5 marketing techniques for the service sector that actually work

Marketing has evolved over the years. Recently, the focus has shifted to improving the effectiveness of marketing techniques to achieve maximum ROI. Service sector marketing is challenging as it is quite a task to create an impression among prospects and convert that into a lead. Companies use a combination of techniques and use the following metrics to measure success:

  • Revenue: This is the most obvious. But it might not be feasible to accurately calculate the revenue from each channel. Hence marketeers make use of assumptions and guesstimates 
  • Website metrics: These include website traffic, page views, unique visitors, bounce rate, inbound links etc.
  • Cost per opportunity: This helps companies to monitor, manage and distribute marketing budget properly
  • Brand sentiment: Brand value and awareness are key to getting new business through customer acquisition. Companies constantly monitor brand image to gauge customer sentiments about the brand. 

However, the intention of this article is not to discuss marketing metrics in detail, but to look at ways and techniques that would help businesses improve those metrics.

5 marketing techniques

1. Online and social media marketing 

This provides businesses with numerous possibilities to promote their service. With right targeting, reaching potential customers is no more a tedious task using online methods. Online and social media marketing is the easiest marketing technique in terms of execution, and help to reach more people in a limited amount of time. Also, digital marketing techniques have been driving more interest from companies due to easy availability of preliminary information about a service offering or service provider.

Online marketing 

 

This includes email marketing, SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and content marketing.  Here, I intend to briefly describe each of the three.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

SEO is one of the hottest topics in digital marketing. Simply put, SEO is the process of optimizing your website content to improve your visibility in a search engine. Every search engine has a different algorithm in place to rank websites and pages. But SEO discussions are mostly limited to Google, with the search engine having a market share of more than 74%. SEO can be achieved by a combination of techniques including use of long tailed keywords, backlinks, title optimization, etc. For a detailed reading on SEO, have a look at SEO tutorial for beginners in 2018.

Email marketing 

I do not think you would need a definition for this. Do you? The most challenging task in email marketing is to generate interest in the reader. With the reader receiving tons of emails everyday, getting him/her to spend a couple of minutes to read your content is difficult. Following are a couple of ways to improve outcomes of your email campaign.

  • Have a catchy subject line: you may use a problem statement or a ask a question. Example: ‘Want to reduce your operations cost? Read more to know how’.
  • Optimize the email body: Don’t write too much. Don;t be too short either so that the message gets diluted. Focus more on the benefits to the customer rather than talking too much about your services.
  • Conclude with a question or a probe: This is personal choice. But my favorite is to end with a probe such as ‘do you want to know more about how to solve this problem? Please write back to me for a quick chat’.
  • Be polite: You might have the best service in the world. But remember, customer is king. So always be humble in your communication. 

Content marketing 

The intention of this technique is to drive traffic towards your website using other methods. These include:

  • Blogs and articles
  • eBooks, magazines and newsletters
  • Partner websites 

The best way to achieve desirable outcomes from content marketing is to create quality content, use credible platforms, websites & partners and consistently updating the content.

Social media marketing 

Every company is trying to leverage social media to promote their business. At times they go all over and end up with no results. The key to success in social media marketing is to master to use a few of them that suits your business the most. If you go to True Social Metrics and check the social media performance of some of the most popular brands, you will see that they are not the best in every medium. So out of Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Google+ etc.  choose 2 or 3 where you think your service will sell the most. Do you research to figure this out. One way to achieve this is to see which media your competitors are using. 

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For a detailed reading on social media marketing, have a look at Social media marketing for businesses. 

2. Events, trade fairs and forums

There is nothing better than having a  face to face interaction with the customer in order to sell your services and offerings. When it is so hard to get an appointment to meet your prospect, these avenues provide a solid platform to improve your brand value and exhibit some of your capabilities. Some of the other benefits of these include:

  • Understanding customer pain points in various areas.
  • Having a feel of what your competitors talk about and invest in.
  • Borrowing ideas from your competitors which you can leverage for your service offerings.
  • Understanding a new industry or business by interacting with companies belonging to domains other than your area(s) of service.

