Tangibility is characteristic 4 of 6 in our Good Foundations series. It’s not only tricky to spell, (why isn’t there an ‘a’? Just me?) it’s also surprisingly hard to explain in marketing terms.

Of all the 6 characteristics that we believe service-based businesses need to demonstrate in order for prospects to convert to clients, Tangibility is the only one that is taught as a specific module in the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) Diploma. This is because it has long been widely recognised that for service-based businesses to thrive they need to attach some kind of tangible item to their services. Think about it: it’s weird to book something, or experience a service and then walk away empty handed. It feels like a con. As if you’ve handed over money for nothing.

When a dentist or chimney sweep provides a ‘treatment plan’ (glorified receipt) or service certificate (handy reminder of the chimney sweep’s phone number), it makes you feel confident about the quality of your purchase experience.

This is why service providers often give you certificates, fancy receipts, little folders, brochures, etc, etc. In fact Tangibility is a very old concept, money, cheques and IOUs are all examples of a physical item being introduced to represent a verbal contract.

Oddly, when you get into the marketing theory, Tangibility also includes things that AREN’T actually tangible, like systems and images. I know, <sigh>. I promise we aren’t trying to make it difficult on purpose.

You are probably already providing some kind of receipt or certificate for your service, but there are definitely other things you could do to amp up the physical packaging of your service.

Here’s our checklist for greatness when it comes to Tangibility. Work your way through this to find out if you get a gold star for this characteristic.

1. Do you have printed materials such as flyers, downloadable guides etc, that allow your prospects to physically hold something that represents your offering?

2. Do you provide a physical item that confirms your clients have achieved a certain status or experience level? This could be a certificate or record book.

3. Do you use printed materials as part of the process of delivering your service? This could be worksheets, a workbook or printed folders.

4. Do you have effective branding and signage in your physical location?

5. Do you provide a sample of what you can do for your customers?

6. Do you have photographs that illustrate what you can offer, so that people can visualise what they are going to expect?

7. Do you have a signature system for your service that you will take your client through? i.e. Is your service ‘packaged’ in some way?

8. Do you have photographs of, or descriptions of the team that works for you? Your prospects need to see real people to know that you are a genuine business.

Hopefully you got your gold star for this one. In case you are getting behind, here are links to the checklists for the three characteristics that we’ve covered so far:

Next week we’ll be outlining the next characteristic in the series: Dependability. Here’s how you make sure you don’t miss it.