Services Marketing Requires Both an Internal and External Focus
(Originally published as a Marketing and Business Development column in the
August 2001 issue of AFSMI's The Professional Journal.)
By William K. Pollock
Before a new or modified services offering can be successfully marketed and promoted to the external (i.e., customer) marketplace, it must first be clearly introduced, communicated and articulated internally. Many services organizations have learned the hard way that a complete internal understanding of the new services offering, and how it will interact within the existing services portfolio, must first be accomplished before an external marketing program can be launched successfully. These organizations have since found that the planning and execution of both an internal, as well as an external, promotional effort will be required to increase the chances for a successful service introduction.
A well orchestrated and cohesive approach that provides a comprehensive, timely, practical and consistent understanding of the new service is generally the most effective means for providing sales, marketing, services and customer support personnel with the information and ammunition they will need to effectively market and promote the service to existing and new customers. This effort generally requires the development of a formal communications, education, training, and documentation plan for supporting internal staff in advance of the actual rollout to the general marketplace.
Management must also be prepared to take full advantage of all of the organization's internal resources that may be available to support its external marketing and promotional effort. For example, all internal education, training and instruction with respect to the new service should be completed before the market rollout so that all the appropriate internal customer support personnel are armed with a thorough, complete and meaningful understanding not only of what the new service offering can provide to customers, but also how the customers will likely use the service to support their respective businesses on a day-to-day basis.
Through this approach, all key internal personnel will be able to gain a complete understanding of the full range of customers' needs, requirements and expectations for the new offering; the principal applications in which they will be using the offering to support their day-to-day business operations; and the levels at which the offering will need to be supported. This internal education, awareness and understanding often represents the most effective vehicle to provide the organization's personnel with the tools they will need to successfully promote the new service to their respective customers, prospects and other market "leads."
The primary goals and objectives of an internal education, awareness and understanding program should focus on the following areas:
While each organization may set its own course with respect to rolling out its internal education plan, the recommended method of approach for attaining these internal goals and objectives will essentially consist of the following:
- Providing all key customer service and support, services, sales and marketing personnel with the knowledge, awareness and understanding of the new service offering, in terms of how the new offering will actually be used by customers (i.e., how; in what areas/applications; and with what expected benefits; etc.);
- Ensuring that all necessary informational and instructional materials and documentation are readily available, current, informative and actionable, in terms of supporting them in their ability to sell the new service; and
- Building into the program the capabilities to continually add new information and instruction, as required, for supporting their knowledge and understanding of the new offering, as well as its perceived value to customers.
Once the internal portion of the new service rollout is completed, the external portion will be ready to formally roll-out. The primary goals and objectives of the external (i.e., customer/market base) marketing and promotional program would include the following:
- Developing a "user-friendly" internal education and instruction-based presentation and guidebook designed to provide key internal sales, services, marketing and customer support personnel with a full understanding of both the new service offering as well as the specific needs, requirements, applications and expected value of the new service to the customers who will be using them;
- Establishing a formal means for distributing and disseminating this information to the appropriate personnel through a combination of electronic/visual presentations, and/or internal workshops; and
- Developing a means for monitoring, updating, expanding and otherwise improving the content and focus of these informational materials on an as needed basis.
The general method of approach recommended for attaining these external goals and objectives would be multiphased and could include the following:
- Proactively and interactively educating both the existing customers and potential market users of the major attributes, applications, value and benefits that would be associated with the use of the new service offering;
- Developing effective marketing and promotional collateral for general distribution, designed to promote the new service offering to each targeted market segment through the use of segment-specific examples, applications, case studies and benefits as defined above; and
- Executing an effective and targeted marketing and promotional campaign that can be measured and monitored based on the concepts outlined above.
In today's highly competitive market, too many organizations "rush" their new services to market before they are ready, and without adequately "arming" their internal sales and service forces to either sell or support them. Each of these mistakes, in isolation, can lead to significant problems in successfully rolling out a new service. In combination, they can be deadly. However, by educating its internal sales and marketing force first, the organization can be assured that once the new service is ready to be rolled out, it will have its first line customer sales and support staff "armed for bear" and ready to answer any of the customer's questions, or address any of its major concerns.
- Conducting a customer needs and requirements assessment focusing on the perceived needs of customers for the specific attributes, applications and benefits that would result from their use of the new service offering, and utilizing these data for the further refinement, packaging and market positioning of the final offering;
- Preparing a formal customer/market presentation that focuses on the key perceived market factors and benefits that could also be "taken on the road" for the purposes of sales calls, trade show presentations, seminars and workshops, etc.;
- Developing a full set of universal and segment-specific promotional collateral directed to a prioritized list of targeted market segments focusing on the unique, applications and benefits of the new service within each segment;
- Identifying the most appropriate and effective trade shows, trade magazines and other venues for promoting the new offering to the general marketplace and establish a prioritized schedule for exhibiting and/or attending them; and
- Generating and presenting targeted promotional collateral, speeches, articles, presentations, "white papers", case studies, seminars, workshops, etc. for the joint purposes of educating the market and promoting the organization's new service offering.
In summary, the best way to successfully launch a new service marketing and promotional effort is to focus both on the internal and external aspects of the education, awareness and understanding programs that have been described above. An uninformed market will have little perceived need for a new service offering that it does not understand. However, an uninformed sales and support staff will not be able to effectively market the new service to a marketplace that has questions that it cannot answer. The internal and external programs go hand-in-hand and, in combination, represent the most effective means for the organization to successfully promote its new service offering to the marketplace.
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.