Introduction: What is Service Marketing
Services have increased in prominence globally, prompting the need for more expertise in service selling and marketing. But marketing a service is not a walk in the park. Why? This is because of the following characteristics, that differentiate services from physical products:
- Inseparable from their user, among others
These very characteristics are what make marketing a service starkly different from marketing a physical product. Whereas the service marketing mix might not be all that different from marketing strategies used for physical products, some of the mechanics involved differ.
In this article, we will take a deeper look at the features listed above, as well as:
- Types of service marketing
- Service marketing mix
- Strategies for marketing your service
Types of Service Marketing
Service marketing falls into the following categories
Consumer services. These include services that cater directly to individual needs. Consumer services can further be classified as:
- Food services, e.g, fast food joints, bakeries, restaurants
- Boarding and lodging facilities such as hotels and motels
- Health and personal care services, e.g, beauty salons, barber shops, dry cleaners, gymnastics, etcetera
- Finance and insurance services
- Transport and communication
Industrial services. These are services created for industries, or other businesses. Such services help the companies buying them to conduct their commercial activities more efficiently. The include:
- Financial and insurance services
- Consultancy, e.g engineering, design and management consultancies
- Marketing and advertising
- Office services
Features Of A Service
Services have the following features:
You cannot see or touch a product. Unlike physical products, services aren’t concrete or visible. When selling a service, what you are basically doing is selling yours and your employees’ skills by demonstrating value, and through creating relationships.
This means that before you convert a client, you have to create a relationship with them, then highlight the value of the product through well thought-out engagement tactics.
A customer receives a service at the same time it is being created. You cannot create a service and leave it for future use. You can however plan service marketing strategies to make the customer aware that you exist.
Since services are offered by people, the level of service that a customer receives will depend on the specific person offering that service. Even if the service is being offered by one person, that individual can vary their approach.
Customer facing staff influence how customers see the services they are receiving. If staff skills, morale or motivation is low, this inevitably results in poor customer service perception. You can offer training as a method to ensure more standardization of quality and service provision.
You are likely to suffer from economic losses if your services aren’t utilized as per your planned schedule. For instance, if you don’t meet your hotel room bookings per night, you cannot transfer that unused capacity to another day.
5. Changing demand
Services fluctuate in demand based on seasons. Tourism for instance, has its high and low seasons.
How you price your service offering depends on seasonality and competitor pricing. While these parameters also apply to products, pricing for physical products also factors price of raw materials, production costs, transport and logistics.
These characteristics make marketing services difficult. Services should however be marketed, as it is in so doing that you can sustain a steady flow of customers.
This brings us to the next point: the service marketing mix.
The Service Marketing Mix
Traditionally, marketing a product involves getting the following elements right: product, price, place, promotion.
With services, you need to figure out how to work without physical evidence. This in turn introduces more complexity in process and people.
The service itself is the product. The perceived value of a service lies in its availability, features, quality and customer service.
How then, as a marketer, do you ensure you raise the perceived value of your product?
- Package your core service in a way that highlights its value and relevance to the customer
- Invest in your facilitation services. For instance, if you run a physical office, make sure your service outlet should inspire customer confidence. That is, the location must be right, furnishings and equipment state of the art and staff members professional. Marketing services, both digital and physical should be consistent and professionally done.
- Offer other support services to augment your core service
How can your price your service appropriately so that you remain profitable while also avoiding pricing discrimination? There is the notion that a high price package equals more value. But is your service valuable enough?
These are the questions you need to be asking yourself while pricing your service.
Given that products or services with a high-value price tag tend to have a longer sales cycle, your marketing mix should be effective enough to deliver value.
Where can the customer get the service? Have you figured out your distribution channels? Have you worked on those channels to make them highly converting?
How will you market your service? Are you using traditional marketing, digital channels or a mix of both?
Some of the most effective methods for promoting services include:
- Word of mouth
- Paid advertising
- Free trials
- Loyalty programs
- Sales and discounts
Invest in your sales, marketing, and customer service personnel so that they always give a great first impression to customers.
