In an earlier post I looked at the challenges of service marketing – how services differ from products and why much textbook marketing doesn’t work quite so well for services. Today I’m going to cover some specifically targeted service marketing strategies.
I’ll continue using wedding photography as an example service business to illustrate the various strategies. To make things even more concrete, I’m using a specific wedding photographer’s site. It’s GM Photographics.
Use a service description
Here are the wedding photography packages they used to promote on their website.
Why do this?
1. It defines expectations.
Remember services are intangible. It helps when you and your client both know as clearly as possible what you’re committing to deliver. And even though the end result for each wedding will be different, these service descriptions pin down what a client can expect.
- How many photographers will be there?
- How long will they be there?
- Will I get to brief them in advance?
- How will I get my photos? Digital or print or both? What resolution?
- What about choosing the best photos? How is that done?
2. It demonstrates value.
Clients often don’t notice your expertise or hard work – especially if you make it all look effortless. And if they don’t notice it, you may end up having to justify your prices. So show value upfront.
There’s two steps to do this.
- The simple act of listing what you will do shows the effort involved in this service. Even the most basic ‘ready to wear’ package has 7 bullet points.
- Use value words. ‘Continuous coverage.’ ‘Handpicked’ images. ‘Unlimited’ photographs. A ‘minimum’ studio time spent working on your photos.
‘Minimum total studio time’ is especially good.
It’s a clever way of pointing out all the ‘non-contact’ hours spent on this client. The time the client doesn’t see and hence doesn’t value. Plus, the word ‘minimum’, combined with ‘unlimited photographs’ sends the message ‘whatever it takes’. Surely that’s the attitude you want in a supplier?
Include some kind of physical deliverable
A physical deliverable is something the client can use to hold you to account. It takes you from the world of promises to the world of the real.
The most obvious deliverable in this example is the black leather photo album. But there are other measurable, quantifiable deliverables too. The number of photographers. The time they’ll be there. The consultation and viewing sessions.
Emphasise people and personality
- It makes you more real and memorable. Your people and their personalities are part of what make you stand out. And if you’re selling a service, they’re part of what people are buying. In a very real sense, you are the product.
- It helps you build a relationship. Relationships matter in business. And in service businesses, relationships matter even more!
- It helps you get the right clients. Ones you will be able to work with and deliver results for. One you will actually enjoy working with. (And let’s face it, work is a lot easier if you like the people you’re working with.)
Did I mention relationships before? They’re at the foundation of so many marketing strategies.
For many service businesses, the ideal relationship is to become the trusted advisor. The person your client trusts and turns to for advice in your area of expertise. Which could be almost anything, by the way.
It’s not just the obvious ones like accountancy, medicine and law. (And marketing – yes, I’d like to be your trusted advisor for marketing!) It’s equally valuable for other services. Garden maintenance. Hairdressing. Pest control. (This morning when I found what might be a fire ant in the dining room, who did I call to check?) Astrology. Health and fitness. (You expect your personal trainer to know all about diet and stress management as well as exercise.)
Building relationships takes work. It’s not about selling. Not all the time. It’s about being helpful. And about listening and responding. When they need things, not when you need things. That’s what content marketing is all about.
But you don’t have to start with a full content marketing strategy. Just try a few simple things.
- A newsletter. Monthly or weekly. Email or hard copy. Even quarterly. Just something to stay in touch.
- A birthday greeting or Christmas greeting. Just to say hello.
- Share information or offers you think are relevant for your clients or prospects on an ad-hoc basis as you come across them.
Leverage your existing customers
If your service business has good relationships with existing customers (and let’s hope you do!) why not use them? This is one area where service businesses have a lot to gain.
How do you go about choosing an accountant? A lawyer? A hairdresser? A style consultant? A wedding photographer? You may well search the web, but you’re also likely to ask your friends or colleagues. And if you get a recommendation, that business is a step ahead. The more complex, important or personal the service, the more important that recommendation is.
There are several marketing techniques you can use to reach out to your existing customer network. Every service business should use at least one of these strategies.
