It’s an unbreakable rule of business that if you want to get customers, you have to market yourself. Marketing can seem like a chore when you have many other things to do but it’s important that you do it, and you do it well.
Understanding the best way to market your business can save you time and money in wasted effort and ensure that you have the best chance of success. Unfortunately, much of the information that is available to help businesses trying to market themselves is aimed at product-based businesses, so what should you do if you are marketing something more elusive and hard to define?
As a financial advisor you aren’t selling a tangible product. The customer isn’t going to walk away with something they can hold in their hand and show off to their friends. What you are selling is your own knowledge and expertise, along with the experience of dealing with you or your business.
Product marketing strategy often centres on four main factors known as the four Ps. When it comes to marketing a service-based business, things get a bit more complex and instead of four, there are a total of seven main factors you will need to think about if you want to have a complete, effective marketing strategy.
Here is a quick guide to the seven Ps of service marketing along with a few ideas that might help you apply them to your own marketing strategy.
Even though you don’t have a tangible product, that doesn’t mean that you don’t have something to sell! When you are selling a service, what you have to offer is usually more fluid than a solid, physical item. It can be adjusted and tailored to each purchaser. Unlike products, you don’t produce what you are selling until the client is ready to consume it.
If you want to market your service successfully the first step is to define what it is you’re actually selling. How much is it customisable for different customers and how much of what you offer needs to be the same for the sake of consistency? Although you have flexibility around what you are offering, you need to differentiate yourself from the rest of the market. How will you stand out and make sure that your main selling points remain the same even as you adapt your services to the needs of each individual client?
Pricing is an important element of successful marketing. Charge too much and you are likely to struggle to find customers, price yourself too low and you may end up selling yourself short as well as earn a reputation for being cheap. Getting the balance right can be tricky.
There are a number of factors you need to think about when pricing your services. When you are pricing products you can calculate a charge from the cost of the raw materials, production and distribution, but pricing your services is a more complex process.
When considering how much to charge you will need to think about the market rates, your level of expertise and the benefit to the client as well as your overheads, paying employees and any other expenses. Don’t forget to include a reasonable mark-up so you get a profit.
Where you offer a service is important. Regardless of what you do, your location or office premises will form part of your overall image. Will you work from an office or meet clients at their home? If you are considering your options for a physical premises, think about where is it located. Is there adequate parking, is it appealing to look at and will it create the right professional image?
Your office or business premises is like the packaging on your product. Clients will form an instant impression of you and your abilities based on what they see. Make sure their impression is a good one!
As well as a physical location it’s important to think about your online location. In most cases your website will be the first contact that your potential clients have with your business, so think of it as your virtual shopfront. With so many people turning to online facilities to find services, it’s even possible that your clients may never actually visit your physical premises. Your website should create a positive, memorable impression and be easy to use.
Promotion is essential when you are marketing a service-based business. Services, unlike products, aren’t unique. Chances are you are not the only person in your area to offer the same service. Why are people going to choose you and how are they going to find you?
Even with the best skills, the most up to date software and a plush office or website, if you don’t take a proactive approach to promoting yourself, nobody will know you’re there. If you are going to be successful you will need to think about how and where to advertise your services, plan a promotional strategy and regularly analyse the results.
Unlike a product, which exists independently of the person selling it, a service is indistinct from its provider. This means that people become a crucial factor in the marketing of any service. In fact, the quality of customer experience is likely to be a determining factor in whether or not your clients refer you to their friends and/or use your services again in the future.
Whether you are a one-person operation or you have a team of employees, it’s important that customer service is the priority and a high standard of professionalism is maintained at all times. Contact employees should be given specific customer service training and the way they deal with the public should be aligned with your brand values.
To present a consistent image and brand you will need to make sure your level of service is consistent, reliable and your clients know what to expect from you every time they use your services. This usually requires some level of process implementation, especially if you have a large team of advisors and support staff.
Even if you are a small business or a one-person operation, you can probably benefit by creating a few basic processes to allow you to keep on top of everything. By creating systems and processes you can ensure that your clients receive a consistent experience every time they deal with you, and that you continue to live up to their expectations.
Showing that you are efficient and reliable can build customer confidence and make it more likely that your clients will refer you to others. If you have multiple staff members, good systems equate to more consistent service delivery and happy clients.
7. Physical evidence
Physical evidence is still important when you are selling something intangible like a service. Although there may be no physical product to associate with your business, think about the physical experience your clients have when they visit you. Is your office set up to be client friendly? Do they have comfortable chairs and magazines to read while they wait and does the décor and general setting match the image you are trying to present?
As well as the environment your clients will spend time in, think about the way you present your services. Your advice and expertise may not have a physical manifestation, but you can create physical evidence in the form of reports, case studies and fact sheets. Physical brochures and marketing materials can be reassuring to clients as they give them something tangible to see and hold on to.
When you think about marketing your service there is a lot to take into consideration, from defining what it is you provide, where you provide it and what systems are involved in the delivery to promotion, customer service and pricing. Services marketing does require a different approach to marketing a product but with a bit of thought you can successfully market yourself to clients, increase your leads and sales and watch your business go from strength to strength.
This is a slightly amended version of an article written by Jo Macdermott, founder and senior marketing consultant at Next Marketing. It has been shortened to make it suitable for web publishing.