“Wow. Marketing a service business is easy!” said literally no one ever.
For decades, I’ve gazed in awe at the copy and creative in well-executed product advertising campaigns. I’ve succumbed to many the lure of a mail order catalogue and whipped out my credit card faster than Dirty Harry, just because Binky or Mrs Hinch happened to remark that I couldn’t live without this one, beat all others, product.
I’ve got to be honest. Compared with marketing a service business, product marketing seems like a cake walk. There are only 4 steps!
- Here’s my product.
- You can see how nice it looks.
- Here’s the evidence that it gets you [X] result.
- Do you want it?
When it comes to marketing a service, there are a few more steps. I’ve never counted, but I’d estimate…around 150.
What sort of challenges are involved in marketing a service business?
In case you run a product-based firm or you’re at the start of your journey with selling a service – here are just a few of the challenges of marketing them:
- Getting potential clients to understand what your service is and what it could do for them.
- Remembering to mention everything that’s part of the service when you explain it to a potential client.
- Writing about your service, including all the details that potential clients want, but also focusing on the benefits they can achieve. All without boring the pants off the reader.
- Getting potential clients to understand how your service is different from other similar services available.
- Getting potential clients to see that you know how to do the service to a high standard.
- Knowing what to charge for your service, especially it’s impossible to make a like for like comparison with other service providers.
- Getting potential clients to understand and believe in the value that you can give them.
- Getting potential clients to understand what process they’ll go through when they buy your service.
- Getting potential clients to understand what process they’ll go through when they have bought your service, and you want to start delivering it.
- Remembering what you said was included in the service when a potential client has become an actual client, and now you have to deliver the service.
- Delivering the service to a high standard every time.
- Finding and training others to deliver the same quality of service, so that you can scale your business.
I could go on, but you can see how this can be a brain-bender.
Luckily, really good marketing can help you solve many of these challenges.
And, this is why we particularly love creating marketing strategies, content and campaigns for service businesses like coaches, consultants and practices.
Crafting a winning marketing strategy for service businesses
A service is so wonderfully intangible, that it makes for a more interesting project. In comparison to product businesses, where you can show the person the thing you want to sell them, getting service prospects to understand what you offer is a more complex and exciting challenge.
At The Marketing Architect we help our clients overcome these challenges (except the ‘finding and training’…but we have some amazing clients who could help you there!)
We’ve developed, and picked-up, a lot of techniques along the way that we like to introduce to our clients to help them work around these challenges and hit their goals.
Without a doubt, the hardest of all of these challenges is:
Getting potential clients to understand and believe the value that you can give them.
In some businesses it can take a business owner years to get this right, but with the right help, it can be sorted quickly!
Here’s how we like to reframe this challenge. By breaking it down into three individual steps (all still quite tricky, but maybe slightly less overwhelming!)
Step 1: Understand what clients need and are prepared to buy from you.
You can do this in a number of ways, but talking to potential clients is the fastest and quickest way to find out what they actually want from a service provider like you. It’s more difficult if you’re a start-up, but even identifying people within your personal or business network who have the same characteristics as the clients you’d like to serve can be a good start. Even if they’re never likely to become paying customers.
For our clients, we conduct market research interviews with recent clients to understand what they were looking for when they decided to invest in the service, and how they wanted the service to be delivered.
Step 2: Build what the client needs and wants into your service and your content.
When you have the information about what and how potential customers want to receive your service, you might decide to adapt your service, so that it’s in line with potential customers’ expectations. Only do this when you get multiple people saying the same thing, or you could be factoring in a red herring, that’s just the thought of one individual.
Then it’s time to get that into your messaging and the content on your website. For our clients, we do this by creating a messaging document. When this is signed off by the client, everyone on the team uses it whenever they’re creating content, as the basis for messaging, social posts, blog posts, emails, direct mail content, articles, etc etc. This keeps your message consistent, wherever it’s being delivered, and ensures all the ‘must say’ elements appear in every piece.
Step 3: Prove to the client that you can deliver exactly that.
If you’ve got happy customers, this is the easy part! It’s about creating a portfolio of reference materials that show what it’s like to work with you, and the results you can get.
For you that might be written or video testimonials, case studies, a referral scheme, Google reviews, ROI measurements, customer surveys, a free trial…whatever it takes to show potential clients that you know your stuff.
I know this sounds like a lot of work, but if you can work towards this over time, you’ll start to find that bringing new clients into your business is less of a slog, and has a system behind it.
If you want to build onto these 3 steps (and then some!), you could start by taking our Marketing Strategy MOT! It makes marketing your service business way easier by helping you to focus on what’s missing from your marketing mix, and what should be the key priorities for your unique business, if you want to get better results from your marketing.