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Global competition means selling your services is more important than ever.

It’s time businesses acknowledge their margins depend not on product markup, but on the service that products come wrapped in. From  a helpful sales assistant to ultra-fast delivery options, it’s these value-add features that now influence customer’s decisions on who to buy from.

 

If you’re business has been growing for some time, the chances are you’ll have come across the famous ‘marketing mix’, in one form or another. It’s a framework for breaking your marketing activity down, under the headings of product, price, place and promotion. That’s all good and well, but in today’s inter-connected market, there are a few more things to consider. It’s likely your business, however product focused, will have elements of services included too. Are you a furniture retailer? What instore experience do you offer? Run a petrol station? How simple is the checkout process?

 

Value-add services matter. Image courtesy of Flickr user DJ_Switch.

 

As connection to the internet reaches further and wider, both demo and geographically, so consumers become better informed. Traditional, locally protected markets can no longer price their goods in isolation, as products become ever more commoditised; not only in an online, but also in an offline retail space.

 

Now, more than ever, retailers and product marketers’ margins are shifting from product transactions (where Google Shopping and Amazon makes sure the cheapest supplier wins the sale) to additional, value added services. Consumers may hunt for the cheapest product price, but will choose to pay a premium for a guarantee, a great instore experience, or faster, reliable shipping options. As popular eBayers will no doubt have experienced, the £1.99 Mp3 player from China seems like a great bargain, but two-months-and-a-customs-form later, and a trip to Curry’s seems like an attractive option again.

 

 

With margins shifting from product transactions to service benefits, resellers increasingly need to embrace three additional ‘P’s’ – that make up the less well known services marketing mix. As well as product, price, place and promotion, to build a value-add service offering businesses should consider People, Processes, and Physicals.

 

People

Each and every human touch-point between your business and your customer will shape their experience, and influence their perception. Good sales staff are a worthy investment, but great support staff even more so. Training and tactical recruitment are key – as is the way you advertise your people to the customer.

 

Process

Think about the interfaces, systems and step-by-step processes a customer goes through in delivering your services. If ‘service’ is simply a checkout procedure instore, create an experience that’s an enjoyable extension of your shop, rather than a laborious queue. Online, there’s no excuse for the fun of the shopping experience to die, when the customer grabs their credit card. Continue to engage them, and reward them with great imagery of the thing they’re paying for.

 

Physicals

Where the magic happens. The physical part of delivering a service includes all the tangible elements, that aren’t consumed by the customer. In a hairdressers, it’s the swanky sofas and mags to flick through while you wait. In the post office, it’s the forms, the signs, and the environment of the building.

 

 

Whatever your business, stop and consider this. If you’re feeling the pressure to compete on price alone, how do your services create added value?

Posted on June 1st, 2012

About Dave Hayhurst

Dave is head strategist and account manager at Marriage. He has extensive experience in consumer marketing, from executing campaigns in the national press, direct mail with Sky TV and digital marketing in the mobile app space.

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