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With so much attention being paid to marketing new products, entrepreneurs building service businesses may feel overlooked. The truth is, marketing a service can be tricky. For some companies, success depends on creating a bundled offering that includes the features customers or clients want most. For others, it's all about differentiating based on customer satisfaction, with heavy emphasis on testimonials and ongoing customer input.
If you're searching for the best ways to win customers and build sales for your service business, here are five important tips you can't afford to overlook.
1. Find a way to differentiate. If you were to take an analytical look at your competitors' ads and brochures, you'd find one glaringly obvious similarity--most are satisfied with "me too" marketing themes. Consequently, few ever stand out from the pack. Careful differentiation is essential to successfully growing a service business. What sets your company apart from all the rest? Perhaps it's the group of services you offer or the way you excel at customer satisfaction. For best results, identify the unique benefits you provide, and make them the central focus of your marketing message.
2. Add value by bundling services. While product marketers often compete solely based on price, for many service businesses price is a sign of quality. So if you price your service below your competitors' services, you may communicate to customers that it's of lesser worth. Instead of lowering your price, why not add value? Focus on what your customers want most, and find a way to bundle those features (or even some select products) into your mix. This will increase the perceived value of what you offer and give your company a leg up. You may even be able to raise your prices on higher-value offerings.
3. Market to existing customers. For service marketers, the sale doesn't end with a purchase: It's the beginning of a relationship that continues with delivery and support. As a result, satisfied customers or clients have the potential to become repeat buyers. Do you have a program in place to market to your customer base? The good news is that upselling current customers costs less and yields significantly higher revenue than marketing to new prospects. To build sales, use direct marketing, including e-mail and direct mail, to offer special promotions to your customer base throughout the year.
4. Win more referrals. Do you rely on referral audiences to send business your way? It's not enough to simply call on your referral prospects. You must also create a group of marketing tools for your referral sources to use with your prospective clients. Suppose you owned a home health-care company. By supplying brochures and other materials to hospital workers to give to patients requiring at-home care following a hospital stay, you'd ensure that your complete information got through to your most qualified prospects.
5. Raise your visibility. To reach potential customers across multiple channels, consider expanding your advertising in search-corridor media--where customers turn first when they're ready to buy. Yellow Pages advertisers, for example, may benefit from expanding into online paid search, with emphasis on local search through engines such as Google and Overture. Link your ads to a terrific website, complete with in-depth information about your company and its services, and you'll give customers confidence in your ability to meet their needs. And don't overlook PR as a means to increasing your reputation in the community. You can sponsor events, write articles for publication, offer yourself as a speaker and participate in a range of networking opportunities that allow you to build positive word-of-mouth.