Make Way for a New Marketing Power:

Service Marketing

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In this week’s blog post, I am sharing an article that first appeared in Field Service Digital on July 15, 2016.  The article was written by Derek Korte, editor at Field Service Digital and a senior editor at Original9 Media.  

Thanks to technologies like the IoT, and enticed by the promise of more revenue and a cozier relationship with customers, traditional manufacturers are now getting in on the service game. It’s a shift that not only blurs the lines between manufacturing and service, but also how companies market those products and services.

Sure, tried-and-true product marketing strategies are still relevant, but service marketing is a different beast entirely, says Michael Blumberg, president of the Blumberg Advisory Group. Below, he explains service marketing’s growing importance — and why it’s so hard to do well.

Is service marketing now more important than product marketing?

It’s not that product marketing is less important, it’s that service marketing is becoming more important. There are several reasons why: First, many companies have made it a strategic priority to build and grow their service businesses. Second, they recognize that services can be sold independently from products and, in some cases, in lieu of products. Third, they recognize that service marketing is different from product marketing and a different approach is need. Fourth, they understand they have to step up their marketing game if they are going to generate more service business.

So products might sell themselves, but that’s not necessarily true with services?

That’s true. You can sell a product by showing the customer the great things it can do because it has cool features, such as the IoT and augmented reality. On the other hand, service is intangible.

There is nothing you can show or demonstrate to the customer before they buy it. Just because a product has certain features, doesn’t necessarily mean that they will buy the service and support that comes with it. This is different sale all together.

How do you convince customers to invest in an unfamiliar service — especially if they don’t immediately know why they need it?

You have to focus on the economic value to the customers of having (or not having) the service available when they need. When you understand that, you can start selling services around that value proposition. Companies that struggle with service marketing can’t explain this benefit to the customer. Instead, they talk about service as an insurance contract. That’s a very general term. It doesn’t tell them anything about how the service will be provided, when it will be provided, or what outcomes it will produce.

What are the biggest differences companies should consider when marketing services, rather than products?

In a product sale, you sell the customers on the form, fit, and function of the product:. You basically sell them reality: what it does, how it works, its dimensions, etc. When selling services, you also have to sell customers on perception: the outcome or defined level of service they can expect. Bear in mind, you also have to sell reality, which is also known as the actual capability to serve, by describing or showing all resources that make it possible to deliver that level of service.

Is it fair to say service marketing is a lot harder — and a lot more work — than product marketing?

It’s a lot harder for a couple of reasons. First, service is an afterthought for many companies. They think that because the customer owns the product, they’ll buy the services, too. That’s often not the case.

Secondly, you can’t market a service like you would a product. Marketers talk about the four principles or Ps of marketing — product, place, promotion and price. But those principles are product-oriented. They don’t work with services marketing. Why? Services are intangible, and it’s hard to market something that’s intangible. To market services, companies need a new mix — the Seven Principles.

Are new technologies changing how companies market their services?

Service technologies like IoT, Big Data, and even field service software enable companies to collect and analyze very granular data about service events, product usage, failure rates, etc.

This information enables them to offer very tailored and customized solutions to their customers in terms of service coverage, response time, pricing levels, etc. The technology also helps companies be more precise about who they market to, when they market to them, and what they market.

Any standout companies that are doing this well?

Siemens, GE, and Philips are doing a pretty good job in marketing their service. They’ve made service marketing a priority because they understand services’ strategic value to their bottom line. They have carefully designed their service portfolios and pricing strategies to meet customer needs and requirements.

Their service marketing and sales people are adept at articulating the economic value of their services, and they are properly trained and incentivized to sell those services. They are effectively leveraging technology to find new market opportunities and exploit existing ones.

Are you interested in growing your service business? Check out my online training course where you will learn strategies, tactics, and insights for Successful Service Marketing ™. As a starter, I’ve put together a brief video that describes the course content. You can access it here.

Got a question? Click here to schedule a free consultation

Turbocharge Your Service Business

Maximize Revenue through Market Research

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In my last series of blog posts I wrote about what it takes to build a Successful Service Marketing™ program.  To review, I described the strategic concepts of service marketing and introduced you to the 7 Ps. These are of course very important concepts. However, there are a few more concepts you’ll need to master if you are going to win at service marketing. If you’re going to be successful at service marketing or any kind of marketing, even if it is product marketing, you have to have good knowledge of your market.  You get that knowledge through market research. If you know who buys, what they buy, and why they buy then you can sell more to them and get them to buy more often.

Market research also provides the insight needed to communicate effectively with your current and prospective customers. It helps determine what messages, what images, what ideas will resonate with them and get their interest to want to buy from you.  Marketing is about taking a need and converting it into a want. You may need a watch to tell time but you want a Rolex because of the status and prestige associated with owning one.  So when you have really good market research of who buys, what they buy and why buy, then you can construct your message in such a way that you turn a need to a want.   In the field service world, you customers may need to know that they can get service on their equipment when it is down but what they really want is a guaranteed Service Level Agreement with a 4-hour response time.

