1.1 What is marketing?
According to the Chartered Institution of Marketing, “Marketing is the process that identifies, anticipates, and satisfies customer requirements profitably”. Broadly categorizing, a firm either markets goods or services. Services are intangible, perishable, variable, and inseparable. As the primary feature of a service is its intangibility, it should be marketed with proper planning. The growth of service sector industry has been increasing year by year. The government sector, hospitals, insurance and banking companies, law firms and the innumerable consultancies are all examples of service sector industry.
1.2 Classification of Offerings
A firm may offer any one or more of the following offerings in the market:
Pure Tangible Good – These are the core tangible products like books, furniture, soap, or toothpaste. No services are provided along with it.
Tangible Good along with services – These consists of tangible good and one or more services attached to it. There are many examples to this kind, like gadgets, laptops, cars, which also offer their intangible services like customer care, delivery, and repairs.
Hybrid – This kind of offering are characterized by equal proportion of goods and services. One such example are the restaurants where the food is the product and the hospitality and customer service forms the service and both are equally proportionate and important and are bundled together to form the overall product.
Service accompanying minor goods and services – The major portion of this kind of offering is the service and it is combined with small portions of the tangible product. A classic example of this is when a person buys the air ticket. The transportation is the service for which he paid the amount, but the flight transportation also includes food and other services which make the customer experience more enjoyable.
Pure Service – This entails only the service part and no goods are attached along with it. Such kind of offering is the spa or massage which is a pure service and no tangible offering is attached to it.
Having to market a product is an extremely different concept when compared to services marketing. The marketing strategies that are involved in marketing goods and services also vary to a considerable extent. Becoming a part of the market and having to popularize a business involves several different marketing strategies. These strategies should be carefully planned, effectively implemented, monitored, and then revisited to ensure that it fetches the desired outcome. Thereafter it can be decided whether the same strategies should be continued or does it need any amendment. A calculated risk is always better than an unorganized plan, which is why ‘planning’ is a vital step to marketing success.
2. Defining the Offering
There should be clear and distinct picture of what is being offered to the customers. It is thus important that the following questions needs to be atomically answered before beginning to roll the dice.
2.1 What to Offer
Before even trying to decide what service to offer to the customer it is imperative that the firm understands the customer needs and their behavior and for this, a market research definitely helps. The market research should be conducted not only in the prospective customer base but also in the competitor base.
Conducting research in the prospective customer base gives the firm an idea about the following:
• Customer needs and expectation – Questions which fall under this section is: What are the customer needs and what are his expectations? Are his needs being met? If there is a gap between the customer needs and his expectation, it has to be taken into consideration and the service that the firm will offer should fill that gap. If there is no gap still the service should be designed in way that it exceeds the customer expectations.
• Way to bundle the service – It helps in forming a complete service offering, helps in understanding how to project that service in the market and how to sell it.
After the market research has been conducted, the firm then decides what ‘ingredients’ should it put in the offering basket so that it only has a competitive edge over other similar offerings in the market but it also lures the prospects and engages the customers.
2.2 Whom to Offer
Markets are not homogenous and a firm cannot connect with all the customer segments at once. It is important to divide the population into discreet groups so as to acquire results. This also ensures that the required message reaches those that require the service. Hence it becomes vital to decide those segments in the market which can be served effectively by the firm. Deciding on the exact target segments solves many implications which are later raised due to improper plan. Depending on the segments thus decided, marketing, sales, and promotional plans are laid out. If the firm goes wrong in this phase, then all the efforts and resources which are thus involved in marketing and sales are wasted. There are certain questions which need to be answered at this stage:
• Who are the firm’s latent customers?
• How should the customer be divided?
• How many sub-groups do you divide them into?
• What makes these sub-groups differ?
To obtain information so as to differentiate the different sub-groups can be acquired in a number of different ways namely:
• Media advertising (Blog, Discussion forums etc)
• Sales analysis
• Face to face marketing
• Counter research
3. Promotional strategies for marketing services
3.1 Push and Pull Strategies
The strategies broadly fall under either push or pull category. Push marketing strategy is the process of taking the product to the customers, where as pull marketing strategy is the process of bringing the customers to the product.
Push Strategy: In this strategy, the firm which is offering the service requires to put the effort, so as to get customers. It can involve handing out pamphlet, brochures. Also, face to face introductions prove to be far more effective than any other form of marketing. In this form of marketing, most of the techniques are directed towards reaching out to the prospects and customers. After we apply the push strategy, the generation of profit is most definitely expected, provided sufficient effort has been pooled in.
Pull Strategy: This strategy basically involves the customers or clients actively seeking for the services. It can be made possible in a number of ways such as advertising. With the help of advertising, more people are likely to come across what the firm has to offer. Apart from that word of mouth also proves to be quite effective. Once people are aware of the services provided by the firm, the word tends to get out and further more people begin to talk about it. Providing discounts to the customer also encourages them to purchase the services that you are offering.
