8 Tips for Marketing Your Service-Based Business
To most, marketing a product-based business appears to be easier than marketing a service-based business. Product-based brands simply have a more straightforward approach to communicating with consumers, since they have a very specific item to focus on.
Truthfully, it’s not about one being harder than the other, they just require completely different approaches. If you run a service-based business, marketing doesn’t have to be complicated! We’ve laid out the differences between the two types of businesses and compiled a list of tips to help you market your service business.
Why it Seems Harder to Market Services
Tangible vs Intangible
The first difference between the two is that products are tangible, and services are intangible. Consumers can physically see and feel what they paid money for in exchange. They get to check the product’s quality before even purchasing. In some cases, they also can try out or borrow a friend’s product before they make their final decision.
Risk and Return
Due to the ability to test before buying, the risk involved with products can be way lower than the risk of using a service. Another layer to this risk is that, more often than not, customers can return the product if they aren’t happy. When you provide a service to a customer, it’s consumed immediately, and they can’t return it if they aren’t satisfied.
Quality and Value
Next, service businesses must approach showing quality and the value of their service in different ways. Every type of business must communicate the value they can provide to their consumers. For services, it takes more convincing to establish that your business is high-quality, has wonderful customer service, and an efficient process. Showing a products durability and reliability through tests you and your consumers conduct is much more straightforward.
When it comes to introducing consumers to your brand, again there are discrepancies. For a product-based business, they can show how their product works and where and how consumers would use it in their lives. For a service-based business, they need to show and further explain about the company, who will provide the service, and what consumers go through during the entire duration of the process.
While product companies have loyalty programs and have consumers coming back to them and the product all the time, there is quite a difference in customer relationships for them and services. To use a simplified example, a consumer can walk into any department store, grab the toothpaste they want and leave. While they probably have seen advertisements for the brand and may have purchased the toothpaste before, they aren’t actually in contact with the people that work for the brand. If you’re a service, you’ll have to connect with the consumers a few times before they purchase and continue to follow up.
Compare that example to a customer needing to find a new dentist. The dentist office will need to be advertising, encouraging other patients to review them, show their dentists and accreditations, and even rely on referrals of consumers’ friends and family to make the cut of a new consumer’s decision to go to them. Next they will follow up with that new patient to review them and stay in touch with the patient and remind them to come in for a cleaning or checkup.
While this example of toothpaste versus dentist is oversimplified, it shows that service-businesses have to build a customer relationship and keep that up, more so than product businesses.
The 8 Tips to Boost the Marketing for Your Service-Based Business
Due to these differences, we’ve listed eight tips and areas of focus if you run a service-based business.
1. Focus on the People Behind Your Brand
With a service-based business, the people behind the brand, the owners and employees, matter a bit more than in a product-based business. This is due to the fact that the consumers are in contact with the people working throughout the entire consumption of the service.
If you go to get your hair done, you talk to the person who’s giving you the haircut and may be in contact with the other people at the salon. It’s important to the majority of consumers that they like the stylist and the salon. Showing your stylists, sharing more about who owns the salon, and demonstrating the experience your people have, will make such a difference to the consumers.
This builds up trust and lets your customers get to know you a bit before they use your service. Since there’s no specific product to focus on, you must demonstrate the personality behind the brand and show you are a great company.
2. Show Your Process
For businesses that have an ambiguous process or have a new type of service, showing the process is key to gaining new customers. In most cases it will help your brand to explain how you operate.
When a customer understands what the process is like before trying out your service, they will be more at ease and willing to try it out. Since inherently there is additional risk when choosing a service, going through the steps of the process is extremely beneficial for the customer.
Say you own a law firm, if you can, show how clients can schedule a consultation, what the general steps they would need to take to file a claim, or what the legal process is most likely going to be for a case like theirs. Especially if they haven’t been exposed to the legal system before, a client will feel comfortable and better about choosing your firm.
3. Inform Your Consumers
For products, consumers have a good grasp on where they can get what they need and when. They can order the product at any time online. Any changes to a product or availability of a product, can be communicated with a social post or video promotion. With services, you need to make it easy for them to find you, know when you’re open, know how many spots are left in a class or session, how long the process takes, and what new changes are coming.
