Is there a vast difference between marketing A service versus products? Is one more difficult than the other?  When a customer buys a product that he or she is happy with, the physical existence of that product acts as a constant reminder of how satisfied they are, and what a good choice they made. Think of someone who has bought a luxury car – every time they see the automobile sitting in their garage they are satisfied, every time they hear that comforting clunk of the car door they are reassured, and every time they start the motor they think what a good choice they have made. In contrast, services are invisible, and they don’t therefore act as a constant positive reminder to the customer in this way.

A product is tangible. You can see it, feel it, smell it and sometimes hear it. It has packaging and usually a shelf life. But defining services is more difficult. They may not be the same for every customer every time they are bought. Think about flights. Ticket prices constantly change along with the level of service. The service on one flight could be entirely different from another with the same airline. If you ask any two people about flying a particular airline you’ll hear a horror story from one and great things from the other.

The Keys to marketing products are:-

The classic marketing mix using the 4 p’s is Price, Product, Place, and Promotion works pretty well for physical products.  The prospect can experience the product before they make the purchase, they can go to the car showroom and sit in the car, smell that new car smell, hear the doors clunk etc. The marketing message will focus on the experiences they can have before ownership. Obviously, this is a big oversimplification of the marketing mix but for our purposes, it works well enough.

When it comes to services, such as accounting, marketing agencies, hair salon or any other service you can think of, then we need to think a little differently as the Product can not be experienced before the buyer purchases. To put this another way, as a rule with physical products the production and distribution are separate from the consumption, whereas with services the production, distribution, and consumption are a simultaneous process. Therefore the risk element is a lot higher than with physical products.

The Keys to marketing services are:-

There are 3 P’s in services that differentiate them from their product counterpart. No, none of them are part of the marketing mix (Product, Price, Place, Promotion), although still relevant.

The 3 P’s related to services marketing mix:-

Physical evidence,

People, and

Process.

Physical Evidence is “the environment in which the service is delivered, where the firm and customer interact, and any tangible components that facilitate performance or communication of the service.” The second P is people. They play a large role in customer experience and how service is delivered. Lastly, process is how a service is carried out.

To be fair I would argue service industries face more challenges than its product counterpart because of the “people factor.” When people are involved there is room for error, especially with consistency, we’ve all been to that restaurant where we had a great meal the first time and it stank the second time. Again think flights. There are factors that can’t be controlled like delays, frustrating enough, but add to that a rude flight attendant and you now have an irritated customer who will think twice before flying that airline again.

 

There are however businesses who get it right. Think about the Virgin group whose people as a rule get the service element right. With the right staff and training the “people factor” can work in an businesses favour.

So when marketing a service you need to focus on a few things but here are a couple for now:-

  • People tend to make decisions based on the most recent data. Get good at your follow up, and/or build on competitors’ communications – say something stronger and more effective to secure the business. Leverage on the Recency Effect.
  • People don’t usually evaluate all possible options to make the best choice. They just want to avoid making a bad choice. Show that you are “good enough” – present yourself as a good choice, then eliminate all possible concerns that could make you a bad choice.
  • Show your weaknesses alongside your strengths, as they make you more believable, honest and trustworthy.
  • The best thing you can do for a prospect is eliminate their fear. Offer a trial period or test project.

Products and services support one another. If you dine out and have a stellar meal (the product) but poor service, it affects your overall experience as well as your view of the restaurant. Both service and product based organisations compete on the quality of both products and services.

Whether there’s a difference between product or service marketing depends on the product or service. Products like luxury brands appeal to unique groups, posing challenges, although they’re physical products. A service could appeal to a wide array of people making it relatively easy to market. Lyft and, in spite of its public relations problems, Uber, are successful service based companies offering better customer experiences over traditional taxi rides. There’s no haggling over money or phone calls. It’s all done through apps. These ride booking companies offer a better way to get from Point A to Point B.

There are basic marketing concepts at the core of both products and services. You have what you’re selling. It could be tangible or intangible. It is priced based on normal criteria (what it takes to make a profit). There is a physical location for where products and services are sold, and finally, those products and services must be promoted.

If a product or service offered can’t effectively convince people to buy, then both offerings stand an equal chance of failing. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a product or a service.

If you can effectively prove why your offer is better than your competitors, differentiate the offer, use the right medium for marketing, and communicate the benefits of what you’re selling there is opportunity for success in both product and service marketing.

Your marketing message is one of the areas we’ll be covering at the Business Success Academy in September, 8 weeks business learning designed to help you upgrade your thinking from just £197. Click Here to find out more.