Good market research not only helps in creating a service portfolio your customers really want but it helps in developing an optimal pricing strategy for that portfolio.  Chances are that you are familiar with cost plus and competitive pricing strategies. With cost plus pricing, you calculate what it costs to deliver service and then mark it up by an amount to cover you profit.  With competitive pricing strategies, you conduct market research to find out what your competitors are charging and then price your services at a lower amount.

A third type of pricing strategy is called value-in-use pricing. It basically involves measuring the economic value or loss to the customer of not having the service available in a timely manner.  This can be significant.  For example, a manufacturing facility may lose millions of dollars every hour its machines are down.  Therefore, they may be willing to a pay premium for faster service.  Market research can help you understand your customers’ value-in-use and determine whether or not you should pursue a cost plus, competitive, or value-in-use pricing strategy.   You’ll need to understand all three pricing strategies and how to effectively leverage market research to maximize service revenue and optimize profits.

The final aspect that you have to master to win service marketing is called ‘‘Invisible Selling”. This is based on the premise that you win business not by pushing your offers onto prospects, but by pulling customers towards you. One of the ways you pull customers to you is through indirect marketing as opposed to direct selling.  What’s an example of indirect marketing?  It’s an article or white paper that demonstrates that your company understands the problems that companies in your market are experiencing and that you have solutions to these problems.  It’s about using social media and public speaking opportunities to influence others to want have a conversation with you to learn more about what you do, and how you can help them.   It’s about positioning you and your company as experts and trusted business partners.   By the way, seeding your thought-leadership content with market-research data is a sure-fire way to build credibility with current and prospective customers.  Once you establish credibility they follow you and then it’s only a matter of time until they become your customers.

When you put all the elements of a Successful Service Marketing™  program together, when you fully understand the strategic concepts of service marketing, when you effectively apply the seven principles of service marketing, when you learn how to optimally price your services, when you use market research effectively, and implement an invisible selling strategy, you’re going to experience incredible results.  Your marketing program will be extremely successful, your sales will take off, and your business will skyrocket.

If you are really interested in achieving extraordinary results, then check out my online training course where you will learn strategies, tactics, and insights for Successful Service Marketing ™. As a starter, I’ve put together a brief video that describes the course content. You can access it here

Got a question? Click to schedule  a consultation.

Is it time for a mid-course correction?

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The summer is here and with it brings the beginning of the second half of the year. This is great time for re-evaluating progress in meeting our business goals.  It represents a half-way point to determine if we are on track for the year, if we need to change course in direction, or simply act with greater resolve and urgency to achieve our outcomes.

One thing that we uncovered in our recent Readership Survey is that a large percentage (47.7%) of subscribers desire to learn about strategies for achieving better results. The most frequently occurring response when respondents were asked about what they want to achieve in their business over the next 3-5 years in “growth”.  I think that it is safe to say that many of our readers can benefit from strategies that will help them achieve higher levels of growth.

In my attempt to provide readers with more of what they want, let me give you some action steps to follow if you find that your actual growth for this year is not in line with your original target.   First, remember that the trend is your friend.  This means that you need to periodically evaluate your market to determine if the trend is working in your favor.   You’ll want to get a handle on the size and growth rate of the market you serve, the level of competition, industry dynamics, buyer behavior, and purchasing criteria.   You can uncover this information through internet research, market surveys, analysts, and other secondary sources of data such as articles, press releases, annual reports, etc.

Assuming you’ve concluded that the market you serve is large and growing, then you need to ensure you have the right marketing strategy in place to capture your share of this opportunity.  Think of your marketing strategy in terms of a triad.

market strategy triadAt the base of this triad is your company’s performance.  The ability of your company to deliver on its promise is critical to keeping customers. If they are happy with your service, they will tell others and you will gain word of mouth referrals.  The second side of the triad is the value your company provides to customers. Is it defined in a way that the value is clear and compelling to current and potential customers?  Value is often defined by the quality of your offering and the little things you do to win over the customer.  For example, are you providing them with options so they get exactly what they want?  It also includes offering great service and support before they buy.

The third side of the marketing strategy triad is your tactics.  You want to make sure that you are implementing tactics that will drive customers to you and encourage them to do business with you.  Tactics to consider are pricing, social media, advertising, promotion, etc.  Most importantly, the tactics you use must be consistent with the other elements of your triad.  In other words, your advertising and pricing tactics must align with the value you provide and the performance you deliver, and vice versa.

This triad provides a good framework for evaluating the results of your marketing efforts. Like most frameworks, they are only effective if use them as an analytical tool.  If sales are not where you want them to be then look at your marketing strategy triad. Use it to evaluate how effective your performance, value, and tactics are in attracting and keeping customers.  It will provide you with insights on how and where to improve.  If used consistently, it will enable to you win more than you fair share of business.

