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Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Product, Service Marketing Often Similar

Product, Service Marketing Often Similar

Entrepreneur’s Notebook by Sharon Berman

While there are marked differences between marketing a product and marketing a service, there are also unexpected similarities. Essential marketing principles certainly apply to both, and it is essential to start the process with a checklist of fundamental questions: “What is my market?” and “Why is it buying?”

A closer examination reveals additional techniques that can be applied to both product and service marketing.

Service marketing is sometimes referred to as relationship marketing. However, when you think of any major brand, you’ll notice that it’s also about relationships. Manufacturers build a relationship around the tangible product; for example, that it’s cool to be seen with the product.

Because you can’t touch or see an intangible professional service, service marketing holds certain unique challenges. One is that your market may not know how to judge quality because all it has is the relationship. So how do you successfully market yourself as a professional? Here are some ideas.

Once you recognize that the relationship and the professional are the product, that everything related to you is part of the product package, you may have second thoughts about how you’ve handled certain aspects of your marketing. That includes how your phone is being answered, the appearance of your reception area, and the image presented by your marketing materials, including logo and letterhead.

Paint a picture

Seeing the product in three dimensions also helps your clients understand it better. Paint a picture of your product in their minds and make it enticing and compelling, so they will pull it off the shelf and put it in their shopping cart. In doing this, consider what is important to your prospective clients. How can you describe the result in alluring terms?

That means presenting the picture in a positive instead of neutral light with details that will make it come alive. As you describe your service and how potential clients will benefit, they can connect the dots and see the picture appearing before their eyes. Avoid industry jargon that will distract prospects or make them feel inferior. Tailor your description to the audience.

Education is one of the key aspects of marketing a service. Provide clients with information that will help them understand the market and the process. Educate them on elements to consider when selecting a service provider in your area of expertise what questions to ask, how to evaluate potential service providers. Some useful tactics are conducting seminars, speaking at conferences, sending out newsletters and publishing articles.

Giving away knowledge is part of the process, although some say it’s counterproductive because it allows prospective clients to do the job themselves. It could happen, but it’s the exception. Most people want to gather as much information as possible so they can make an intelligent evaluation before they turn to a service provider with the expertise they’re looking for.

The other, much smaller camp are people who prefer to do everything themselves. Actually, they’re another potential market, but from a different perspective. Many service providers have created products such as “how to” audiotapes, videotapes or books. People who would rather pay your professional service fee may be less likely to purchase those tapes or books.

Get in the pipeline

Some professionals dismiss certain aspects of marketing, such as direct mail, direct response or advertising, as inappropriate in relationship marketing. It’s not.

Think of creating relationships as a pipeline. Getting into the pipeline can occur in a variety of ways, including direct mail or advertising. Once you’re there, make sure you remain there and continue moving closer to the opportunity to make a service call. Continue to create top-of-mind awareness, so that when a prospective client needs your service they think of you.

You can’t be in front of them every day, so you need to use other means to remind them of you and cement the relationship. That’s where other marketing tactics come in, including direct mail, e-mail and advertising.

In the end, service marketing is not all that different from product marketing. It’s just a matter of applying the concrete rules of products to the abstract world of services. Once you view your service as a three-dimensional product, you can adapt strategies and tactics from manufacturers that have successfully marketed their products and turned them into well-known brands.

Sharon Berman is principal of Berbay Corp., a Los Angeles-based marketing consultancy. She can be reached at berman@berbay.com.

Entrepreneur’s Notebook is a regular column contributed by EC2, The Annenberg Incubator Project, a center for multimedia and electronic communications at the University of Southern California. Contact James Klein at (213) 743-1759 with feedback and topic suggestions.

Game Theory

Some liken business to a game, and from some perspectives marketing can be seen in that same light. It’s more than just metaphor when we talk about strategies and game plans.

A sure way to lose is entering the game without knowing its objective. Knowing this, smart marketers set objectives for the next three, six, nine and 12 months. Good team leaders know formulating their game plan before starting toward the goal helps detect the traps.

Another trap is thinking you’re on rock-solid ground. You can become lulled into thinking that your markets are unchanging, that their wants and “buyer values” remain the same. If you realize that you’re on quicksand, on the other hand, you won’t stand in one place long enough to become complacent.

Avoid the stalemate of not working with teammates. It’s much easier to be a leader when you have loyal teams of employees who are willingly at your side. It’s very important your employees think of themselves as an essential part of the marketing team and know that they are on the front lines.

You can also inadvertently enter traps when you take your eyes off the competition. If they are making certain moves, they generally have a good reason. Stay aware of new services they offer, branch offices they open, or a “new and improved” version of a product.

Sometimes you need allies to help you win games and avoid traps. That’s why you should be on the lookout for strategic alliances you can forge. Look for businesses that target the same market as you but offer a different service.

Inconsistency can pull you into a marketing trap. Being inconsistent in your communication points or corporate image is akin to dropping your racket. Your overriding messages must remain the same, with supplementary messages tailored for niche markets.

You may encounter a marketing trap if you wait too long to place your bets. If you wait until you have time to market, you may be fighting with fewer resources less income and an anxious outlook that can deter you from confidently attacking your target.

Sharon Berman

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