensure that you’re leaving a positive impression for the next time a former client needs the services you provide.
Your competitors are not going to be sitting still while you come in and take all the customers. It’s likely that over time, they are going to be switching things up as well, especially because service business’ brands are more flexible than product brands.
And flexibility is a point in your favor, if you harness it correctly. Be sure to keep an eye on your marketing metrics to see what’s working and what needs to be changed, and it’s crucial to have your social media monitoring in good hands as well so you can respond quickly and appropriately whenever something comes up on social media. If handled astutely, positive or negative feedback can be turned into good publicity for your brand.
On the whole, marketing a service business is complicated. But when done properly you can come into a market, stake your position, and increase your market share over time.