Marketing services, not products – here’s the basic reason it is different.
Back in the 1950s when marketing first started to become a business discipline, it was all geared around selling actual ‘stuff’.
When you market, ‘stuff’, you have an actual physical product that:
- People can see, touch, smell and possibly even taste
- People can easily experience or view part of it before buying
- Once it is bought, it is very clear what the buyer has and they can show it to others e.g. a house, a pen, a cake.
If you can throw it, I can market it.
Fast forward a few decades and it became clear that marketers were having to sell things that weren’t ‘stuff’. They were things like bank services, mortgages, insurance, advice/consultancy services.
- See these services (can you see an actual mortgage?)
- As easily try before they buy
- Show off what they have bought (hey, look at this great piece of consultancy I’ve bought!).
Marketers were trying to use frameworks to create marketing plans that were designed to market ‘stuff’ rather than ‘services’ or ‘advice’.
For example, the original 4Ps of the Marketing Mix reflected this focus on selling ‘stuff’:
But it was getting tricky – an entire business discipline was geared around selling ‘stuff’ but many marketers had no physical ‘stuff’ to sell.
At this point, Philipp Kotler, the ‘marketing god’, expanded the original 4Ps of the marketing mix to the 7 Ps of marketing.
Kotler articulated what marketers were experiencing – that to market ‘services’ you needed to create what was missing in other ways. You needed to create that tangibility. To give people the ability to see, and experience something that shows them what they are buying.
So, the 4Ps got expanded to 7ps of marketing:
- Physical Evidence
These three extra Ps are the foundation to understanding the key differences between marketing products and services. Moreover, they clearly show the primary reason why marketing services – not products – is different.
Who do you choose? The solicitors’ firm with the smart-looking office front in new paint and the clean windows or the one housed behind a shabby front door with peeling paint and a cracked window pane?
Who do you choose? The Management Consultant with the impressive, professionally laid client portfolio piece that they emailed or the one who sent a rambling email about their past clients?
Physical Evidence is crucial when it comes to showing people the quality of your service. The key is to know what physical evidence you can provide for your service and how it should be portrayed, then to get the balancing act right.
People perceive lawyers to be expensive. We’re mid-range in price. So we wanted to show that we’re professional but affordable. Therefore, client-facing rooms are smart and clean but not furnished with expensive decorations or art that scream, ‘You’ll be paying us a lot of money!’.
We’re an engaging, experienced, yet laid-back consulting firm that enjoys working with down-to-earth business owners – our marketing material has to reflect that. This means we have pens in bright colours but not what you expect – the green pen has red ink, the blue pen has green ink and so on. It reflects our ethos of how we challenge and engage our clients in a slightly quirky way.
Question: What physical evidence do you provide to reassure people about the quality of the service they are getting? Does it do its job well?
In the service industry, people are essential. People make the product: how the Customer Operative spoke to you on the phone, how the receptionist greeted you, and how the accountant made you feel. These people influence your perception of the service because they are a part of it.
With the advent of digital marketing, savvy businesses realised that people are still vital. It is people who are writing and responding to social media posts and comments, operating the online chat and help, and sending emails.
Question: Are all the ‘human’ interactions in your business portraying your service the way they should be? Begin by listing the interactions your clients (and prospective clients) have with people. Now assess each one.
I spent 30 minutes on hold then got cut off.
You’re now sending me a marketing email every day – stop bothering me.
I tried to book an online appointment but your system kept crashing.
I did the online training, but it took forever to load and then crashed before I’d finished.
Great marketing plans can be let down by the processes your organisation uses to communicate and deliver its service.
Question: What do your organisation’s processes say about the quality of your service?
There are many similarities in marketing products and marketing services, but there are also crucial differences. The extended 7 Ps marketing mix provides the foundation to understanding these differences.