Using Services Marketing to Your Advantage
(Originally published as a Customer Service column in the
June 2000 issue of AFSMI's The Professional Journal.)
By William K. Pollock
Regardless of what type or size services organization you are running, you must still follow the same basic principles of marketing to bring customers to your door. Although there is no sure way to generate business, it is certain that unless you proactively go after the market, it will not come to you automatically.
Fortunately there are a number of basic, relatively cost-effective and widely accepted services marketing tools that can be used to strengthen your position in the marketplace. But first, you will need to define and set your marketing goals before you will be able to select the proper marketing "mix."
The Services Marketing "Mix"
For the most part, the services marketing effort will be most effective if it is carried out on a direct and proactive basis, and supported by the appropriate "mix" of marketing elements, typically utilizing a combination of the following:
Direct mail is one of the most commonly used, as well as one of the most cost-effective, methods of services marketing. Among the primary objectives for utilizing a direct mail program are the following:
Telemarketing can also be an effective tool for meeting these similar marketing goals:
- To introduce your organization and its capabilities to new market prospects;
- To promote your services and capabilities to existing, past or future customers;
- To inform and educate the marketplace of the full range of services and support that are available through your organization; and
- To serve as an ongoing reminder of your organization's presence, capabilities, services and activities.
Advertising typically addresses a more global or universal market audience and tends to focus more on the goals of:
- To generate new business leads from a targeted and/or prequalified list of customers or prospects;
- To inform selected customers/prospects of upcoming promotions, pricing, events, activities, etc.;
- To supplement and/or follow-up with respect to direct mailings, speeches, presentations, trade shows, etc.; and
- To keep your organization fresh in the minds of targeted customers/prospects.
Trade show participation can be very expensive, but also very productive if you go prepared. The primary goals of participating in selected industry trade shows are:
- Generating leads and business prospects for the firm;
- Informing the market of your general range of services, capabilities, business relationships and upcoming marketing promotions;
- Announcing planned events, appearances, exhibits, etc.; and
- Generally keeping your name in the market's eye.
Articles, speeches, presentations and "white papers" can also be very effective, and are among some of the most cost-effective marketing tools you may have at your disposal. The principal goals for using these marketing tools are:
- To gain exposure and generate qualified leads at a single point of time and place;
- To be able to have the opportunity to exhibit and/or demonstrate your services and capabilities to customers and prospects whom you might not otherwise have a chance to meet in person; and
- To gain the advantage of having a face-to-face meeting with interested (and pre- qualified) parties.
News/press releases offer services organizations of all sizes the opportunity to gain virtually "free" exposure simply by making their "newsworthy" accomplishments known to the relevant trade publications and other print and electronic media. Among the principal goals of using these types of marketing vehicles are:
- To gain exposure and credibility in the marketplace;
- To position yourself as both an industry player and an industry expert; and
- To gain exposure in specific industry segments that might not otherwise have access to information on your firm.
A customer newsletter is also a relatively inexpensive means for promoting your business to the marketplace. Goals associated with the use of distributed customer newsletters would include:
- To promote specific newsworthy events and activities on a current basis (e.g., new services, new vendor relationships, new pricing, new offices, new accounts, upcoming articles, speeches, presentations, awards, expansion, etc.); and
- To gain immediate exposure in major national/regional/local journals and newspapers at virtually no cost.
In total, the development of the proper "mix" of marketing and promotional tools as described above, and used in conjunction with a coordinated "suite" of marketing collateral and other promotional materials, will provide your organization with all of the key elements required:
- To provide informational and self-promotional materials on the company to a targeted set of customers, prospects and other appropriate organizations on a regular basis;
- To effectively manage the release of information to the targeted recipients;
- To build a more credible and ongoing market presence; and
- To maintain ongoing communications with customers and prospects.
Other promotional materials, such as special sales promotions, advertising campaigns, etc., may also be used to support the overall marketing effort. Each services organization will find what works best for it in communicating its messages to its customers and the marketplace as a whole.
- To support an ongoing services marketing and promotional program;
- To provide the company with a cohesive, coordinated and modular set of marketing and promotional tools that can be used in a variety of ways;
- To provide the business with a professional appearance, as well as credibility;
- To provide a more consistent and recognizable corporate image; and
- To provide flexibility with regard to customizing individual marketing efforts, as well as the packaging and distribution of materials, to targeted customers/prospects on a regular, or as needed, basis.
The overall services marketing effort will be most effective if it is carried out on a direct and proactive basis, supported by the appropriate marketing resources and accompanying marketing collateral, targeted to a prioritized customer/market base and utilizing the appropriate combination of the most cost-effective marketing tools.
William K. Pollock is president of Strategies For GrowthSM (SFGSM), the Westtown, Pennsylvania-based services consulting firm specializing in strategic business planning, services marketing, CRM consulting, market/survey research, and customer satisfaction measurement and tracking programs. Bill may be reached at 610-399-9717 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.