Studies show that companies are 20% more likely to buy your services through events & conferences than a one-to-one sales pitch. Given this, here are some tips to make the most out of these:

  • Showcase/discuss the service offering that would excite your prospects.
  • Ensure you have quality content, good methods of displaying it, proper design & animation and presenters/delegates who can articulate the message well. 
  • Make sure that your content is crisp. This is very important, as in an event or trade fair, it is difficult to catch the attention of an individual for a long time.

Hosting an event

The advantage of this method is that it doesn’t have any dependency on other entities, in the sense that you manage an event end to end when you host it. You can decide a convenient date (of course you check with your prospects and other stakeholders before you finalize), get people together, allocate resources and start the preps.

One more more advantage is that you get to measure the outcomes of an event better, owing to more dedicated time you get. A fancy tagline also attracts more participants. An example for such a tagline in the case of a technology company would be ‘Accelerate your digital growth with our experience based service offerings’.

Trade fairs 

These are hosted by analysts, market research firms, other service providers and sometimes even customers. Companies will be provided with kiosks where they can showcase their services, offerings and capabilities. One limitation of this is, at a time a kiosk can accommodate only a few  people and hence you would be able to reach only a limited number of prospects in a given time. One way to overcome this is to have multiple display screens, devices & gadgets (if any) and more presenters.  

Forums

Forums provide service providers with an opportunity to interact with customers in a more targeted manner. Forums are formed to discuss trends, challenges and solutions pertaining to a certain industry or business domain. They are not technically selling platforms, but rather an arena to brainstorm, debate and discuss. However, forums are a unique opportunity to get exposure to your prospects by sharing your wisdom and intellectual excellence.  They can also be used to derive new ideas for your business. 

3. Customer visits

Inviting your customers to visit you company campus is a very effective way to instill confidence in them about you. This provides you with the maximum time to interact with your prospect than any other marketing technique. Managing a customer effectively requires you to understand his/her type. Have a look at The curious case of customer relationship management to learn various customer types and how to effectively manage them.

Before we get into visit management, let us try to understand the different types of visits:

  • Account/delivery review: For existing customers. Main intention is to monitor and improve current services offered.
  • Capability visit: For both existing and new customers. Main aim is to assess the capabilities of the service provider in relevant areas.
  • Bid/proposal review: For both existing and new customers. Intention is to review an ongoing proposal. 

Bid reviews are the most critical visits as they contribute directly to the win/loss decision. However, they usually account for less than 10% of the total number of visits. In capability visits, the intention of the customer is to understand and explore different service offerings of the service provider. Account review visits do not contribute to new business as customers’ aim is to improve day to day activities of the project delivery team.

Visit management 

Visit management consists of three stages: 

  • Planning: This includes pre-visit activities such as collecting customer info, making hospitality and facility arrangements, preparing the presentations and marketing content, aligning the presenters, inviting relevant stakeholders and scheduling various sessions
  • Execution: This includes activities on the day of the visit: arranging various sessions, coordinating with the presenters, presenting the capabilities,  displaying other content and looking after customer hospitality. Out of all these, presentations are the most critical ones and hence have to be planned properly. To learn how to make a convincing presentation have a look at How to make a good sales pitch.
  • After visit activities: This is about following up with the customer post the visit. Various activities include collecting feedback, sharing the content presented and having further discussions on any potential business opportunity. 

Even after careful planning, a lot of things could go wrong in a visit as it involves many stakeholders and components. Following are some tips to make a visit successful:

  • Track all the planned items: A visit will have a lot of activities and it is a good idea to track their status (including those where you need support from other teams) in an excel sheet.
  • Collect customer information in advance: It is not professional to ask for any customer information required for the day of the visit when he/she arrives at your campus. It shows lack of planning. Hence send a communication to the customer requesting all the necessary information well in advance.
  • Start preparing the content in advance: Starting content preparation – both presentation decks and marketing collaterals – will give ample time for reviews and fine tuning.
  • Be polite and pleasant: Customers are humans. So keep them warm and comfortable till the end of the visit with your vibrant smile and humility. 

4. Webinars and talks

You might want to debate this point. I understand that webinars and talks do not directly generate any leads. But they give excellent targeted opportunity to reach people who are interested in the topic of discussion. When you are sharing your knowledge, you are letting your prospects know that you are capable to deliver services in the area. This builds credibility and confidence.

