This week I was reminded that services marketing can be an elusive beast. While many of us are well versed in the SMART (Specific, Measured, Achievable, Realistic and Time Framed) principles of marketing what is it specifically about services marketing that makes it so challenging? According to Summers et al ‘Services have four defining characteristics that distinguish them from goods. They are intangibility, inseparability, heterogeneity and perishability’.
This basically means that they cannot be touched before being purchased (intangible), are not separated from the service provider (inseparable), not standardised (heterogeneity) and they have a limited life ie: Beauty therapists sell services based on predetermined time allocations. If these ‘time slots’ are not sold they are unable to recoup them.
For me as a service provider and as a user of services the most important element is the inseparability. I believe that the rest of the characteristics are invariably linked. How does this relate to marketing you ask? If the most important element is the service provider then marketing needs to be around them and how they are perceived. The intangible and heterogenity elements of the services will be perceived by the potential customer as a direct result the only tangible evidence that they have. That is the service provider themselves. Whether this is a shop front, an individual or an internet based service the initial tangible experience that the consumer receives will effect the expectation they have of the business.
So while knowing who your target market is, how you would like to engage them and how you intend to measure your marketing is important, remembering that the potential customer can only make decisions based on the quality of your intial interaction with them is vital. As for perishablity if you can manage to harness the other three elements then this should become less of a problem.
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