According to the Chartered Institution of Marketing, “Marketing is the process that identifies, anticipates, and satisfies customer requirements profitably”. Broadly categorizing, a firm either markets goods or services. Services are intangible, perishable, variable, and inseparable. As the primary feature of a service is its intangibility, it should be marketed with proper planning. The growth of service sector industry has been increasing year by year. The government sector, hospitals, insurance and banking companies, law firms and the innumerable consultancies are all examples of service sector industry.
1.2 Classification of Offerings
A firm may offer any one or more of the following offerings in the market:
Pure Tangible Good – These are the core tangible products like books, furniture, soap, or toothpaste. No services are provided along with it.
Tangible Good along with services – These consists of tangible good and one or more services attached to it. There are many examples to this kind, like gadgets, laptops, cars, which also offer their intangible services like customer care, delivery, and repairs.
Hybrid – This kind of offering are characterized by equal proportion of goods and services. One such example are the restaurants where the food is the product and the hospitality and customer service forms the service and both are equally proportionate and important and are bundled together to form the overall product.
Service accompanying minor goods and services – The major portion of this kind of offering is the service and it is combined with small portions of the tangible product. A classic example of this is when a person buys the air ticket. The transportation is the service for which he paid the amount, but the flight transportation also includes food and other services which make the customer experience more enjoyable.
Pure Service – This entails only the service part and no goods are attached along with it. Such kind of offering is the spa or massage which is a pure service and no tangible offering is attached to it.
Having to market a product is an extremely different concept when compared to services marketing. The marketing strategies that are involved in marketing goods and services also vary to a considerable extent. Becoming a part of the market and having to popularize a business involves several different marketing strategies. These strategies should be carefully planned, effectively implemented, monitored, and then revisited to ensure that it fetches the desired outcome. Thereafter it can be decided whether the same strategies should be continued or does it need any amendment. A calculated risk is always better than an unorganized plan, which is why ‘planning’ is a vital step to marketing success.
2. Defining the Offering
There should be clear and distinct picture of what is being offered to the customers. It is thus important that the following questions needs to be atomically answered before beginning to roll the dice.
2.1 What to Offer
Before even trying to decide what service to offer to the customer it is imperative that the firm understands the customer needs and their behavior and for this, a market research definitely helps. The market research should be conducted not only in the prospective customer base but also in the competitor base.
Conducting research in the prospective customer base gives the firm an idea about the following:
• Customer needs and expectation – Questions which fall under this section is: What are the customer needs and what are his expectations? Are his needs being met? If there is a gap between the customer needs and his expectation, it has to be taken into consideration and the service that the firm will offer should fill that gap. If there is no gap still the service should be designed in way that it exceeds the customer expectations.
• Way to bundle the service – It helps in forming a complete service offering, helps in understanding how to project that service in the market and how to sell it.
After the market research has been conducted, the firm then decides what ‘ingredients’ should it put in the offering basket so that it only has a competitive edge over other similar offerings in the market but it also lures the prospects and engages the customers.
2.2 Whom to Offer
Markets are not homogenous and a firm cannot connect with all the customer segments at once. It is important to divide the population into discreet groups so as to acquire results. This also ensures that the required message reaches those that require the service. Hence it becomes vital to decide those segments in the market which can be served effectively by the firm. Deciding on the exact target segments solves many implications which are later raised due to improper plan. Depending on the segments thus decided, marketing, sales, and promotional plans are laid out. If the firm goes wrong in this phase, then all the efforts and resources which are thus involved in marketing and sales are wasted. There are certain questions which need to be answered at this stage:
• Who are the firm’s latent customers?
• How should the customer be divided?
• How many sub-groups do you divide them into?
• What makes these sub-groups differ?
To obtain information so as to differentiate the different sub-groups can be acquired in a number of different ways namely:
• Media advertising (Blog, Discussion forums etc)
• Sales analysis
• Face to face marketing
• Counter research
3. Promotional strategies for marketing services
3.1 Push and Pull Strategies
The strategies broadly fall under either push or pull category. Push marketing strategy is the process of taking the product to the customers, where as pull marketing strategy is the process of bringing the customers to the product.
Push Strategy: In this strategy, the firm which is offering the service requires to put the effort, so as to get customers. It can involve handing out pamphlet, brochures. Also, face to face introductions prove to be far more effective than any other form of marketing. In this form of marketing, most of the techniques are directed towards reaching out to the prospects and customers. After we apply the push strategy, the generation of profit is most definitely expected, provided sufficient effort has been pooled in.
Pull Strategy: This strategy basically involves the customers or clients actively seeking for the services. It can be made possible in a number of ways such as advertising. With the help of advertising, more people are likely to come across what the firm has to offer. Apart from that word of mouth also proves to be quite effective. Once people are aware of the services provided by the firm, the word tends to get out and further more people begin to talk about it. Providing discounts to the customer also encourages them to purchase the services that you are offering.