Service marketing is different from product marketing. Service firms are marketing something that is intangible -- something that the client cannot experience until the firm has delivered it. Some of the elements of service marketing mirror those of product marketing; however, there is a greater emphasis in the service sector on people, relationships and problem solving.
Service firms offer standard products, such as consultancy, accounting, financial services, training and maintenance. Clients can purchase the services for a period of time based on the number of hours or days or for a specific project. Service firms can offer general services for all markets or develop versions for different market sectors.
Specialization is an important factor in service marketing, according to a 2010 study by consultancy Hinge Marketing, “The High Growth Professional Services Firm.” The study found that firms offering a narrow range of services to specific market sectors had faster growth rates and greater profitability than broadly-based service firms.
Marketing services as products can be limiting, according to Clearsight Consulting. Instead firms should position their services as customized solutions to specific problems. This element of service marketing enables a firm to differentiate itself through its skills and experience rather than a range of standard services.
The emphasis on problem solving makes knowledge an important marketing element. Firms should use their knowledge and skills to build credibility in the market. By publishing articles, blogs and papers or speaking at conferences, firms can establish a reputation for thought leadership that provides an important competitive advantage.
To achieve thought leadership and deliver high-quality problem solving solutions, service firms depend on people. Authors Christopher Lovelock and Joachim Wirtz in their book, “Services Marketing: People, Technology, Strategy,” emphasize people as one of the most important elements of service marketing.
Quality people also form an integral part of a service firm’s relationship marketing program. Firms aim to establish relationships with clients at a senior level so that they can position their services as strategically important. Relationship marketing is also important to building continuity of business and protecting the firm’s client base.
Service firms emphasize value rather than price as a marketing element. A pitch to a client should focus on the business benefits a client will achieve as a result of a service project. A training service, for example, can improve a client’s skill base; a marketing consultancy service can help the client focus on profitable growth markets.
Place is an important marketing element for some service firms. Firms specializing in industry-specific service, for example, would locate close to the main centers. Silicon Valley is a favorite location for technology consulting firms while New York would be an important location for financial services firms. Firms offering services to multinational clients would set up offices or work with associates in their clients’ key territories to provide a local service.