Service businesses now account for more than 75% of all companies and have grown by an average of 11% annually over the last decade. When it comes to marketing, service-based businesses have unique challenges.
Unlike with a product, your potential customers don’t walk away with your services after paying for them—they may have to book time with you, or come back again for another appointment.
You are selling an experience when you sell a service. A service is something you cannot own yourself. So then what are you actually selling?
A buyer bases their purchasing decision on the value a service will provide. What matters is the end result the service provider achieves, not necessarily the method.
For example, a pizza can be delivered by car or scooter - it doesn't really matter to the customer as long as it arrives quickly and hot. Therefore the actual service offered is speedy delivery - not delivery by car or delivery by scooter.
Also, a service is usually delivered via a higher level of human interaction than a product purchased (particularly if purchased online).
The entire buyer journey process is different and thus requires a different marketing approach centred on word-of-mouth marketing and trust as your top assets.
Here are tips and strategies to help you market your service business more effectively.
Key foundations of your business on which to build your marketing
When you're marketing a product, the product itself is the most important selling point. Customers are able to see, feel, read, go through the features, or request a demo. When you're promoting a service, all you have are words that potential customers are expected to trust and believe. Therefore, establishing credibility by citing and quoting previous customers is the most effective approach. Verifiable evidence is everything. The second important factor in building trust is doing everything you promise at every step of the journey.
Customer reviews and testimonials
Social proof is critical in service marketing. People want to see and hear from people like themselves who have used the services and are significantly more likely to believe independent reviews than marketing communications. Provide links to reputable independent review sites for your potential customers to explore and be sure to have a testimonial page on your website.
If you're in an industry where websites with a high level of credibility and brand awareness already exist, service verification awards or badges can help. Belonging to industry associations for which memberships guarantee minimum standards are also valuable for example Master Builder certification or in my case Certified Practising Marketer from the Australian Marketing Institute. Be sure to include awards, badges, memberships and similar on your website and other prominent customer-facing collateral including social media.
Parts of the process
The process through which your service gets customers to the desired end result is just as important as the end result itself. In addition to the service itself, factors like flexibility and responsiveness can be central to your value proposition. You may even use them as your key differentiating marketing values.
Usually, delivering the final results of a service takes longer than buying a product and requires more extensive personal engagement. Your customers want to know how your service is progressing and not simply wait for the final result. It's critical to establish a clear communication channel with your customers. It's one of the best service marketing tactics you can utilise early on. You may communicate with your clients via simple email or phone updates or via specific software and communication solutions.
The issue is knowing how to customise enough so that clients are pleased, preserving service scope boundaries and structure while maintaining service at its core. There is a restriction on how much you can bend over backwards for a client, but customers will usually expect some flexibility with services. You can account for this by making changes to other areas of the marketing mix like price, quantity or timeframes.
So communicate often, be credible and trustworthy providing independent evidence of the quality of your service while being as flexible as possible. Simple isn't it?!?
Simple tips to market your service business
Find a way to differentiate
Upon examining your rivals' advertisements and brochures, you would find a glaringly simple similarity: most are content with "me too" marketing themes. As a result, few ever stand out from the crowd. Careful differentiation is critical in growing a service enterprise. What distinguishes your company from all the others? Perhaps it's the range of services you provide or your expertise in customer satisfaction. The most effective technique is to identify the distinctive benefits you offer and make them the primary focus of your marketing communications.
Add value by bundling services
Many service businesses compete based on price, so lowering your prices may indicate to customers that your service is of lower quality. Instead of lowering your price, add value to your service. What do your customers want most? Find a way to bundle those features (or even a few products) into your service. This will enhance the perceived value of what you offer and give your business an advantage. You might even be able to raise your prices on higher-value items.
Market to existing customers
Satisfied customers are more likely to become regular customers. Do you have a plan in place to reach out to your customers? Upselling existing customers is a proven, cost-effective strategy that generates higher revenues than attempting to attract new customers. You can boost your revenue by offering special promotions to your customer base via email, SMS and direct mail throughout the year.
Get more referrals
Put in place mechanisms to receive more referrals from your loyal customers. This could include collateral and incentives or simply asking your customers to spread the word. If they love your service they are usually more than happy to in the same way that you should also be asking them to leave you reviews. Referrals or word of mouth is extremely effective at acquiring new customers who are far more inclined to believe the opinions of friends and family than any marketing communications you create.
Improve you visibility
Expand your marketing to more channels. Mix free channels like Google Business, social media, PR, email, and your website with paid platforms like Google Ads and social media ads.
Sell the end
Professor Theodore Levitt
In your marketing communications sell the end result that the customer will be in after purchasing your service. Describe their current state or pain point and clearly and concisely show how with the help of your service they will be able to satisfy their needs, frustrations, dreams, wants etc. Your business is the solution.
Emphasise benefits not features
In the marketplace, consumers are constantly bombarded with information about new products/services and features. But what they really care about is the benefit that a product or service offers them.
For example, an arborist may be keen to publicise that they have just acquired a new state-of-the-art piece of machinery. But do customers really care about that? No, but they do care that with this new machinery you will be able to leave their property in a safe, appealing and pristine state that the new machine has enabled them to do.
Similarly, a chatbot service provider will advertise lots of different features when really what their customer wants to know is will their customers be happier and will it save them money.
Leverage your loyal customers
Above all make your service great and encourage your loyal customers to spread the word via reviews and referrals.
Selling a service is an especially challenging marketing strategy. So what makes a successful service business? It all comes down to using the right marketing tools and building relationships with your customers to generate referrals via word-of-mouth. This way, you have a better shot at building a solid reputation, retaining customers for life. and generating new ones.