Webinars are different from talks. Webinars provide an opportunity to do indirect selling when you say something like: ‘this is how the travel industry is going to change in the next 5 years and that is where my company is also investing in’. Here you are implying that your company will be able to serve the future. 

On the other hand, talks like TEDx sessions will not help you to sell. But if there is a will, then there is a way. Isn’t it? Yes there are techniques speakers use to sell their services even without the listeners knowing it. Following are some you may use to ‘invisibly sell’ your services:

  • Introduce yourself in detail: When you say that you are the VP of company X that sells A, B &C, you are doing an indirect sell.
  • Share your experiences from work: For example, if your topic is ‘customer relationship’, talk about an experience from your company where you handled an agitated customer smoothly. And if you need, you can add a couple of lines on how important customer relationship is for your company.
  • Leave your contact when you conclude: You can ask people to write to you to share their views. If people like your talk, 2-3 out of 100 will drop you a note. This will help to create connect that could potentially lead to a business relationship.

Planning your webinar or talk 

Let us look at a step by step guide on planning your talk (here I am not going to cover aspects like ‘use a good microphone’, or ‘check your internet connection’ etc. The intention is to look at ways to impress the audience):

  1. Choose a trendy topic that will generate curiosity among your target audience.
  2. Promote you webinar/talk. Let your target audience know about the webinar well in advance. Use colorful posters, email communication etc for this. Do not forget to include speaker credentials.
  3. Select a time that suits your audience for the session.
  4. Include more of images, videos and animations than text in your content.
  5. Do a dry run to correct mistakes and plan your timing
  6. Engage with the audience. Ask them questions. If relevant, include a Q&A session.
  7. Leave something for the listeners to ponder over. Don’t just give a ton of information. Encourage them to do further reading. Maybe when you conclude, you can say that ‘i will leave you to think more on A,B & C’.

Each of the above points can be further broken down into smaller steps. If you wish to learn more on doing webinars, give me $10000. I will teach you. Kidding :-). Do some extra reading by yourself.

5. Analyst marketing

Every industry has analyst firms that assess the performance of companies and provide rankings and ratings. Everest group’s PEAK Matrix for the IT industry is an example for such a framework. But what is their relevance when it comes to marketing your services?

Analyst firms do much more than just providing overall rankings. They also look at individual industry verticals and technologies to publish a ranking for those as well. 

A lot of customers, who might not have real visibility into a company’s capabilities, seek the help of these analysts or advisory firms to see where they rank in their particular area of interest. Further, if the customer wants to go a few levels deeper to look at a service line, these firms provide consulting services to help them do this study and to finally choose the right vendor. 

So, it is essential for you to find a place in their list. But it’s easier said than done. It is not something you can do in a day, and might take years for a new organization to make it to the rankings even in a niche. However, it is worth driving the marketing efforts in that direction as it pays off in the long run.

Achieving analyst mentions and rankings 

There are analysts who focus on a specific industry, like a Gartner in IT.  Whereas there are consulting companies like Mckinsey or BCG who provide services across industries. It is very necessary to understand the analyst presence in your industry. The next step is to study their assessment methodology for overall ranking and determine what factors contribute to it. Now follow the steps mentioned below:

  1. Once you have identified the factors of overall ranking look at your service lines and understand contributing factors.
  2. Decide your strategy: If your company covers a wide spectrum of service lines, then you have to try to achieve overall as well as service level rankings. But if you are focused and work in a niche, then it obviously makes sense to improve your ranking in that area. 
  3. Out of all the factors, identify areas where you are doing bad, do an RCA (Root Cause Analysis), and pick 2 or 3 areas where you can focus for the next 1 or 2 years. 
  4. Improve your capabilities in the chosen area by creating a good team, building capabilities and acquiring new customers.

But are analyst mentions the only avenue of analyst marketing? No, there is more. But I have already covered this partially under point # 3 – events and trade fairs. Analyst firms conduct annual events and fairs by inviting customers as well as service providers, thereby creating a platform for customers and service providers to help each other. These events are helpful especially for small and mid-sized companies to get brand exposure and build credibility.

So that’s my 5 best marketing techniques for the service sector. You might have understood that each of the 5 methods is vast and you can write a book on each of these. I strongly recommend you to do further reading. Leave a comment here if you have any queries or write to me at naseef.kpo14@alumni.ac.in

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