A service-based business differs markedly from a product-based business. Without a commodity and inventory, you must sell ideas, intangibles, and promises. This takes a different strategic approach and practices that many service-based business owners never quite understand. The following are five marketing practices you should implement for your service-based business.
1. Find Your Unique Position
You must know what differentiates your service-based business from the competition. If you don’t see it, you must work at finding and naming it. A small service-based business cannot afford to be similar to or better than. It must be different, clearly so, and measurably distinct. And, the difference cannot be something as vague as quality and customer service.
It could be price, delivery assurances, turnaround time or other benefits unique to the way you do things more than what you do. In addition, whatever you decide on, you must reduce it to a few clear words, your central message for marketing and sales.
2. Optimize Your Visibility
You can’t let your business wait for discovery. You also can’t wait for customers to find you in the phonebook. A new business must make itself known and felt in multiple ways.
Your business now has many more marketing channels than in the pre-Internet era. There are social media avenues, paid advertisements, emails, videos and more. You have hundreds of ways to reach markets, and you must choose the most advantageous and productive. Depending on the nature of your service-based business, you can network with peers, support community interests and share local-based solutions.
3. Sell Value Not Price
As a small business owner, you cannot afford price wars. Chances are you have no financial buffer, and wars only lead to complications you may not escape. You can afford to let customers chase price. The service you offer is not a commodity, so you want to stress its value to the consumer. You might bundle services or offer payment options. If your customers’ value time, accuracy, readiness, follow up, customer service, innovation and so on, that’s what you must sell. Price will follow customer need in an open market.
4. Formalize and Revise Strategy
Strategy differs from planning. Planning brings organization to any venture, and you must plan from the beginning. Strategy, on the other hand, is the how-to. It’s the manual to get you where you want to be with the business. Strategy integrates tactics with forward momentum. It includes schedules, calendars, metrics, KPIs and other achievable. But, it aligns these tactics with a targeted purpose. With that said, your strategy shouldn’t be etched in stone. Part of your strategic approach should be to revisit and revise your strategy on a regular basis in response to, and in anticipation of, changes in market demands.
5. Gift Your Clients
Product-based businesses put a quality product in front of the customer and seek reviews on performance. But, service-based businesses do not offer a tangible product. Instead, they offer a service that depends on relationships to make it work.
Service-based business owners build their brand by involving the prospects and clients in the process. As a service provider, you are a consultant, expeditor, expert and more. But, it’s up to the client to complete and sustain the process. So, you must encourage their participation, facilitate their role and partner more than sell.
These five marketing practices are starting points. Each needs its tactics and strategy. Each also needs nurturing and sustaining support. But, you must start by understanding the difference between product-based and service-based businesses.
Originally appeared in The Mission