Despite the fact that marketing is one of the most important fundamental processes of any business, many business managers fly by the seat of their pants with their marketing strategy. Developing a professional services marketing strategy is like designing a blueprint for a house - the blueprint lays out how the house will be built, taking into account considerations like the needs of the future inhabitants and the environment in which the house will be built.
A good place to start in developing your marketing strategy is the 4 P's of marketing, first developed by E. Jerome McCarthy in 1960: Product (or service), Price, Promotion and Place. Although much has changed since 1960, a marketing strategy built around the 4 Ps complemented by SMART goals and marketing analytics is a good way to formalize your marketing strategy. So here are some tips on how to nail your marketing strategy basics.
Develop your product/service strategy
Even if you have an established business with a mature product or service, it's always a good idea to formalize your product/service strategy. For your business to be successful, there has to be a need for your product or service in which a sufficient number of customers are willing to pay a price for it that allows you to be profitable.
Ask yourself questions like:
- What problem/opportunity does my product/service solve or offer customers?
- Who needs my product? Are there enough potential customers for my business to be successful? (Is there a marketing for product/service?)
- How is my product different/better than alternatives available to the customer?
- Should I have different products for different markets?
I'm a strong advocate of focusing on niches based on industry, company size or geography, particularly for SMB companies. I recommend developing your product/service strategy with a specific target market in my mind.
Focus your pricing strategy
It's critically important to get your pricing strategy right - you need to find a price that customers are willing to pay that produces sufficient profit for your business to keep moving forward. Price too high and you won't get any customers; price too low and you will go out of business.
Here are some things to think about when developing your pricing strategy:
- What is the perceived value of my produce/service? (What are my target customers willing to pay for my product/service?)
- What do competitors charge for products/services that solve a similar need? Note - you will likely have direct or indirect competitors. Indirect competitors solve the same problem in a different way. For example, a business looking to generate sales leads could hire an inbound marketing agency or hire a telemarketing firm.
- What is your cost of providing the product/service? Do you have any cost advantages that will allow you to undercut your competition?
- Should you have different product/pricing strategies for different markets?
- Should you have different ways to pay for your services? For example, our inbound marketing agency offers montly retainers to outsource marketing and hourly consulting rates for businesses that don't want to fully outsource their marketing.
In implementing your pricing strategy, you can fine-tune things as you gather more data. For new businesses, don't underprice your services to get business - this will almost surely lead to problems down the road.
Which marketing channels will you use? (Place strategy)
This part of your strategy nails down the different ways you will sell your products. I'm a strong advocate of an integrated marketing strategy - in other words, don't put all your eggs in one basket. Here are some thoughts to consider when deciding which marketing strategies you will pursue:
- In my opinion, all services businesses should have an inbound marketing/content marketing channel. Why? Because the Corporate Executive Board found that the average buyer completes 57% of her sales process before ever contacting a sales person. How are they doing this? By conducting pre-purchase research on the web and social media networks. If a potential buyer doesn't find you when they're conducting research, your chances of selling to them are very small.
- Every business owner or salesperson should incorprorate networking as a formal marketing channel with a strategy and SMART goals that can be measured. Networking can be done face-to-face or online (think LinkedIn.)
- Partnerships or affiliate marketing strategies can also be an effective marketing channel. Look for opportunities to partner with non-competing businesses with similar target markets.
- A direct sales force is a key marketing channel for most businesses.
Promotion is the 4th P
Promotion, or how you will present your products and services to your target market, is the last basic to nail down for your marketing strategy. You can think of promotion as how you will maximize results in your marketing channels. Here are some things to consider in your promotion strategy:
- Paid advertising can be an effective promotional strategy. Whether it be social media advertising, search engine advertising or traditional advertising, this channel can give you access to potential buyers that you normally wouldn't be exposed to. Keep in mind that paid advertising is like renting your audience - when you stop paying, you lose your audience. Another thing to keep in mind is that it's difficult to measure the impact of traditional advertising on your bottom line.
- For social media and inbound marketing, think of promotion as the how of your inbound marketing strategy. For example, you might post blog posts on LinkedIn as a means of generating leads. You might offer discounts on Facebook to attract new customers.
- For services businesses, a formal strategy to generate referrals is an effective way to promote sales. What's better than a recommendation from a satisfied customer to help you sell your services?
Keep in mind that this is a basic discussion of a very complicated process. But it should give you a platform to begin developing a formal marketing strategy for your business that will keep everybody pulling in the same direction. By setting SMART goals and measuring progress against them, you can continually iterate your marketing strategy in a process of continual improvement. Need some help developing your strategy? Schedule a free consultation.