Enterprise Service Management System Trends

 

enterprise-service-management2There has been a lot of attention given in recent years to the need to automate field service and related logistical processes through the implementation of Enterprise Service Management (ESM) systems.   Although the benefits from improved automation are well documented, there is still a segment of the market that is facing challenges to achieving measurable productivity and efficiency gains associated with key service performance metrics.  This shortcoming is due in part to lack of integration between Field Service and Reverse/Service Logistics functions.  The growing trend toward remote support combined with the increasing reliance on spare parts in the service resolution process places even greater demands on equipment service providers to ensure their field service and related logistical process are both integrated and optimized.   We conducted a survey among a cross representative sample of companies in the High Technology Service & Support Industry to validate these assumptions.  Over 250 respondents participated in the survey.  The survey results reveal a number of very interesting trends:

  • Greater reliance on Remote Support: The survey results support the fact that more and more service requests are being resolved remotely without the need to dispatch a field service engineer. More importantly, a large percentage of these remote activities are resolved by sending a replacement part to the customer site.
  • Best of Breed Solutions outperform Integrated Solutions: Despite the breadth of functionality found within integrated enterprise systems, our results indicated a higher level of satisfaction with Best of Breed solutions than with Integrated ESM platforms. We believe this is because best of breed solutions are more focused on the detailed processes and transactions involved in managing a field service and/or reverse logistics operation.
  • Perceived Gaps in Reverse Logistics functionality: Many companies perceive their ESM solutions have gaps in the ability to deal with Reverse/Service Logistics issues particularly when it comes to depot repair activities.
  • Integrated Automation is critical to success: The level of integrated automation between Field Service and Reverse/Service Logistics functionality has a direct impact on ESM effectiveness. More importantly companies with a high level of integrated automation perform better on key service performance metrics than those who do not.

 

In summary, our research findings reveal that companies who have been able to successfully integrate Field Service and Reverse/Service Logistics processes report a higher level of service performance than those who have not.  The most effective integrated solutions are those that incorporate best of breed functionality for both Field Service and Reverse/Service Logistics processes.  More importantly, the data reveals that these integrated solutions are not only highly effective in managing ongoing service requirements but essential to overcoming critical business challenges.

We’d like to thank IFS, a leading provider of Enterprise Service Management systems, for sponsoring our research study.  IFS has made available the results of our study in a 14 page whitepaper that can be downloaded at Whitepaper Download.   To better understand the implications of these findings to your organization or to define requirements for a best of breed, integrated solution, schedule a free strategy session with us today by clicking here.

Seven Ways to Win at Service Marketing

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Revenue growth is probably the single most important objective for executives who are responsible for managing service as a profit center or strategic line of business.  “I want to double my service revenue in the next 3-5 years” is an incantation that I hear constantly from business owners and executives.  That equates to a 20% or more growth rate per year.  Sure, this type of growth is easily achievable if the market is growing at this rate or faster.  I’ve found that these high growth targets are often triggered by management’s desire to take back market share from competitors or increase the share of service revenue contribution to overall corporate revenue.

While high revenue growth in a low growth market is difficult, it’s not impossible. A little hard work is usually required to achieve this type of performance.  To understand where the emphasis is needed, let’s look at where service market programs may fall short:

  1. Service Portfolio not meeting customer needs: Quite often service providers fail to meet their revenue objectives because their service portfolio is no longer meeting customer requirements. In other words, they have failed to offer services tailored to their customer needs. For example, offering only next day response when customers require same day.
  2. Pricing not optimal: If your revenue is flat or declining, you might want to look at how you price your services. Perhaps you service prices are no longer competitive. On the other hand, you may be underpricing your services in relation to the value you provide.
  3. Failure to understand competitive threats:   Many service providers, particularly those that are divisions of manufacturers, fail to understand the competitive threat of “mom & pop” third party maintenance (TPM) companies and/or in-house service providers.  For example, they often under estimate the value that TPMs provide to their customer and/or fail to develop an effective value proposition to compete against them.
  4. Failure to articulate value: How well have you articulated the value of your service offering to current and prospective customers? Do they understand the cost of downtime or the pain points that your services help solve? It is important that you not only articulate value to your customers but make sure that your sales people understand it and provide them with the appropriate sale aides and marketing collateral to support it. 
  5. Lack of communication & follow-up: One way to increase service revenue is by improving contract renewal rates. These rates often decline though lack of consistent communication and persistent follow-up about the value of services provided, when contracts are up for renewal, special incentives for renewing, and information on when they are about to expire. 
  6. Not asking for referrals: Referrals are the best and least expensive source of qualified prospects. The problem is most service providers forget to ask for them. Remember your customers speak to each other. They may be involved in the same networks and trade associations, or call on each other for advice and guidance. Why not enlist them in your business development efforts? 
  7. Lack of customer appreciation:    Your customers will remain loyal to you and purchase more from you when you let them know how much you value and appreciate them. It’s the simple things like a courtesy phone call/visit, thank you card, small gift (i.e., rewards program), or special offer that let them know you value their business.

 

These seven areas have one thing in common, they all benefit from market research.  Whether its information that will help you redesign your service portfolio or modify pricing, market research provides you with an unbiased and unfiltered perspective on what your customers are actually thinking and saying. You will learn things that you may not otherwise from a sale’s call or courtesy call made by a company executive.

Before you conduct research or make any changes, it is important that you have a baseline assessment of how well you service marketing program is working. You may want to consider an audit from an independent and objective industry consultant.     Schedule a free consultation today to learn more.