Marketing Your Service Business

Whether you are a seasonal tax preparer, a neighborhood car wash, a painter or a realtor, consumers can’t go a week without the services of a local entrepreneur.  One the hardest parts of being in a service business lies in how you go about creating your market. As such, a sizable roadblock often encountered is how hard it is to promote a product that technically does not exist until the customer has made their purchase.

Listed below are 5 ways that you can promote your service business.

Make sure customers can find  you.  The vast majority of both male and female shoppers do research on the web before making a purchase.  Furthermore, women shoppers in particular look for “deeper” information when deciding on which company or service to choose.  For these reasons, having a company website is a smart and affordable way to ensure that your business and the services you offer can be found.

Let customers know you.  Good relationships are built on trust. So it’s natural that customers want to learn as much as they can about your company and the people that stand behind it.  Once you’ve created your website, why not consider integrating your blog into it?  Studies (like this one) indicate that business blogging can lead to as much as 55% more site visits when compare to sites that don’t.  But the real point of the blog should be to let customers know more about just who you are!

If you look at the category Who’s The Boss on our site, you can get some insight into our CEO Jared Rogers.  Under this category, he showcases things about the company and his story, photos, family and hobbies.  Why?  So that you get to know more about him and see if his personality matches with yours.  The reality is that most service businesses are differentiated not by their services, but by the people who provide and stand behind them.

Tout your USP or value proposition.  What will make customers or clients select your company vs. your competitor’s? Many people choose the service provider that offers the greatest value for their money, as there’s often price parity among the principal players.  Thus, one should craft their  Unique Selling Proposition (USP) and communicate it to each and every prospect you interact with.  So the best way to win business is not to cut your prices or rates, but instead add products or services that elevate your USP – making it too good to resist!

Offer your customers incentives.  Customers who’ve had positive experiences with your company in the past will happily return.  But tempting new customers requires making a special offer.  Businesses that provide home services (e.g. rug cleaning, painting, home heating or air conditioning) can benefit by sending consumers coupons through a service such as Valpak. Your coupon offer will be mailed in an envelope with others, thus your cost of mailing is less than if you did it stand alone (thus allowing you to send to a greater number of people).  Although you won’t have the undivided attention of your consumer, mail from a known marriage-mail provider is often well-received.  For long-term results, create a offer that will motivate new customers to make more than a single purchase.

Communicate with your prospects frequently.  It costs considerably less to keep a customer than to win a new one.  Thus, it’s smart to maintain campaigns that upsell or resell to existing ones.  To do this, you should communicate with your customer database at least every four to six weeks.  If you don’t, you’re missing opportunities to grow your business.  Now, every communication doesn’t have to be a sales pitch.  What you are trying to do is create Top Of Mind Awareness.

In this post we talk about how you can get new clients via a referral program that emphasizes TOMA.  Essentially, you want to use a combination of alternating sales calls with e-mail and postal mail.  By interspersing e-newsletters containing case histories, postcards with promotional offers and calls offering relevant and valuable information, you will ensure that YOU are the one they think of when it’s time for them to make a purchase.

Top Small Business Marketing Mistakes

Recently we were having lunch at Columbus’ Curry, a new quick dining establishment specializing in Indian cuisine.  During this visit, we had the fortunate opportunity to meet the owner.  Turns out that they had only been open for four weeks, but they indicated that things were going well thus far.  At some point, our conversation turned to what the “most important” thing to focus on should be.  Our response?  Generating sales!

As we’ve said in previous posts, nothing happens in an organization until a sale is made and sales don’t happen without marketing.  Unfortunately, many new/fledgling small businesses often underestimate their marketing needs.  With that said, we figured we’d discuss the top marketing mistakes new business often make and how you can avoid them.

No marketing plan.  Failure to plan is like planning to fail – we’ve all heard that statement correct?  Well, if you don’t have a marketing plan, then you can rest assured that your marketing will not be is effective as it needs to be.  People often think that a marketing plan needs to be this overly complicated document that takes months to develop.  That is not the case.  A simple marketing plan can be made in short order.  Take a look at this article to see just how to put one together and what it should contain.

No marketing budget.  Equally egregious as not having a marketing plan, is not having a marketing budget.  When you start a business you may be consumed in pouring all of your dollars into research and development, product engineering, hiring staff or outfitting your headquarters.  However, if you don’t have the budget to tell your target market about your product or services, how will they find you?  “Oh, if we build it they will come” is your response?  Read the next bullet dear friend.

Having a “build it and they will come” mentality.  We’ve written about this before in our Small Business Marketing 101 post.  The key takeaway from it is that even with a highly visible location it’s EXTREMELY hard for potential customers to “see” you.  The only way to ensure that the do, is to market to them.  Furthermore, even if they know you are there, what is going to make them choose you over your competitors?  For that, we recommend that you emphasize your Unique Selling Proposition or USP in all of your marketing collateral.

Failing to “test” your marketing.  Marketing should never be viewed as a “one and done” type of activity.  The one thing that is constant in the world is change.  Thus, you must frequently look at your marketing activities, vehicles, collateral, etc. and make sure that it is working.  If it isn’t, then you need to make adjustments to it.  If you do a mailing and you get a 2% response rate, test doing a similar mailing but tweek the headline, body, mailing list, etc to see if the results change.  Keep “testing” various elements of the campaign until you get the desired result.  All of this leads us to the next point.

