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At Your Service

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

"Products tend to be more standardized than services,"says Rick Crandall, author of Marketing Your Services: ForPeople Who Hate to Sell (Select Press). "With a product,you're pretty much the same thing, whereas with aservice, the [selling process] is customized almost every time.Services are intangible--people can't always see whatthey're getting." Fortunately, there are tangible steps tohelp you sell your .

1. Make your service more palpable. Offering a packagedeal gives your service some semblance of a product. For example,providing for a year at a set fee may be moredesirable to customers who are scared away by the prospect ofopen-ended billing.

2. Network in unique places. Don't rule out trafficschool, bowling leagues, games and other nonbusinessevents as chances to share your story. Leisure activities provide anatural setting for networking and encourage relationship-buildingmore often than the stiff introductions typical of most networkingevents.

3. Clip articles featuring your business or clients. Mostof the value of publicity comes long after a news article ispublished. You may get several calls when the article actuallyruns, but you'll get many more if you distribute reprintslater.

4. Do marketing test runs. Before you send out a mailing,run it by a few people. Before you commit to a Yellow Pages ad,test it on a flier. Before you go crazy with any ad, track yourmarketing results. For example, if you place ads in two differentnewspapers and find that one pulls 90 percent of the totalresponse, you can cut your expenses while getting a similarresponse.

5. Have a system. Service providers in particular oftenget caught up in their work and neglect to market. It's avicious circle: Because they don't market systematically, theysee spotty results, so they don't market systematically. Set upa routine in which you send out letters, make calls or write adheadlines for an hour every morning or one day a week.

6. Write a letter to the editor. This is easy to do andprovides prime exposure in the publications that your targetaudience reads.

7. When pitching publications, look for unusualphotographs. Many times, media that cover service businessesare stuck with stale, sitting-at-the-desk photos reporters andphoto editors have seen thousands of times. Seek somethingphotogenic about your business, and strive for novel photos todistinguish you from the crowd.

8. Create a handout of handy tips. A landscaper couldcompile 10 ways to prepare a lawn for fall; a lawyer might list 10ways to avoid going to court. Use these tips in seminars,brochures, ads or press releases. The tips establish yourexpertise; giving them away creates gratitude in potentialcustomers.

9. Give an award to a member of your community. Alandscaper could present awards for the best lawns in theneighborhood; an environmental consultant could present an awardfor the most environmentally sound business.

10. Hold seminars. Get together with other entrepreneurswhose services complement yours and market a series of seminars. Abonus to the group method: If you're not used to givingspeeches, sharing the stage could calm your nerves.

11. Collect testimonials. People respond to testimonialsfrom others in their industry or someone in their particularcircumstance. Once you know a prospect's needs, you can whipout your file and share the testimonial that best mirrors his orher need.

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