A service does not exists when you buy it. If you go to a hair salon, you cannot touch or try out a new haircut before you buy it. You order it. Then you get it. As a result, you have to market not only commodities but yourself as well.
Most people equate the word marketing with selling and advertising. Service marketing entails actually marketing the service first before anything else. At the same time, there are great services out there that are floundering because of poor marketing. What is the point of doing a perfect marketing job and delivering a flawed service? This would have to be the best strategy for killing a service company.
The greatest success stories in marketing are by companies who decided not to do what others did or do them a little better, but to do them differently.
If you sit in on any planning session in any business or industry, you will soon see that unless there is a renegade there, most people will want to look at previous performance and then aim to do better. This has to stop working eventually and it does when someone else comes along and starts doing it differently.
One example of an industry that watched it all slip away is the banking industry which has ceded a large portion of its financial domination to insurance companies, mutual funds and in the future, smart cards.
Then there are project managers who have received a lot of the work that architects used to do. Lawyers are faced with retail legal kits that encompass things like wills, instant divorces and dispute tribunals. Printers need to better adapt to digital technology and short print runs or a great portion of their businesses will be lost.
In each of these instances, companies worked out how to do it better. Not differently, but better.
Shopping centres today are a prime example of getting better, not different. They should ask, “Is this viable any more?” “Is this what our customers want?” In the beginning they were convenience and entertainment driven and the concept was unique. Not any more. Entertainment is freely available through TV, cable and the Internet. Food courts were then introduced as a unique concept.
We are now entering a new stage of shopping centres. Is this new stage visible? Certainly not. The centres are following the path of trying to do better. Today you have to surprise the customer. You have to make a quantum leap into something different. Do not give the market only what it needs or wants – Give it what it would like to have.
Marketing departments should take on a secondary importance. There should be a marketing philosophy. This should permeate the whole organisation so that everyone involved feels that their function is a part of the whole and is not taken in isolation. After all, it is true that in any business “If you are not serving a customer, make sure you are serving someone who is.”
You should be planning to have relationships with your customers and not advertising only with the end result in mind – a sale! If you develop relationships with your customers and keep reinforcing them, you would actually feed off your competitors’ badly spent advertising budget.
For example, consider the pizza chains. Most consumers can’t even recollect what chain has advertised on TV. They knew it was a pizza chain, but where possible, they still contacted the supplier they had a relationship with for pizza.
You have to keep innovating. There is much more risk involved but there is a lot of satisfaction and reward at the end of it.
All it takes is a bit of common sense, research and courage.
You don’t have to be the best. By proclaiming that you are throws out a challenge – “prove me wrong”. You can’t please all the people all the time.
You have to be the most willing to try to be the best and you have to portray that attitude of being prepared to do whatever it takes to get there.
There is nothing wrong with asking your customers to develop a relationship with you and help you on the journey.