When Were You Thinking of Revitalizing Your Services Portfolio? The Market Is Thinking "Now"!

(Originally published in the March/April 2006 issue of AFSMI's Sbusiness.)

By William K. Pollock

After a while, even the most innovative service lines begin to lose some of their luster and appeal, ultimately being perceived by the marketplace more as commodity-like offerings, rather than as representing a unique or differentiated portfolio. In many cases, what was initially offered to the market as an innovative service, often without any direct competition, can soon become just another service commodity among scores of increasingly competitive offerings.

Regardless of your organization's market share or position, it is important to gauge exactly where your service portfolios stands at any given point in time with respect to the perceptions - and expectations - of your targeted market base. In most cases, it is the new, innovative, upstart companies that are typically conducting the bulk of the market research and competitive intelligence prior to launching their new products and services - and not necessarily the companies that are still selling their older, more mature, commodity-like offerings.

However, there may still be a great deal of life left in the more mature business lines that comprise the majority of your company's product or services portfolio. Even better, these lines tend to already be "tried and true" with respect to market acceptance, and may only need a gentle marketing or promotional "push" every once in awhile to stimulate additional market interest and sales. Even NASA uses a "mid-course correction" every now and then to ensure that the Space Shuttle gets to the proper destination.

There are many ways in which a business can determine exactly how much "kick" its services offerings still have in them - or, conversely, whether it is time to "kick" some of them out of the portfolio altogether, and replace them with newer, more innovative and competitive lines. The path we recommend to evaluate the overall health of your present portfolio of services is to conduct a strategic business assessment that focuses on:

  • An assessment of your customers' - and the market's - perceptions, needs, requirements, preferences and expectations with respect to your existing portfolio of service offerings;
  • The specific features and characteristics (e.g., attributes, benefits, value, cost, etc.) that currently define your service lines, and what it will likely take to "ramp them up" to the new and/or emerging market requirements (i.e., the Three R's: Refine, Re-design and/or Re-package);
  • Customer/market perceptions and opinions regarding the current quality and performance of the services they use both from your organization, and its competitors; and
  • A set of suggested, or recommended, improvements to your existing portfolio in order to better position it against the competition, and maximize both sales potential and ongoing customer satisfaction.
By conducting this type of assessment your organization would be provided with all of the data and information it needs to:
  1. Identify the basic customer/market needs, requirements, preferences and perceptions that can be used to assess and "fine tune" the overall strategic market position of the organization's existing service lines;
  2. Ensure that the company is effectively marketing the right services, to the right market segments, by communicating the right marketing and promotional messages;
  3. Modify and enhance existing service lines to address the highest levels of customer and market demand;
  4. Develop new service offerings to address the emerging needs and requirements of both the existing and prospective customer bases; and
  5. Strengthen the company's overall product/service awareness and image, advertising and promotion, and sales initiatives through the execution of the recommended refinements, enhancements and/or modifications based on the study findings.
While your present business lines are probably the key factors that helped your company grow to its current size and market position, they may have become "dusty" over the years, and now may be in need of either a good "dusting off" or, possibly, retirement. Putting a "cash cow" off to pasture before it is time can cost your company a great deal of money in terms of lost potential. However, keeping it on as an active component of your business portfolio may cost you even more in the long run, in terms of giving your company a perceived market image as either being "dusty" itself, or no longer offering anything but commodity-like products and services.

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 wkp@s4growth.com.

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