You are a service provider and business owner. You have the credentials and track record. And you have worked hard to perfect your craft.
You are also frustrated. Why? Because even though you love what you do, you don’t like marketing. And you don’t like marketing because people say no to a great service. Your service.
Blogs and social media posts. Webinars and videos. Networking and events. You spend a lot of time promoting your service. But no matter what you do or how hard you try, your marketing messages fall flat.
And even when you meet someone who needs your service, you still have to convince them you can help.
It seems people can’t see the real value your service offers. If they did, your schedule would be full for months.
Does any of this sound familiar?
If you said yes, then I will offer two suggestions:
- Don’t listen to the doubt in your head. It’s a lie. A lot of people need and want your service.
- Read this post to find out how selling a service can take on a whole new meaning.
Yes, selling a service can be challenging. But you must overcome the obstacles to be successful. So, I wrote this blog post to help you succeed.
In this post, you will learn:
- why selling a service is difficult
- the problem with “niching down”
- how selling tactical and strategic services differ
- how to position your service with the target market
You may even be able to raise your prices when you finish reading. Wouldn’t that be nice?
Your Service is a Product Too
Before you read more, I want to clarify the definition of a “product”.
When people think of products, they usually think of physical products. Cars, clothes, and soap are examples. But your service is also a product. So, in this post, the term product refers to both physical products and services.
Why Selling a Service Is Difficult
Physical products are tangible. People can see or touch them. Services are intangible. People can’t see or touch them. The intangible quality of a service is why selling one is difficult.
A physical product is easier for consumers to evaluate. They can see its characteristics and quality. It is also easier for consumers to compare physical products as they make a buying decision.
For example, it is possible to assess the quality of a car by looking at it. The condition, mileage, and color make it easy to judge quality. These physical characteristics also make it simple to compare cars to each other.
It is more challenging for people to evaluate services. For example, the quality of a service is often based on the provider’s level of expertise. But, people are not always able to assess expertise. So, it is more difficult for people to judge and compare service providers.
Reliability, professionalism, and expertise are primary factors in the buying decision. Yet, consumers can’t be sure they will receive these from a service provider until they buy. These unknowns make selling a service more challenging.
Simplify Your Service, But Not Too Much
Prospective customers may not always understand the value of your service. Many of them lack knowledge. They don’t know how your service can help them, so they aren’t interested.
For example, I’m a brand strategist. But many prospective clients don’t know what a brand strategist does. Most of them think of brand strategy as marketing. Others don’t understand the difference between branding and marketing.
But, simplifying a service to make it more marketable can dilute its value. It can also create more problems than it solves.
I will illustrate using another example. I could call myself a marketer or web designer to make it easier for people to understand what I do. It’s true, I can design websites. And marketing plays a role in my work. But neither are accurate descriptions of my service.
People will also compare me to other web designers and marketers. But since these comparisons aren’t accurate, the situation will become even more confusing.
And a confused mind says no.
Many service providers try to overcome these problems with aggressive marketing tactics. Instead of improving their messages, they make big promises or guarantees. But overpromising creates more problems.
When Niching Down Fails
Niche-specific marketing, or “niching down”, is a popular strategy. The goal is to target a narrow audience segment. In theory, niche targeting is much easier than marketing to a broad customer group.
For example, an accounting firm offers lease accounting services. So, they choose property management companies as their niche. The accounting firm then advertises only to property management professionals. Now, the firm has positioned itself as a specialist for property management companies.
Niche-specific marketing is cheaper than advertising to a broad audience. And appearing to be a custom solution for a defined group means they are more likely to buy from you. People love custom solutions.
Sometimes niche-specific marketing works. But at other times, it doesn’t.
First, niching down without any experience with the target segment is tricky. What if the target segment isn’t interested in the product? What if they can’t afford it?
Several circumstances create unprofitable niches.
