A service is an activity, experience, process, or performance. It is frequently intangible, and can be variable or repeatable, which means that the most recent exposure to that experience is the one that will remain in the mind of customers (the recency effect). Service based businesses should approach marketing differently to those selling goods. The unique challenge with marketing services is transferring the abstract to reality.
Here's the basic outline for a thorough marketing strategy for any service oriented business:
Marketing Plan = The Elements
1. Market overview
2. Analysis of competition
3. SWOT analysis
4. Primary target market & segmentation
5. Marketing objectives
6. Marketing strategies
7. Action plans & calendar of activity
8. Financials and Evaluation
Understanding your environment is essential. A market overview needs to take into consideration:
- A " helicopter" view of the market and which products, services and brands exist
- Environmental analysis including economic, political and legislative climate
- Market level analysis for each product and service.
- List each major competitor(s) in relation to key segments
- Inclusive SWOT of each competitor
- Understand their market positioning
- Review their current and expected strategies
- Look to define USP by competitor
Given that many corporate structures involve overlapping levels of specialisation, this exercise may need to be repeated a number of times. You may want to compare and contrast, internally as well as externally.
SWOT Analysis = Get Down To It
List out all the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats for your SBU.
Quickly identify your 3 primary competitors, as well as their positioning.
Primary Target Market & Segmentation
You should pay attention to both the primary target market and segmentation. There is more than one way to slice a target. Consider:
- Demographic and Psychographic
- Attitudinal and Personality
- Expectations, benefits sought, repeat purchaser
Think Primary, Secondary, Intermediated, Direct. What's the best way to define then meet the needs and expectations of your segmented customers?
Your marketing objectives will revolve around the following:
- Improve perceived market positioning
- Increase brand strength in the eyes of intermediaries and end customers
- Increase the strength of and buy in to our brand by our staff
- Improve the quality, effectiveness and consistency of marketing strategies/activities within each business unit to drive top line growth and return on capital
- Define these by each division or product line
In services, positioning is "what you do to the mind of the customer." It's all about people, service processes and physical appearances and comfort. Services marketing mixes strategies from the 7 Ps:
Your business may contian a number of attributes that identify it. Determine the attributes that are differentiating and unique, and consider what is most important to customers. You can list these out in terms of what is uniquely special, advantageous to have, and just necessary about your business.
First, Best, Only
Good to have. Competitors may copy easily
in the short to mid term
Price of entry to the market
Action Plan and Marketing Activity Calendar
This essentially comprises marketing activity eg What, when, how and who. It should contain a wide mix of elements such as events, web, sales tools, PR, advertising and so on.
Financials and Evaluation
List your budgeting by each marketing activity, and the money that's been allocated to that. It will also help to get procedures and timeframes in place to assess success and maintain control. As time goes on make changes to your marketing activities as appropriate.