Why Services Marketing is Fun and a Challenge

customer relationship management strategy Sep 21, 2022
Service Sign

There's something about marketing the intangible that seems to have unlimited potential for creativity when you're a marketer. Unlike product marketing, services marketing requires a unique approach to reach your target customer or client.

When we compare the effort of selling a widget to that of selling a service, there are noticeable differences. With a widget, there is usually just one primary person to target, one specific product use, and many obvious ways to promote it. The incredible challenge of building trust with the target audience is a big part of what makes services marketing so fun and challenging. We're often surprised to learn that many service companies do not have any kind of marketing plan.


How Building Relationships is Core to Services Marketing

Most marketing these days is already considered "relational" or based on building a relationship with your audience to some extent. You've probably seen or heard about how the youngest generations expect marketing to be highly customized to their interests and needs - rather than the 1960s style of blanket broadcasts. Well, this need for a customized message has been true for services for a long time. 

Building trust with your prospective customers or clients is key to winning the opportunity. Let's look at a few scenarios where relationship-based marketing is important for service companies.

1. Attorneys

Beckmann Collaborative has been fortunate to work with some incredibly passionate and smart attorneys over the years. We have learned a lot from each legal specialty and how their audience makes decisions. One thing they all seem to have in common is that marketing is merely brand and reputation management for them. People hire an attorney almost always based on a referral or social proof.  So our role as marketers is to share high-quality information content that educates (usually blog posts) and to make it easy for past clients to provide online reviews. It is the existing relationships with an attorney that ultimately sell their legal services. The client-attorney experience needs to be one where trust is built because any marketing depends upon that.


2. Financial Planners / Interim CFOs

Another type of service company where we have supported small businesses is the finance industry. This is another heavily relationship-based decision. Think about it. Who you trust with your money - whether that is personal or business - has a lot of power and impact in your life. Bringing a total stranger into your world and opening up about your finances requires a very intimate relationship with that person or company. As the marketing team, a big part of our role is to nurture existing relationships. This can come in the form of email automations that alleviate our client companies of keeping up with their list of clients. Plus, the right email communications can really help people have peace of mind that their "finance person" knows what he or she is talking about. While this may seem less than customized, we assure you that it is quite possible to create customized emails based on each client as long as you gather your information in one place such as a CRM. 


3. Coaching

When a person is seeking career support or leadership development, he or she wants to find a person who is the right fit for them. Consider the situation that the client is in. Perhaps he lost his job recently and is feeling pretty low, but he knows that he needs to figure out his next steps which may be a career pivot or just brushing up on his interviewing. If emotions are part of the story, we cannot ignore them. One of the many ways we have found that prospects will evaluate a coach or coaching company is through free resources. After downloading a white paper or taking a personality quiz, the follow-up is so very important. This is an opportunity for the coaching company to show a prospect both depth of experience and the level of care that comes with building a relationship with them. It's a funny and somewhat delicate balance. You want to show people that you know your stuff, but also that you understand they are unique and your coaching approach considers that. If the automated follow-ups are done well, it paves the way to a smoother sales call or free consultation. 


In all of these industries, there is that common thread of one-to-one style relationship building with a customized feel. Yes, it can be a ton of work if you are doing it yourself and trying to do it manually. However, by working with the right marketing partner, you can simplify some of the processes and it can help you streamline sales.


What should service companies avoid with their marketing?

There are a few pitfalls that many service companies fall into with their marketing. Most notably are making it all about you, slimy sales, and generic content.

 It's About the Customer

The number one problem we see with service companies is the brand talking about the brand. By this, we mean that your marketing messages and content should be about your prospects - their wants, needs, interests, and desires.

Especially with technology companies such as SaaS providers, it is easy to get lost in the list of features. Yes, the automatic saving feature on your software is an incredibly helpful feature, but why? Is it because people commonly forget to click save? Is it because your prospective customer is juggling so many tasks at once that interruptions cause them to lose work? Talk about the pain point and the relief that the prospect will experience because of that software feature. 

For data and analytics companies, it isn't about the millions of rows of data that you can supply or organize. It is about the intelligent insights that come with that data. It is about how the customer can make better decisions and improve their own business because of the data you provide. 


Don't Be Slimy

It seems like such a simple thing, but so many sales and marketing folks fall into this trap. Slimy sales strategies and false promises only make prospects want to run for the hills. People see right through all of that. Emails and blog posts that are focused on a sales pitch often fail because they are not authentic, interesting, or useful. 

Step back and put yourself in the shoes of your customers or clients. If you got a cold call after someone watched your webinar online, would you really want to talk to them? Using the right tools and understanding the signals people put out there, you can better qualify those prospects before ever picking up the phone or sending that cold email. Your marketing team can help you to identify those signals and set up those tools.

For example, Zoho CRM's integration with SalesIQ allows us to view what links a prospect has clicked and their activity on your website following that click. This level of insight tells a whole story in itself. Is this person a window shopper? Perhaps, he or she has questions you can answer to help with deciding to purchase. Answering a question is useful to your prospects - especially if it impacts their outcomes. 


Generic Content

To a marketer, this is painful to see in practice. While there are some general topics you can cover in your content marketing, the most useful information is in the niche and specific. Writing a blog post, for example, about the importance of having a business coach is dull and not the most useful. Instead, you could talk about how some of the top CEOs are hiring business coaches to help them and their teams improve performance. Do you see the difference there?


There are many approaches to services marketing, so start by asking questions

As a consulting firm, Beckmann Collaborative is rooted in the idea of Socratic thinking and problem solving. This means we start by asking questions, rather than assuming we already know or understand your business. Prior to getting on a free strategy call with us, we ask businesses to fill out a fairly thorough questionnaire. This sets us both up for success to make the most of a call together. If you were to input an answer on the questionnaire that indicates you need something like a Google AdWords campaign (for example), then we know that we are not the partner you need. 

Business owners of service companies should do the same - ask questions. Take the time to ask yourself, your team, your clients, your partners, and everyone else in your community about how they decide to make purchases. If you're unsure about what questions to ask, then schedule a free strategy session with us and we can help you come up with that list. Even if you do not end up working with Beckmann Collaborative, we like knowing that another business owner got the support needed to succeed. 



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