Copywriter: Matt Roberts, Group Account Director, YouCom Direct
80 percent of people in advanced economies work in the service sector. The marketing of services is therefore more important today than ever before. Any economic activity that creates value or some sort of benefit for people at a defined time and location, is a service. The RAC, AA or Green Flag provide the service of car breakdown recovery. Enterprise rent-a-car, Avis or Hertz provide the service of a car rental. Boots, Specsavers or Vision Express provide the service of an eye health examination. In some cases, services are coupled to products, so in the last example, an optician having performed an assessment of your vision can then sell you a pair of glasses.
The way services are marketed will be different to how products are advertised. The traditional marketing mix of the four P’s (Product, Pricing, Place, Promotion), is extended for service marketing with 4 more P’s (People, Process, Physical Evidence, Productivity). If your agency understands each of these P’s, the content for your local area business listing or local search result will have greater impact for SERP (search engine results page) success and generate a greater number of sales leads.
In services, the ‘product’ is intangible. When you produce it, you also consume it, for in producing the service it is often at the time it is ‘consumed’ by buyers. The service offered can be much more customised than a product therefore but brands are wise to maintain a consistent level of service offering to maintain quality and brand reputation.
Establishing the price of your service is harder than creating the price for a product. With a product, a company can calculate the cost of raw materials, labour, staffing, overheads. With a service, the company must calculate a price for the intangible offering provided with that service. For example, when choosing a restaurant, you don’t just want to be given a service of food delivery. You also want an ambience, a view, a mood setting. Service managers seek to reduce the effort customers spend obtaining the service, including time, mental or physical effort and negative sensory experiences such as a noisy room, bad odour, poor queuing system etc. This impacts on marketing.
Products can be sent to the consumer, but services are linked to their place of delivery. A relaxing spa will portray a better service sensory experience (added-value) in a countryside place than in a busy city. If the place of your service is different to competitors or enhances the service, then this also can be considered in the service marketing message.
All marketing campaigns require promotion and education to succeed (see the blue box in the above image). Promotion persuades consumers as to the benefits of your service over the competition, encourages consumers into time-specific action and educates them with information and advice for which your service can deliver. Services can be very quickly copied and supplied by another firm so promotion is more important in service marketing. This makes your SERP’s more important and the right localised content on your business listing advertising is key to whether your service gains market share.
Brands must focus on reviews. Many services depend on personal relationships between your staff and the consumers. The type of interaction received by your customers will dictate if you can retain their custom and build your customer-base from word-of-mouth advertising. Remember, customers largely judge the service received, by how your staff delivered that service. Here is where an agency managing a Google Places review campaign is critical to marketing your service. Also consider other review platforms such as Facebook, Feefo, Trustpilot and social-marketing channels such as a well-managed Twitter program (YouCom Direct have almost twenty thousand followers with high engagement for each tweet).
A ‘process’ is a set of rules by which a service operating system works. A poorly created process will lose you customers by a slow, laboured service delivery. Here is where our UX (User Experience) research proves useful. Understanding how customers interact with you (and with your competitors) will identify weak areas in service delivery where your process can be revised and improved. Remember, poor processes will also demoralise staff resulting in low productivity. Pret have a very good process. Rules for rules and all designed to ensure that the same standard of service is repeatedly delivered to each new (and repeat) customer.
Services are intangible, you cannot ‘hold’ them. There is little to associate with them other than feelings. Most companies therefore try to link tangible things to their service to enhance their perceived service quality. This could be the appearance of the building (the red bricks in Pret, the warm browns in Costa, the black wood in Café Nero etc); landscaping; vehicles (the bright orange of RAC, the bright yellow of the AA, the green of Green Flag etc); equipment; staff uniform; signs; promotional literature and many more. This is why your hairdressers will have a well-designed waiting area with magazines, drinks and comfortable sofas for customers waiting for the service.
Improving productivity is vital to keep costs low and make your service more competitive. Brands must trade productivity against making cost reductions that result in lower service levels resented by customers (and staff). If your service inputs are transformed into service outputs that add value to the customer, then this is a good addition to place in your business listing on directory sites. Have this productivity feature stand out prominently in your directory listing when it is pulled back by Google into the first results page.
Follow the YouCom Direct news posts to see the next developments.
Glossary: SERP – Search Engine Results Page UX – User Experience
Required reference: YouCom Direct News Article, Jul 2017, London, ‘Service Marketing’.