Because I’ve spent time at both product and service companies, I keep getting asked what the difference is between marketing products and services. For a year, I’ve been saying that they are more similar than you might think. So, I’ve finally collected some of my thoughts on the issue. Since I started in the product space, and because I’ve spent more time there, this is really directed at explaining how product marketing can inform the way services are marketed.
DIFFERENCES BETWEEN PRODUCT & SERVICE MARKETING
â€¢Â Â Â Tangibles
â€¢Â Â Â Buyer can experience first hand by trying them out
â€¢Â Â Â Collateral focuses on claims, benefits, features, and price
â€¢Â Â Â Product samples
â€¢Â Â Â Intangibles
â€¢Â Â Â Buyers rely on second hand experience (testamonials, case studies, etc)
â€¢Â Â Â Collateral focuses on unique value propositions (quality, speed, flexibility, etc)
â€¢Â Â Â Case studies, testimonials, brown bags
SIMILARITIES BETWEEN PRODUCT & SERVICE MARKETING
â€¢Â Â Â Tell meaningful stories about your product or service.
â€¢Â Â Â Marketing leaders act as an internal advocate for the customer.
â€¢Â Â Â Focus on building an emotional connection with your brand.
ON SELLING SERVICES … LIKE A PRODUCT MARKETER
Service companies must make their intangible offerings feel as tangible as possible. This is one area in which product marketers can inform the development of a services marketing strategy. One way to do this is to focus on developing tangible artifacts that you can embed in your sales process. Include everything from samples of recent work, to case studies, articles, testimonials, and white papers. Use artifacts to foster conversation and build relationships as the primary driver of any service sale. Remember, clients are not just buying work hours or deliverables, they are buying a relationship. That said, the best product marketers go beyond the products they manufacture to build long-term relationships and emotional connections with their brands (think of Brandon Schaur’s Long Wow) …. which means many of the most engaging products enable, you guessed it, services!
To convince prospective customers that a service is different and better on some meaningful dimension, marketing should be focused on the communication of a particular philosophy of service delivery (and benefits of the service to the buyer). This is what gets embedded in communications guidelines, standard collateral, selling points, sales decks, etc.
One significant difference between product and service marketing (at least high-end service companies) is that product-based marketing is typically more price-centric, while most high-end service providers do not compete on price. This is counter-productive because there will always be a cheaper option. Unless volume sales are the driver of your business strategy, price-cutting is probably not an effective approach to attract buyers.
While competing on price is not an appropriate driver for most service companies, it does not mean that the presentation of your pricingÂ cannot have a significant impact on sales. In fact, offering pricing options can garner greater attention during a clientâ€™s bid review process, fosters additional conversation and opportunity to build rapport, and can lead to service up-selling opportunities. For more information on how pricing can have behavioral impacts during the sales process refer to Dan Arielyâ€™s book Predictably Irrational (this link will take you to a series of videos in which Ariely lays out many of the ideas from his book, along with links to the original research papers).Â Some of the research Ariely presents explores the impact that sales collateral, visual presentation, and environment can have on decision-making. This speaks to how making services more tangible can drive decision-making behaviors your way.
If you’re a native service marketer, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this …. there is certainly no question that many product marketers could learn something about building relationships from y’all!