When the niche doesn’t pay off, many of these companies pivot by choosing another niche. Some businesses may change segments several times before finding a profitable one.
But changing target audiences is like rebranding. You have been marketing to a specific group but now targeting another. Many times, companies have to start from scratch.
Niche-specific targeting also creates missed opportunities. Businesses choose a niche without analyzing the market. So, they advertise to one specific vertical when they could be targeting several.
Tactical Services vs. Strategic Services
Many companies selling a service don’t know how to position it. But framing the product in the audience’s mind has everything to do with how successful you are.
There are two service business categories: tactical and strategic.
A tactical service is easy to define and explain. It is a service that delivers a specific result. Web design is an example. Most people know what websites are. And they know a web designer builds websites. So, web design as a service is easy to define and sell.
There are disadvantages to selling tactical services. For instance, they are easily commoditized.
It is simpler for consumers to compare tactical services to one another. So, businesses selling tactical services must differentiate to avoid becoming a commodity.
A strategic service is more difficult to define. As a result, it is more challenging to sell. In addition, it is more difficult for a customer to see the value of a strategic service.
For example, a business consultant sells a strategic service. Business consultants may work with clients for months or years. They help organizations in many ways, such as cash flow analysis and manufacturing. So, the scope of consulting services is broad and covers a lot of ground.
If the audience does not already know what a business consultant does, it will be hard to sell the service to them. The business consultant then faces an extra sales step that tactical services don’t. First, the consultant must educate the audience on what a business consultant does.
The good news for strategic services is that they are not as likely to become a commodity as a tactical service.
How Tactical Services Avoid Commoditization
Tactical service businesses are more likely to become a commodity. Differentiation can help them avoid it. The key is to create unique characteristics for the service. These unique qualities make it more difficult to find a comparable replacement.
One way to differentiate is to reframe the service in the audience’s mind. For example, instead of web design, a company may position the service as “web engineering”. This repositioning will change how customers see it. In addition, this strategy creates more value for the service because there are fewer comparisons.
Be careful when you choose the words and terms you use to describe your service. If the terms are too vague or complex, the audience won’t understand what you sell. You should also provide the target market with educational content to support positioning.
How to Conceptualize a Strategic Service
I wrote earlier that strategic services are more difficult for people to see. So, it is your job as the service provider to help them conceptualize what you do.
The easiest way to do this is to create a Unique Value Proposition (UVP). A UVP is not a slogan. It is not a mission statement or tagline. Instead, a UVP communicates the value the target market will receive from the service. A good UVP can transform dull marketing into inspiration.
To create a UVP, consider the following three components:
- Your target market
- What they need that you can give them
- The unique way your service meets their need
The UVP itself usually has a headline and one or a few supporting statements. There is no UVP formula. Experiment with UVPs until you find the right fit.
The purpose of your UVP is to clarify what you do and the unique way you help customers. Instead of selling service features (i.e., “we have great service”), focus on the service’s core value.
3 Bonus Tips for Selling a Service
Here are a few bonus tips for selling a service.
- Build a brand. A brand is the best way to differentiate. Brand positioning also enables you to build more value for your service. Read this post to learn more about creating a competitive advantage.
- Understand why people pay you. What is it about your service that is so valuable people will pay you for it? The real value of your service is tied to the solution you provide. All your marketing and advertising should focus on these qualities.
- Productize your service. How can you package your service and sell it? Customize service offers that fit specific needs. People love custom solutions.
Who says you have to play by everyone else’s rules? Change the game by redefining what you do. A unique perspective makes selling a service much easier.
Selling tactical services is not the same as selling strategic services. Each requires a specific approach. First, conceptualize your service by creating a UVP. Then, focus on the core value you offer and make it simple for people to understand.
Email your questions to me personally at email@example.com.
Until next time,
More Branding Insights
By Chris Fulmer |
Learn more about brand strategy.
Are you struggling to connect with your audience? Do you want to show them how you're different from competitors?