Marketing planning and execution for services businesses

May 29, 2023
Marketing planning Marketing communications

Defining Service

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 planning and execution 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

Market Overview

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.

Competitor Analysis

Key activities:

  • 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
  • Socio-economic
  • Geographical
  • Attitudinal and Personality
  • Lifestyle/Lifestage
  • 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?

Marketing objectives

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

Communication Objectives

  • Define these by each division or product line

Marketing Strategies

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:

  • Product
  • Price
  • Place
  • Promotion
  • People
  • Processes
  • Physical


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.


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