There's no shortage of advice about which strategies work or don't work for services marketing, yet they seem to conflict with each other regularly. So what's the scoop? Which strategies work?
It's less a question of which ones work than a question of which ones will work for you given the dynamics of what you sell. Answering that question requires many considerations, but there's one that many firms overlook: whether the service they offer is demand-driven or demand-driving.
Determining Which Type of Service You Offer
With a demand-driven service, regardless of what you do for marketing you have to wait for the need to arise before you have a current opportunity to sell something.
Let's say you're a litigation attorney. You can market and sell your heart out, but until someone gets sued or decides to sue... that person is not hiring you or anyone else.
No matter how good a salesperson a structural engineer might be, it's unlikely you will hire that engineer to inspect your house's foundation unless you find a crack.
It's not hard to understand the concept of demand-driven: Until it is actually needed, it is not needed (or wanted, or purchased).
With a demand-driving service, however, you can create opportunities and influence people to purchase your service whether or not it is yet on their radar. In fact, they may not even know the service exists.
Some consulting firms will approach a company's chief financial officer with a free service that will analyze the company's telephone and Internet spending and renegotiate contracts with the telecommunication companies on the client's behalf. If they save the client substantial dollars, the consultants take a 20% cut of the savings.
Consider another example: We know a firm that will investigate a company's entire history of insurance policies and then pursue the insurance companies for reimbursement for matters covered under those policies that the company didn't even know were still covered. (They even have a term for such a service: insurance archaeology.)
In both of those examples, the firms offer demand-driving services.
The idea of demand-driving services is a little more complicated than that of demand-driven services, but not much. A demand-driving service is needed, is wanted, and will provide substantial value—but the prospective client may not perceive any need. You may have to bring it up for the client to see it.
Marketing Demand-Driven Services
When you're marketing a demand-driven service, you need to build your Brand RAMP, and top-of-mind awareness (TOMA) with buyers and referral sources so you can capture opportunities at the elusive time of need (ETON).
Since you often can't predict when the need will arise, you have to be positioned to be considered when it does. That means either the buyer knows about you and thinks of you when the need arises, or a referral source will mention you when asked.
For demand-driven services, use the Brand RAMP as your guide. You need buyers to...
- Recognize you and your firm.
- Articulate what you do and how you help people like them solve problems like theirs.
- Memorize what you do so you have top-of-mind awareness (TOMA) at the elusive time of need (ETON).
- Prefer to get help from you rather than other sources.
As you run your marketing and selling process, you'll occasionally run into short-term leads when a prospect says, "You know, you called at the right time," or "I was just meaning to get in touch with you!"
That's great when it happens, but too many service firms are disappointed when their marketing activity "doesn't create demand" when, indeed, it can't. It can only skim demand and position you to be in place and considered when demand happens.
But your marketing efforts will work... over time. The best firms methodically and efficiently increase their referral bases, the leads that come over the transom directly from buyers, and their ability to win deals as their brand reputation grows through their marketing and selling activities.
Marketing Demand-Driving Services
When marketing a demand-driving service, you should also focus on the entire RAMP, but often R and A are more important than M.
People selling a demand-driving service frequently say to us, "Just get me in front of the right titles at the right companies, and I'll be able to sell the value of what we do whether they were thinking about it today or not... and they'll buy!"
That's why R and A are so important. You need to get on the radar because prospects can't buy if they don't know you exist (recognition), and they won't buy if they don't know how you help people like them solve problems like theirs (articulation).
Assuming they understand the return on investment of what you do, see the benefits as compelling enough, and believe you'll be able to generate the results you say you will, you're in great shape.
Your marketing is likely to look much different, however, than that of demand-driven firms. You'll be on a mission to pitch, to educate, and to persuade. Now you might pitch with tact, eloquence, and a well-conceived and crafted strategy, but you're still pitching and you should be.
Does that mean you should forget about the rest of the Brand RAMP? No, of course not.
You'll need to warm up some buyers for years before they'll be willing to talk to you. Others will have things on their plates and won't be willing to consider what you have to say.
But if you can get them to memorize what you do and prefer to work with you when their circumstances allow it, you'll keep winning new conversations and deals over time.
And, of course, you may also get referrals, but many demand-driving firms don't get them as often as demand-driven firms.
Know the Difference
In the end, the fundamental difference between demand-driven services and demand-driving services comes down to the elusive time of need. With demand-driven services, you never know whether the ETON will arrive while you are reaching out and positioning yourself to be considered.
With demand-driving services, the ETON is now... I just need to get you to see the need, know that I can meet it, and believe that I am the one who can get it done.