Businesses that offer a service have always been popular but now a whole different array of service orientated businesses are run from home. These businesses can include services such as virtual assistants, graphic art, marketing experts to PR consultants. This market of people offering their talents and expertise instead of producing products are, in fact, a large segment of the service industry and contribute millions to the economy every year. It is also a growing sector.
Running a service based business differs from other businesses as you are essentially selling yourself, your talent and expertise. How you do this and how you reach your potential customers will inevitably result in whether your business succeeds or fails.
It is therefore vital for you to know how to deal with your customers and how to position and brand yourself in your market. You need to get across to customers that you are who they need to use!
Marketing a service business is different to marketing a retail outlet. You’ll need to show how your service is better than your competitors, be highly ‘visible’, and by that I mean in the press, online and in your community and also develop a customer base that can be used for referrals, testimonials and word of mouth marketing.
Here are 10 ideas to get you started on marketing your service business effectively.
- Knowing your market is the number one essential rule. You’ll save time, money and effort if you take the time to know who your customers are and what they expect from you. Talk to potential customers, ask them what they’d like you to do, what they expect. Ask questions like “How would you like this to look?” “How would you like this done?” Ask them for their experiences with other services like yours and see what they liked or didn’t like about them. Show that you have an interest in the work you do and listen to potential customers.
- The work you are doing for a customer is very important to them. Let them know what stage of work you are at by either showing them and talking them through it or sending emails to keep them up to date with the progression of the work. Treat your customers with respect and develop a network of happy customers. This is building the foundations of a successful business and the personal relationships you develop are crucially important at every stage in your business’ growth. Your customers ARE your business, they are the most important link in your business success. Always imagine yourself in your customer’s shoes. Keep them happy.
- If you develop a reputation as a dependable service you will always have a successful business. Be a person who keeps their word. If you say the project will be completed on a certain date then do it or don’t say it! If you do offer a deadline then it is up to you to complete the work on time – this might mean working overtime on weekends – it doesn’t matter, the work must be completed on time. Quoting on jobs is something you have to know how to do well. This can cost you valuable time and money if you get it wrong. It is your responsibility – never expect the customer to pay more than the quoted price. Do the work at your own expense and learn from the mistake. Always keep your word to develop a dependable reputation. If you do fall behind the deadline, let your customer know, apologise and assure them you will be working solidly until the project is completed.
- Confidentiality is an important factor is business. Do not discuss any of your customers work with anyone – it is between you and your customer only. Privacy is a given now and if you want to use any part of the job or work for your marketing then you must get the written permission of the customer. This can be from using before and after photos of a job to asking to post a testimonial on your website.
- Ensure your customers that their work and property are protected while in your care. Let them know you are adequately insured, that your privacy policies are in place and that your method of accepting payment is also secure. This can be shown on your website or in any written quotes or emails sent to customers.
You must also protect your own business against professional liability. Professional liability will protect your business if your business causes harm to any individual or business. Without adequate insurance you could be sued for your customers losses, and as a result, your business and even your personal assets could lost.
- You might think that you don’t need a website – well think again. People are using the Internet for searching services they need. More people use the Internet for service searchers than the Yellow Pages, notice your Yellow Pages are shrinking? You can get a website up and running in one day, for free if you like. Your site needs to tell people who you are, what you do, how you can solve their problem, where you are and how they can contact you. You can showcase your best jobs with photos or post some testimonials that show your business is reliable and dependable. A web presence is now an essential part of a service business, don’t lose money because you don’t have one.
- To build a successful reputation you must choose your jobs carefully. Don’t take on more than you can handle because you simply ‘need the work’. This can undermine a good business reputation. If you are confronted with a job ‘out of your league’ then refer the customer to someone who could help them or simply say your schedule is full at the moment. Keep a list of other businesses like yours that are one step ahead of you. Learn from them as you go. If you always remember to ‘under promise and over deliver’ to your customers you will quickly build a base of happy clientele.
- Be generous in spirit. Offer advice, free service, free information etc. Refer your customers to other businesses that they may need to complete projects (these are not your competitors but complimentary businesses). If you see an article that might interest a customer then email it to them. Always thank customers for their business and welcome them back. Be personal by remembering your customers names.
- What makes a customer choose your business over your competitor’s? Most will choose the business that offers the best value for money. Therefore, the best way to win customers is not to reduce your prices, but instead add products or extra services that elevate your offer–making it too good to refuse. This is called “bundling. Take the time to develop a service bundle that will appeal to your customers. For instance you might bundle together a Social Media package if you are a graphic designer.
- Having a comprehensive customer service policy is a good way for you and your employees to develop a consistent service to your customers. Customers are your number one priority. Clear guidelines on how to please and service your customers can be written so everyone knows your expectations.