In the fitness industry, say you teach yoga and only have 30 spots available in a room and fill up differently depending on the type of yoga. Keep your customers updated on how many spots are left and how quickly they normally fill up, especially for new clients.
Others may not have been able to fit the class into their schedule recently, but if they suddenly can and you’ve been updating everyone on social or the website, they will be motivated to quickly sign up for the class. You could be losing out on sales if you’re not informing your customers about changes.
4. Differentiate Yourself
As a business, when doing competitive analysis, you might start to notice how your competitors’ ads seem similar to each other or to what you’re doing. This can mean none of you are standing out to the consumers. If you want to be chosen over competitors, you should focus on what makes your company, people, and service different.
In service marketing, try not to home in on comparing yourself to your competitors or bringing them in your marketing campaign. Since service businesses are practically synonymous with the people behind them, that tactic works less and can make your brand look unprofessional and cruel.
Is what makes you different, the story of how your business was started, are you and your team active in your community, or can you offer a bundle or another aspect to your service that your competitors cannot? Why would a consumer’s experience at your business be better or different than down the street?
Your business is different. Find out what that unique factor is and communicate it to your potential consumers.
5. Demonstrate the Value
Every business should be explaining the value their product or service gives to the consumer. For service businesses, stay away from competing on price and focus on the value you are providing your consumer or how you’re making their life better.
Now this idea is separate from why you are different from your competitors. Differentiation is about why the consumer should pick you over a competitor and what’s unique about, not only the service but your overall business. Demonstrating the value, is what the consumer will get for the money, time, and effort they are putting into the transaction for the service.
Are you giving them the safety and peace of mind they want from a home security service? Are you teaching them how to invest so they can diversify their portfolio? Are you helping them find their dream home?
You probably already know the main value you provide you consumers. Using that value and explaining why the consumer needs this service in their life will improve your marketing, whether that be through print, online ads, or on social media.
6. Ask for Reviews and Testimonials
A part of your marketing that is essential to gaining new customers, is asking current or past customers to review your service on Google, Yelp, or other services similar to these. This is important because, as we mentioned above, there’s more risk involved with services.
If a consumer needs to find a specific service but none of their friends or family have tried any of the offices in the area they live in, the consumer will look at the reviews. They want to see how the experience was for others before subjecting themselves to it.
Another form of reviews are testimonials. These are written recommendations from past customers that highlight your brand’s qualifications and the qualities of the employees the customers worked with. They can be used in promotional posts, videos, or displayed on your brand’s website.
7. Encourage Customer Participation
Whether you want your customers to give you feedback in the form of reviews or just get their opinions on aspects of the business, you need to make it easy for them to participate. Say you own a gym and want to know what equipment your customers want more of, you can use social media as a way to get that feedback. Prompt them with a question on your stories or in a caption.
If you want them to review your brand so you have additional reviews on Google or you want them to refer your brand to a friend, you can give them an incentive. Create a deal for them to receive when they review, share your social posts, or get their friends in the door through a referral.
Asking customers to share and review is a powerful part of your marketing efforts. The customer or third party’s reviews and referrals mean way more coming from their trusted friend or family member than your brand or partner.
Make the process simple for them and make sure the sale, deal, or coupon is substantial enough for the return they are giving you. This participation can truly enhance your connection with your consumers, improve your business overall, and increase your sales in the end.
8. Prioritize Customer Relationships
As we mentioned above with the dentist example, you need to keep in contact with your customers. Continue to build a relationship with them at all times and all the different stages of their buying or consuming process.
Never get too focused on bringing new customers in, that you’re ignoring your loyal and current customers. Your business wouldn’t exist without your customers or the community you work in, so remember to prioritize the relationship and trust you have with your clients.
While not all of the above apply and are true for every service and product business, most businesses struggle with communicating a certain value or function of what they sell. This list of tips is just a resource to help get your brand excited about marketing your business and feel less stuck or restricted if you’re in the service industry. The bottom line is to figure out what works for your brand, service or product, and what your target market needs and wants. Staying true to your brand and providing your service or product to make the lives of your consumers better, will always win in the end.
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