Selling a service is fundamentally different than selling a product. Unfortunately, most of the marketing books on the shelves today focus product marketing. This article will highlight five differences between product and service marketing.
- Services are intangible. When you buy a product, you have a fairly good idea of what you are buying because you can physically see it – and maybe even give it a trial run – before you buy. The selling process involves ordering the product, paying for it, and having it delivered within a few days.
On the other hand, services are highly customized and tailored to your client’s specific needs. As small-business owner, each client you work with brings with him a new set of circumstances. With this comes an element of uncertainty. Prospects want everything to go as smooth as possible but must evaluate whether you can do what you say you will, whether your proposed solution is right for them, and whether they can develop a good working relationship with you.
- Service marketing involves building relationships and working together with clients. With products, chances are that once you buy the product, you will never see the sales person again. With services, however, you will be working with your prospects throughout the job so the last thing you want to be perceived of is a sales person.
Therefore, that initial consultation is the first step toward building a working relationship and setting expectations that will be carried through the rest of the project. If the initial “personal chemistry” just isn’t there, you will save yourself a lot of headaches by walking away from the job.
- Service providers must be more selective when choosing prospects. You can sell a product to anyone with the money to buy it. With services, money is a factor, but there are a number of other qualifiers. These include whether your services match the problem your prospect wants you to solve, how easy the prospect is to work with, and whether your prospect will be satisfied with the services you provide. You want to weed out any clients you believe might become “difficult.” Ideal clients are “good fits” with your company.
- Objections can be warnings rather than something to be overcome. With product selling, salespeople are trained how to overcome their prospect’s objections. They’re goal is to make the sell regardless of if the prospect wants it. With services, objections may be a red flag warning that this prospect is a ‘bad match’ for your company.
- Pricing differs with projects. With products, pricing is fairly standard and easy to calculate. Vendors can negotiate within a certain range to give discounts for bulk or frequent orders. Often, there are economies of scale with the more products that are produced. Services, however, usually are more difficult to price. There is initial work involved in diagnosing your prospect’s problem, estimating the job, and preparing a proposal. Some firms charge an initial fee just to do the analysis required to draw up the proposal for the problem. Once your client accepts, they’re getting your time, and your time is valuable. You have bills to pay, salary requirements and other clients that require your attention, so you don’t have nearly as much flexibility with pricing.
When you create your marketing strategy to sell your services, it is important to take into consideration these key differences between service marketing and product marketing.