I. Increase the number of trade shows so as to encourage the customer demand.
II. Door-to-door consulting as well as face to face interactions to promote service.
III. Negotiations with other firms for tie ups
IV. Circulating the sales collaterals to prospects.
I. Advertisements and other media support
II. Word of mouth publicity
III. Promoting customer relations
IV. Promotions of sales and discounts
Some of the promotional strategies which a service oriented firm can use are:
3.2 Customer Relationship: This is a very crucial element for firms in both the service and the good industry but it counts most importantly in the service firms. This has gained importance in the recent years. When we talk about providing service, the customer relation and experience plays a major role. Having a detailed customer acquisition and retention plan helps a lot to acquire new customers and to retain the existing. Customer loyalty programs are one such element under this domain which helps in the repeat business or retaining a loyal base of customers.
3.3 Branding: This is another most important element when it comes to services marketing. The first question that we must ask ourselves is what is our USP? (Unique selling preposition) In general, every business is one of a kind, but tends to differ in the many ways. It is worth examining everything that the firm has to offer and conclude what it is that is unique and different about the firm that other firms do not provide. The USP factor of any firm is their largest weapon and the more unique as well as productive it is the better will it market. It can play a major role in making your business a success, and it proves to be the central portion of your business as well.
Benefits of Branding:
• The USP adds value to your firm
• It persuades customers to opt for your firm rather than others
• Customer relation is improved and they are engaged to the firm
• It builds trust in the market and encourages other firm or vendors to collaborate
• The perception of quality is induced in other minds
3.3 Advertising: There are various forms of advertising and it is important that can be applied. The different forms of advertising are:
• Bulletin boards
• Business directory
3.4 Public Relations: Targeting a certain audience and sending out a message to the audience to influence them positively regarding the firm is what we call public relations. The audience with primarily consist of the potential customers of the firm as well as the shareholders. Also, it may involve communicating the message to masses ranging from government employees to consultancy agencies. This method of promotional marketing proves to be very effective if the method is applied in the right manner.
3.5 Direct Marketing: From the term ‘direct’ it is very clear that it involves direct contact with customer. The techniques that are involved may range from emailing, messaging to online ads. This form of promotional marketing is practices by business at various stages of success. Some of the different tools by which direct marketing is carried out are as follows:
• Mobile phones
• Direct mail
• Direct selling
The above techniques are explained below:
Emailing: It is the process of reaching out to the public directly using electronic mails. This form of marketing is generally carried out in random more than specific.
Mobile Phones: Mobiles today are used by everyone, and a single message tends to make a great difference to the population. In this form of marketing, effective and informative messages are sent out to the people so as to create awareness.
Coupon: This form of marketing is when coupons are provided to the population. These coupons can be presented in the form of paper as well as online. Some people even prefer to have the coupons published in newspapers, as well as over the internet at even networking sites.
Direct Mail: In this form of promotional marketing, e-mails are sent to a targeted audience to communicate the message effectively.
Voicemail: Recorded voice mail messages are sent out to a targeted audience so as to convey a clear message.
Webinars: It is the process of conducting seminars on the web. This also caters to a certain audience and each one of the persons that do participate would be provided with a login id as well as a password so as to access the seminar.
Radio: Awareness about the firm is spread with the help of radio bulletins during commercials between other popular radio talk shows and so on.
Television: Commercials prove to be a great way to reach out to the public, and it is important that the commercials stay to the point, short and sweet.
Direct Selling: Face to face interviews prove to be more productive and can acquire reliable results. Direct selling is the best way to get confirmed customers.
Faxing: Faxing is another useful form of promotional marketing and it proves to be a great way to spread word. Faxing to different agencies where tie ups would be promising is very effective.
3.6 Social Media Strategies
This is the buzzword wherever you may go. Since the advent of various internet based social media tools it has become so easy to reach out to the target audience in just a fraction of time. Today most of the firms whether global or local, have understood the importance of social media and hence develop social media plans and integrate it into the overall marketing and communication plan that they develop for their firm. Social media strategists and consultants are gaining importance. Firms hire them for their expertise and detailed knowledge in this field. Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, Youtube, Myspace are just a couple of names that pop up immediately when we think of social media. It is a great way to add elements like vendors, customers, employees and engage them with the firm. Apart from engaging them it is a great way to brand the company.
Now that we have an overall outlook of what services marketing is all about, its nature and characteristics, the broad classification, the promotional strategies that is applied to it, we are in a better position to apply these concepts on a services marketing firm which is either new in business or has been existing in the market. The service industry is growing rapidly and contributes a major percentage in any country’s economy. There is a great scope for professionals who understand the dynamics of this domain.