Ask for referrals.
What’s the worst that can happen? Your client says they can’t think of anyone. What did you lose? Nothing. But if they do come up with a name, you’ve got a lead. A warm lead.
Ask for a testimonial or a case study.
It’s not as strong as a referral from a known person, but a case study or testimonial is still a public endorsement.
A great case study will include measurable results and a benefits-focused one-liner you can also use as a stand-alone testimonial. All attributed to a named individual, with a senior and relevant job title, at a named company. But if you can’t achieve all of this, still try to get something.
Many of us are afraid to ask for referrals, testimonials or case studies. It’s not logical, but it’s true. If you’re one of those, why not try asking indirectly? One option is to run customer surveys and include a few questions. ‘Is there anyone else you know who could benefit from our services?’ ‘Please tell us the best thing about working with us.’ ‘Would you mind if we used your comments in our marketing?’
Now you only need to approach the ones who have already said yes. Your risk of rejection is miniscule.
Go back and look at our photographer example. The front page features a case study. It’s also up-to-date. There’s a gallery too, with lots more case studies. And there’s name-dropping and ‘big brand’ endorsement with a whole section on ‘celebrity weddings’. Plus ‘real’ albums available so you can get a better sense of what your album might look like.
Events for clients and their guests
Host an event and invite your clients, plus a guest. Events can be purely social or they can have a business angle. They can be one-offs or a series.
You get to meet some of your clients’ network. Your clients get to treat a colleague or contact. Everyone benefits.
Event marketing is not for every business. You need a fairly high customer lifetime value to make it profitable. So do your sums.
Compete on value, not price
This one’s obvious. But not always easy when you’re under pressure to get more clients.
There are lots of marketing techniques to use, but first, you need to be really clear on the value your business is adding.
Go back to those photography packages and look at the value words. ‘Continuous’. ‘Custom-made’. ‘Hand-picked’. ‘Unlimited’. ‘Minimum’. ‘High quality’. ‘Personalised’.
You’ll need to be able to demonstrate and measure value. Case studies and testimonials help.
Offer guarantees and risk minimisers
So you’ve persuaded your potential customer that your service has value. Is better than the competition. Is worth the higher fee. But it’s still a lot of money for them. And if they buy a service and don’t like it, they can’t just give it back. How do you take the risk out of following through on the buy decision?
Many software and subscription services offer a free trial period. This works well if your product scales without needing more time. If you’re doing something more time-intensive (consulting, hairdressing, massage, installing an IT network), a free trial could send you broke.
A better alternative might be a money-back guarantee. Many business owners are afraid of these. They think everyone will take the service and then ask for their money back. But if you’re delivering good service, most people won’t. You also need to structure the money-back guarantee properly, of course. Limit it to specific services, or a specific amount of time investment. And make sure you get paid upfront and then they have to ask for the refund. That alone eliminates timewasters.
Our photographer friend doesn’t have any money-back guarantees on his site. Actually, they’re not really appropriate for his business. If you choose his studio but don’t like his photos, you’ve lost forever the chance to go somewhere else. No money-back guarantee can overcome that risk.
But he does have a very clever risk reduction strategy in his packages. It addresses that exact fear – ‘what if I don’t like the photos?’ Did you spot it? Scroll up and have another look.
The ‘Couture’ and ‘Haute Couture’ packages both include a ‘high quality retouching service’. So if you don’t like the photos as they are, they can be ‘tidied up’.
So what these packages say is ‘I’ll be taking photos for 8 hours or more. I’ll have a second photographer for some of that time. And if there’s still nothing you like I’ll spend more time adjusting the images until you’re happy.’ How’s that for a low-risk promise?
In summary, service marketing strategies are built around a few key elements.
- Clarity and shared understanding
- Relationships and trust
- Risk minimisation
The challenge lies in applying those strategies and techniques to your individual business. If you’d like to explore that further one-to-one, just contact NoBull Marketing and we’ll fix a time to chat. Obligation-free, of course!