- Hire the right people
- Invest in their training
- Motivate your direct staff with appropriately-sized pay packages
- Work with the right lead generation services. This is because the cost of upskilling your employees can be quite high and limit expansion efforts.
The procedures and mechanisms through which you deliver your service to the customer influences how they perceive your service. As the value of a service can be quite difficult to measure, what you want is to ensure a smooth flow of service from your company to the customer.
Be prompt, efficient, meet the customer’s needs, and exceed their expectations.
Strategies to Improve Your Service Marketing
Below are strategies you can use to improve your service marketing:
Build Trust With Referral Marketing
Did you now that 92% of millennials don’t trust institutions offering financial services? This is according to research conducted by FaceBook.
On the flip side, research from Nielsen shows that a referral from a trusted source is more effective than most other marketing strategies. So, whether it’s online reviews or in person word of mouth, a referral from an actual consumer who has experienced a brand is a powerful way to get people to buy from you.
In service selling, reputation is just as important as the service you are selling. Referrals will help you sell your reputation. As such, invest in referrals from your existing customers. Ask them to leave a testimonial of their experience with you.
Referrals by influencers are also quite powerful especially for younger generations. A study by McCarthy group found that while 84% of young people don’t trust brand advertisements, 58% do not mind ads that feature their favorite celebrities.
- Drop box is a great example of a company that used referrals to grow its business, by incentivizing customers for referrals.
- NordVPN used influencer marketing to market its cyber security tokens. This advert is simply saying: just as Liverpool’s defense is one of the best in the world, so is Nord’s defense services.
Figure 1: Image source NordVPN
Increase Brand Authority With Content Marketing
Service marketing involves selling expertise. How can you demonstrate expertise?
- By offering educational content in your service area. For example, how-to-content, webinars, demo videos, case studies, etcetera
- Publishing a book that dives in-depth into your area of service
- Speaking at events and conferences
- Social media marketing
One of the best ways to guarantee that your content will receive viewers and readers is by promoting it on social media. Whenever you post content on your website, push it to your social media accounts. Join networks and contribute widely to them, so that they and others can view you as a key resource they can turn to for information.
Intrepid travel, a company that offers sustainable tourism, uses content marketing to promote its themed travel packages.
Invest In Experiential Marketing
Allow your potential customers to try out your service before they buy. A trial period is one way to do this. According to Totango, 62% of companies get new business from free trials.
Figure 2: Image source: Totango
When offering trials, how you word your offer is very important. For instance, while free is good, actually using the word in your marketing material may be a deterrent for some customers. one company for instance, eliminated the word “free” from their landing page, and experienced a 73% jump in trial sign ups. How did they entice customers? By emphasizing value and convenience.
Other valuable offerings that you can give for free include consultation, 24-7 customer service and free support services.
Optimize Your Website And Content
Research shows that 81% of people search online before they buy a product or service. You therefore should invest in search engine optimization so that your content shows up on google, Bing, and other search engines. Below are different ways to make the most of your SEO strategy:
- Once you create content, optimize it with keywords
- Invest in backlinks through guest posts and on social media
In the image below, you can see how executing SEO tactics such as keyword optimization and tags is not only effective, but also quite simple.
Figure 3: image source: searchengineland
In addition to using SEO to increase traffic, you can also:
- Invest in paid traffic so that your content gets top-ranking priority
- Create company profiles in online directories such as Google My business and Bing places for business.
We hope you now have a better understanding of the service marketing concept.
A winning service marketing strategy begins with appreciating that services and products are different. Once you understand this,
- Work on demonstrating the value of your service
- Ask yourself relevant questions to fill in any blanks in your marketing mix
- Invest in marketing strategies that are suitable for your target audience
- Create customer profiles and personalize a marketing strategy for them
- Track performance
- Evaluate your analytics and A/B test different approaches