Not holding your marketing accountable.  If you are involved in various marketing activities, you should always hold your marketing ruthlessly accountable for revenue.  One of the first things we ask customers is how they heard of us.  Why?  We want to know which vehicle brought them to us.  We then track various metrics associated with this such as number of leads, leads converted to customers, revenue spent per customer, cost of client acquisition, etc.  If we don’t see the return on investment for a particular vehicle we either 1) test it, 2) change it or 3) abandon it.  If we get to the third, that allows us to shift those dollars to something that IS producing desired results.  The worst thing you can do is continue to pour money into something that is not generating sales.

Trying to reinvent the “Marketing” wheel.  Marketing is not hard stuff (in simplistic terms of course).  Yes, there is the need to reinvent and refresh your marketing so that it remains relevant and in sync with the times, but you don’t have to go back to the drawing board to make it yours.  In this post, we talk about 50 ways that you can market your small business.  The point?  You don’t have to start from scratch; look at the items, choose what works for you and then make it fit your business.

Continuous planning without execution.  The fear of failure is a very powerful thing.  In this post, our CEO Jared Rogers talks about getting over his fears when he struck out to head the Beverly office.  In the end he got over them and started doing things. The point is that you can be so busy preparing, organizing, and researching your marketing to prevent failure that you never get around to the actual marketing.  To combat this remember:

  1. Activity is not productivity.
  2. In order to sell a million of something, you have to sell the first ONE.

At some point you have to start your marketing and just see what happens.  Remember, mistakes are the price of entry into the world of success. A failed promotion means you have SUCCESSFULLY determined what does NOT work; and that is a invaluable tool in getting you closer to discovering what DOES work.

Using a USP to Differentiate Your Business

Being in business is tough stuff.  No matter how small or big you are, it never gets easier to achieve success.  Combine that with the fact that you have hundreds if not thousands of competitors out there, and the job just seems to get harder.  But it doesn’t have to be that way; not if you can differentiate yourself.

You see, there are numerous reasons businesses fail.  Lack of capital, poor planning, poor management, etc.  But an often overlooked cause is simply not being different enough.  You see, most customers don’t know your business from another one, unless you tell them WHY they should purchase from you.

Rollo May, the distinguished psychiatrist, wrote a book called Man’s Search for Himself, and in it he writes: “The opposite of courage in our society is not cowardice … it is conformity.”  Within that single sentence, you have a powerful cause of so many failures. Conformity — people acting like everyone else, without knowing why or where they are going.

So here you are with an idea, product or service that you think is better than what is currently on the market.   Your quickest way to ensure success is to determine your Unique Selling Proposition (USP) and then tout it to the world.  Here are some tips to help you come up with your USP:

Analyze the competition. What do they do well and where do they miss the boat?  What don’t they offer that you do or could? Where are they geographically located in relation to you?  The key is to look for holes in the market to identify where you may be able to carve out a niche.  Remember, you never go head-to-head with a competitor…well, not at first at least.

Outperform on your core values.  At Wilson Rogers, we place a great importance on servicing the customer relation aspect of our customers.  What this means is that we go to great lengths to let customers know that they are NOT just another number on our P&L.  They are a person/relationship whom we value and we want them to know that we care.  This translates into customers who feel valued and they note this difference when comparing our company to our competitors.  Figure out your core value and then perform on it better than anyone else dare even try.

Determine what sets you apart. Maybe you’re the only jewelry store with a designer on the premises. Or maybe you’re a hand car wash that keeps a detailer on staff.  The key is to figure out what sets you apart that you can proclaim to your customers.  Once you identify what that claim is, you have an easy USP to hang your hat on.

Use consumer pain points as inspiration.   Sometimes, you just AREN’T different from your competitors. Thus, when all else fails, list the main frustrations customers in your industry face and devise a USP to satisfy them.  For example, if you are a plumber, you may offer a one hour service window for customer appointments.  This can be used to address the frustration of customers who call a plumber who says they will be there at 2PM, but then call at 4PM and state that they can’t make it because they’re behind on a job they had earlier.

Offer a guarantee.  They key here is to focus on offering a cure for common customer frustrations. Going back to our plumber above, they might guarantee that if they don’t show up within the last 15 minutes of the scheduled hour window they will provide the first hour of work free.  Or they could guarantee that they’ll leave the house cleaner than when they arrived, and show up in uniforms with belts. The goal: conquer plumbers’ reputation for lateness, messiness and embarrassing rear views.

Hey, I learned from the best of 'em!Hey, I learned from the best of ’em!

Be specific.   Baskin-Robbins was known for its 31 flavors, even incorporating “31” into its logo. You might be a heating company that’s on call 24/7/365, a manufacturer that offers 1,000 different SKUs, or a gym with 99 benches. The key is if you’ve got it, flaunt it and tell the world!

Always deliver.   The plumbing contractor mentioned above might established a series of systems to make good on its guarantee.  This could include equipping employees with handheld vacuums, booties and belted uniforms.  But whatever your USP is, make sure that you can deliver on it every single time.  If you can’t, it’s useless and you shouldn’t go through the effort of even creating it.

By |2013-05-19T15:48:21-06:00May 19, 2013|Categories: Business Talk|Tags: , , , , , |Comments Off on Using a USP to Differentiate Your Business
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