I’m not going to lie to you; marketing a service-based business is tough. When you’re dealing with a physical product which you’re intimately familiar with, it’s easy enough to create a strong brand and marketing campaign around its most attractive features. From there, your customers’ experience serves to make the brand stronger and stronger. When it comes to service-based businesses, things get a little harder. Instead of simply listing some product specifications, you have to market your team’s ability to get the job done just as your customers like it. If you’re launching a service-based business, and you’re not sure how to tackle the marketing side of it, here are some of my best tips…
Like many service-based businesses, your target market may be people in the local community. Depending on the size of that community, there could be a lot of other services around just like yours. So, how do you go about attracting a new customer base from scratch? Everyone wants a good deal, so dangle one in front of them! While running a special promotion for your service has the potential to cut into your bottom line, it can also bring a flood of new customers in. It’s all about getting the right balance between your customer’s perception of a good deal, and the profit margins you need to achieve to stay afloat.
Keep in Touch
When you’re running a service-based business, it’s hugely important to keep in touch with your loyal customer base. I couldn’t, in good conscience, give you a catch-all plan for how often you should email your clientele or put coupons through their letterboxes. In order to pin this down, take a moment to ask yourself “At what point does it get annoying for a business to contact me?” Obviously, this can depend on the company and their method of client outreach. However, thinking about times where service-based businesses have been nothing but a thorn in your side is a great way to determine where you should draw the line.
Get your Brand in the News
Getting featured in a widely-read news channel is always a great way to garner some free marketing, whether you’re offering a valet service or something more nuanced like fully managed IT support. If your business is based in a sleepy little town, sometimes a grand opening is all you need to appear in a local news channel. In most cases, however, you’ll need to do something a little more newsworthy; donating to a charity, contributing somehow to a local event, or even holding one yourself if your service fits the bill. If you’re going down the charity route, just make sure that you genuinely believe in the cause you’re supporting, and that you’re sincere with your donation in any news channels. Fail to do this, and your customers will see straight through it, and your brand will take a serious blow. By doing something newsworthy, you’ll be able to get people reading about your company, and convince the local community that you’re part of the club. This brings me onto my next point…
Connect with the Local Community
The “competitive advantage” business model is now grossly outdated, and if you approach your local community with it you’re only going to wind up shooting yourself in the foot. Be kind to your neighbours! Other local service-based businesses, which have been in the area for some time, will have their own active clientele. Treat them with respect, and avoid aggressively muscling in on their territory, and they might just decide to push a few referrals your way. Not only that, you’ll ensure that the local community is more likely to invite you with open arms. One sure-fire way to make sure your business meshes well with the community is to reach out to the Chamber of Commerce, Rotary Club or a similar body. These assemblies will be able to put you in touch with other local businesses which go in for cooperative interaction. You may think that the way a new business connects with the existing community is a relatively small detail, but believe me it can make all the difference!
Emphasise Value Rather than Price
Product-based niches will typically see businesses getting locked into vicious price wars. When it comes to service-based business, however, you need to leave these primitive tactics on the shelf. Any successful service-based business owner will tell you that lowering your rates again and again is just a waste of resources. This is especially true as most people will opt for the service that gives them the best value for money, not the cheapest option. So, how do you make sure you’re giving your customers the best value possible? There are many ways I could answer this, but one of the most straightforward is a bundling strategy. This is one powerful tool which you’ll be able to take advantage of, but product-based business owners will not. One of the most common examples of bundling strategies is the food sector, particularly fast and street food outlets. These businesses bring their popular items together into less expensive meal deals, while still keeping health profit margins. Seen as inventory costs probably aren’t your biggest concern, you can bundle your services together, enhancing your value and raking in more custom.
Buy a Lot of Business Cards
If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, then you may have the attitude that marketing exists purely on a computer screen. While I agree that your digital marketing should take the bulk of the budget, traditional marketing materials such as business cards can be an exceedingly fruitful investment for any small business. Create an attractive and professional design, make a large order, and get them seen! You may want to reach out to other local businesses, and ask if you can leave some of your cards in their lobby. Alternatively, you can attend networking events, and simply pass them out to anyone who takes an interest. One thing that makes business cards a high-value investment is the fact that after that one-off payment, they can be passed from prospect to prospect, similarly to word of mouth marketing.
Let your Customer Know You
Good relationships, as I’ve mentioned several times in this post, are essential to the success of a service-based business. Relationships, in any sense, are based on trust, and your customers are going to want to know as much about your company as possible before they decide to pay their hard-earned money for your service. Female shoppers in particular have been found to dig deeper for information on a brand before they decide whether or not to put any money down, but customers of all demographics are going to do their research in this day and age. Obviously, you should be maintaining a professional website, containing information about your brand identity, values and your dedication to value. It’s also a good idea to maintain an active social media presence on all the appropriate channels, keep on top of any customer queries or comments, and use this platform to develop a personable tone of communication. Familiarity with brands is extremely important to modern consumers, especially when it comes to service-based businesses. Open up and let them know you, using all the tech you have at your disposal. You’re sure to see the benefits in no time!
If marketing your service-based business felt like a daunting task, I hope my guide has simplified things, and given you at least the skeleton of a good strategy.