The Challenges of Marketing an Intangible

Marketing a product that customers can see, touch, and try before they buy is challenging enough. So how can you market something customers can’t see or feel? How do you turn an intangible idea into something that will connect with people in a hands-on, real-world way? That is often the challenge involved with marketing a service. Here are five tips to help you get started:

  • Focus on answering the question, “What’s in it for me?” Feature lists are all well and good, but for most people the bottom line (THEIR bottom line) is what really matters. If you can show a prospect how your service will benefit them (by saving time, reducing costs, providing security, or eliminating frustration, worry, or doubt), that will go far in convincing them to give you a try.
  • Make it real. Just telling someone how much your service will benefit them isn’t always enough. Back up your claims with tangible, real-world proof. Use testimonials, case studies, and verified statistics whenever you can to help bolster your case. Few things sell confidence better than a success story from a satisfied customer. A testimonial or case study outlining the positive results your service has provided will go a long way toward putting a prospect’s mind at ease about doing business with your firm.
  • Create a strong, positive identity. While your service may be intangible, the words and imagery you use to represent your brand can help you make a positive impression in prospective buyers’ minds. Consider Prudential’s Rock of Gibraltar logo or Allstate’s “good hands.” Each conveys a message of security and dependability — traits important when you’re talking about insurance and investing. Try to create a similar feel with the images and words you use to promote your company.
  • Avoid the temptation to under-price your services. Under-pricing undermines profitability and sends the message that you don’t value your own services as highly as your competitors value theirs. Customers will see this as a sign that your service is inferior in quality or that you lack the experience necessary to help them. If you’re uncomfortable pricing your service competitively, consider a tiered approach, where customers can pay higher premiums for added benefits.
  • Treat yourself — and your company — as the product. In many ways, you are. When customers buy a service, they’re really buying into a company and its people. They’re trusting your knowledge, your skill, your experience, and your integrity to do right by them. Keep that in mind. Use every interaction as an opportunity to reinforce, renew, and reward that trust…and encourage your staff to do the same.

10 Simple Ways Make it Easier for Customers to Contact You

A toll-free number is no longer the standard way for customers to contact you. Customers are bombarded with choices in today’s technology-focused world. If your business doesn’t offer a method of communication that suits your customers’ preferences, they may find another company that does.

Here are 10 tips to make it easy for ALL of your customers to get (and stay) in touch with you:

  • Consider offering a live chat support service option on your website that provides real-time, text-based conversation with someone who can quickly answer questions.
  • Use social media tools such as Facebook and Twitter to communicate with customers. Post helpful information in your stream, and encourage customers to ask questions and provide product feedback.
  • Provide interactive maps that allow people to customize directions to your location, as well as a photo of your building to make your business easier to find.
  • Include any helpful information that may save customers frustration when they try visiting you. For example: “XYZ Road is currently under construction — please use ABC Street instead.”
  • Create a Google+ page to share updates, promotions, links, and photos. This will make it easy for people to recommend your business, products, or services to friends and contacts, while at the same time helping you measure your followers’ interactions.
  • When posting blogs, be sure to offer an area for comments and feedback, as well as contact information, in case the reader has questions.
  • Build trust with online customers by providing your company’s physical address in addition to email, phone, fax, Skype, and support line info on your website’s contact page. Add links to customer forums, your Facebook page, and your Twitter feed, as well, and consider offering a contact form as a convenience for customers.
  • Include, at minimum, your website info, company email, and toll-free phone number on every marketing piece you create, including letterhead, notepads, brochures, flyers, quotes, surveys, etc. Customers who desire additional information will often seek out your website’s contact page.
  • Consider a mobile website designed for smart phones that makes it easy for users to find information about you, regardless of what device they are using.
  • Provide a clear call to action in direct mail, email messages, and other marketing pieces so readers know how to get in touch with you.

We encourage you to contact us anytime if you have questions or comments. We look forward to hearing from you!

Lessons from a Cracked Pot

I’d like to share a story with you that I heard recently. It may be familiar to you, but I think it bears repeating…

Each morning, a servant would carry water to his master’s house from a nearby stream using two large clay pots, hung on opposite ends of a long pole. One of the pots was in perfect condition, but the other had a crack along its side that caused it to leak water. As a result, the cracked pot was only half full by the time the servant reached the house.

This went on for two years before the cracked pot finally gathered the courage to say something to the servant. Feeling embarrassed by what it perceived to be its shortcomings, the pot said, “I want to apologize to you.”

“Why?” asked the servant, confused by the pot’s sorrow.

“For two years, I’ve watched as my partner delivered a full pot of water to your servant’s home each day. Meanwhile, I’ve struggled to deliver just half my load because of this crack in my side. My flaws have caused you to deliver less water than you would have been able to otherwise, and I’m sorry for that.”

At this, the servant smiled. “As we’re walking back to the house today,” he said, “I want you to take a close look around you, particularly at the road.” So the pot did as the servant instructed and was astonished to see a plethora of flowers lining the path below him as they walked.

When they reached the house, the servant asked, “Did you see those flowers?”

“Yes,” the pot replied, “they’re beautiful.”

“Did you notice that they only appeared on your side of the road?” the servant continued. “That’s not a coincidence. You see, I’ve known about your crack all along. Two years ago, I planted seeds along your side of the path. Each day, as we make our way back from the stream, you water those flowers for me. As a result, I’ve been able to create beautiful centerpieces that bring joy to my master’s home. So, you see, what you consider a failure, I consider a great service to my master and his family.”

Like the pot in this story, many of us feel inadequate at times because of our own cracks and flaws. But finding ways to make the most of those imperfections (in ourselves and in those around us) can make our lives far richer and more rewarding.

So where can you plant seeds in your own life to bear flowers? And what can you do to encourage others around you who may be feeling less than adequate today?