When was the last time you purchased something without researching it? While it is has been easy to research products for a while, it is now common to find reviews on landscapers, accountants, doctors and nearly any service you are planning to purchase. And that has changed how consumers and businesses purchase services.
When my wife and I wanted recessed lighting installed in the new home we purchased, I looked for companies on Angie’s List. One of the companies that specialized in recessed lighting had fantastic reviews. So, I scheduled an appointment and got a quote. The price was in line with what we expected, so we hired them.
I was sold before they even showed up. Short of a quote that was much higher than I anticipated, we were going to hire them. This is the new reality for most service businesses.
If you think you need to sell your service, think again. Your customers are going to be much happier if you let them buy rather than feeling like you are selling to them.
So, what does that mean for your marketing? You need to do three things to help prospects become customers:
Let Potential Clients Know You Exist
This is easy for some services. People are regularly looking for accountants, plumbers and mechanics. Others service providers, such as cost reduction consultants, improv trainers, and college planning consultants need to let people know they exist, since a lot of people may never have heard of what they do.
There are myriad ways to do this: online advertising, networking, webinars, referrals partners, print advertising, PR, writing articles, telemarketing, direct mail, and more. The important thing is to find one or two ways that consistently put you in front of the right audience.
Explain How You Are Different
With an endless number of options on the web and people being able to provide many services from anywhere, potential clients have a lot of choices. So, it is critical to show how you are different. One way is specialization: only install recessed lighting, or provide accounting services only to physicians. That shows you have deep knowledge about a specific area.
The other is to focus on the way that you provide your service. For example, we have developed a proprietary process that helps clients develop the Perfect Lead EngineTM by understanding their target market, clarifying their marketing message, and finding the right media to reach prospects. Can other companies help you generate leads? Of course. We just attract clients who are interested in our specific process.
Stay in Front of Potential Clients
Finally, service providers need to find a way to stay in front of prospects until they are ready to buy. For some services, this can be a fast process, such as a car mechanic. For other businesses, it can be measured in months or even years. Two of the most effective ways we have found are to write a regular newsletter with valuable content and retargeted advertising (showing ads specifically to people who have visited your website).
However you do it, you want to stay in front of potential clients in an unobtrusive or helpful way until they are ready to buy. When you shift your focus from one of selling to one of helping your clients buy, you get happier clients and more of them in the long run.
About the Author
Jeff Coleman is the founder of Factor Four Consulting and an instructor at the University of San Diego. He is passionate about helping small and midsize businesses find their points of differentiation and develop a consistent flow of qualified leads. You can read his blog at www.factorfour.com/blog.