Services and products are not the same in a number of ways. As a result, service marketing is different from product marketing.
Understanding service marketing vs product marketing will help you develop better marketing strategies for your service offerings.
Services Are Intangible
A product has physical characteristics, such as shape, weight, color, texture, etc. A product is tangible. For instance, a car, a washing machine, a computer, a widescreen TV, a pair of jeans, etc., are all examples of tangible objects. In simple terms, you can put a product in a box.
A product provides benefits to the user because of what it does, the functions it performs.
On the other hand, a service offering has no physical size, shape, color, or weight. You can experience a service or see the result, but the service itself is intangible. For instance, IT services, legal services, car repair services, web design services, etc., are clearly intangible. You cannot put a service in a box.
Services are performed, not manufactured
The benefit to the client of a service comes from an activity performed by one or more people, not from a physical object.
Although equipment, tools, etc., may be involved in the process of creating the service, it’s the end result that the customer is looking for.
For instance, although a car mechanic uses tools and parts to fix a car, but what the customer is really buying are the mechanic’s experience, skills, and labor to get the car fixed.
While an attorney relies on their education, law books, legal databases, etc., what their client is looking for is the attorney’s expertise. What they’re really buying is the resolution of their legal problems.
Services cannot be kept in inventory
Another key difference between services and products is that it’s impossible to create an inventory of service offerings. You just can’t create an inventory of, for instance, root canal treatments, haircuts, oil changes, legal advice, or consulting projects.
You cannot put a service on a shelf, waiting for distribution and delivery to the customer at a later time.
Services cannot be returned or undone
Once a service has been provided, it cannot be undone or returned. You cannot “undo” a haircut, a paint job, a medical procedure, or legal advice.
If the service was not provided properly or if the customer is not satisfied, the service provider may try to remedy the situation. If at all possible, they could try to fix the problem by redoing the service to fix the problem or perhaps offering a refund. But, the service initially provided cannot be erased.
Service Marketing Requires a Different Approach
Since services and products are not the same, you have to approach service marketing differently. Understanding service marketing vs product marketing is key to the success of your service marketing initiatives.
Clearly define the offering
It’s important to state clearly what the service offering is all about to help the customer determine whether this is the right solution for them. Make sure that the right benefits are offered, to the right customers, and for the right reasons.
A good service definition is very helpful for selecting your target markets. In addition, it helps employees to understand what the firm does and for which customers.
In the service delivery process customers are often active participants. It is important to manage their expectations of what will be provided and to clarify what their role is. A service description can make this clear.
Unlike products, services do not offer customers visual clues about function, performance, and benefits. A good service description makes it easier for customers to understand what the service is all about, the process, the value, and the benefits.
Without this information, the customer may not understand the service well enough to be able to make the purchase decision. A service description should clearly state:
- What the service is
- Why it’s important
- How the service is provided
- Who the service is for
- Benefits of the service
Also, a clearly documented service description helps employees who deal directly with customers as well as those “behind-the-scenes” employees to understand what the service is about and the role they play in the process. It sets a standard and can serve as a training tool.
Marketing Mix for Services – The 7 P’s
Building further on service marketing vs product marketing, developing a marketing strategy for a service starts with what we know about product marketing and adds some elements.
You’re probably familiar with the traditional “4 P’s” marketing mix used by product marketers:
These 4 Ps are the cornerstone of your marketing mix. But, realizing the difference between service marketing and product marketing, three more elements need to be added:
- Physical Evidence
Employees interacting directly with customers need to have the proper training, skills, tools, and attitudes to provide the service, effectively and efficiently. In addition to technical skills, they should know how to deal with people, have good communication skills, and be focused on the customer.
These hard and soft skills not only streamline the delivery process but also improve the quality and value of the service as perceived by the customer.
Another aspect is the service delivery process. Well-defined and documented processes ensure that the service is delivered in a consistent manner. This is important for efficiency as well as for service quality. Proper documentation of the service delivery process makes it easier to train employees.
Customers perceive a service where everything goes smoothly as a sign of quality.
The final “P” – physical evidence – deals with anything ‘tangible’ about your services business, such as the appearance, location, and cleanliness of your facility, the appearance of the reception area, the look and feel of your company’s website, documents produced, etc. It even applies to how your employees behave, dress, and interact with the customer as well as with each other.
Keep in mind that customers notice if your business facility is not clean, safe, well-lit, or properly maintained. Your office has to look the part and match your firm’s positioning and branding. Make sure that each and every interaction of your clients with your firm matches that image.