Services are very different from products. So the marketing concepts, i.e. the marketing mix, needs to be revisited while marketing a service. Services can range from financial services provided by the banks, technology services provided by the IT company, food and ambiance as a service provided by restaurants or even a blog where an author provides a service (information presentation, interesting reading etc) to his audience. Services marketing mix is predominantly governed by the 7 Ps of marketing namely Product, Price, Place, Promotion, People, Process and Physical evidence. The 7 P framework is one of the most popular framework for deciding a marketing strategy, right from strategy formulation to actual implementation. In this article, we will explain the services marketing mix (i.e. the 7 P framework), while explaining how they may be used to market a knowledge based service like a blog.
Knowledge based services like blogs, consultancy services and knowledge portals need to be managed and marketed very uniquely. The attributes and benefits of such offerings are essentially intangible and thus creating even a greater challenge for the marketing manager to communicate and strategize the roadmap. The services marketing mix theories like the 7 P framework for services marketing is one of the popular approaches for the marketing of such information services. However, before applying such popular theoretical frameworks, the marketing manager should also be exposed to the potential limitations of these theories and frameworks.
In this article, we will explain how the 7 P framework (Product, Price, Place, Promotion, People, Process and Physical evidence) for services marketing can be applied for the development of the marketing strategy blueprint for Information Services.
- Product is your core offering which in this case is your information service, which may be your blog or consulting service. This is the “product” that will fulfill the needs of your potential customers and needs to be defined really well in terms of the core attributes and also in terms of extended attributes. If your product design is faulty, in terms of fulfilling the expectations of your customers in terms of core and extended attributes, every marketing strategy will fail. The attributes of the product, vis-a-vis the attributes offered by competing products and substitutes, are important in estimating the competitive scenario for the strategy formulation, especially when the attributes in question are intangible.
For example, if you are a consultant in WordPress, and offer advice on WordPress implementation problems, it is important to highlight the services you offer most frequently, e.g. database recovery, WordPress installation, malware cleaning and so on. Similarly it is important to specify explicitly the limits of your consulting expertise and offerings (i.e. that you do not work on Joomla).
- Price has a lot of impact on the service buyer’s satisfaction level. Often, paying a higher price for information services makes a customer more satisfied. It is important to note that information services being all the more intangible, price is often considered a proxy for quality and vice-versa, and quality is a key determinant of acceptance of any information service. The bundling strategy undertaken during pricing for the attributes plays a key role in the consumption decision making process. Also, it is important to price offerings as a packet, which can be purchased separately.
For example, if you are a WordPress consultant, you may like to mention specifically the consultation charges for database recovery, WordPress installation, malware cleaning and so on, in your website, so that the base expectation can be set easily. Also, you should account for competition while pricing your offerings.
- Place often offers a relatively lower value (utility) to the customer of information services. However, for consulting services, consultants may need to provide physical evidence, by visiting the consumer’s “place”.
For example, if you provide consultation in WordPress, this would have very little significance. However, if you provide information on Location Based Services, place utility would be of utmost importance for your customers. So you must be able to provide your information, at the touch of a mobile handset.
- Promotion plays a key role in the perception the possible target audience may have about your service. There has to be a fit between the promotion and the positioning. Promotion leads to service (brand) recognition and further establishes a proxy to evaluate quality of services based by potential customers. Where exactly you are promoting your offering creates a major impact on the brand and quality perception of the offering.
For example, if you are a WordPress consultant, it would be important to find the right websites to advertise your offerings. You may decide to go for advertisement opportunities in Web design & Search Engine Optimization blogs, but it would not be a great fit, if you started advertising in travel and tourism blogs.
- People are crucial in service delivery when the offering is intangible. Since the actual service provider is often not visible, creating artifacts through photos of the experts creates the element of trust. Consumers prefer to see a “human face” in the email contact details rather than a blank space or an emoticon.
For example, if you are a WordPress consultant, you may need to interact with your customers mainly when they are in a crisis. So being emphatic about the issues on hand will go a long way in developing relationships. While writing emails, ensure that there is a positive smiling face associated with the email id. Always try to assure your customers that the best will be done for them, even if sometimes situations may be challenging.
- Processes are important to deliver a quality service. Information services being intangible, processes become all the more crucial to ensure standards are met with. Process mapping ensures that your service is perceived as being dependable by your target segment. It is of utmost importance, how fast the consumer’s issues get redressed, which directly impacts the customer’s satisfaction with the service and impacts the “Customer’s Network Value”. Not only attending a concern is important, but how quickly, effectively and efficiently is the consumer’s concerns are getting addressed and closed, plays a major role in the management of the relationship.
For example, if you are a WordPress consultant, it helps if you can maintain a targeted time within which you address the complaints. Websites lose valuable traffic and potential customers (and worse still, search engine visibility) if they are dysfunctional, due to any reason (e.g. malware attack). It helps a lot if you try to assure your customers that the best will be done for them, even if sometimes situations may be challenging. Further, ensuring that the process of complaint redressal happens fast and issues are addressed within the turnaround time, is important. Service Level Agreements are an important aspect, and needs to be adhered to.
- Physical evidence majorly affects the customer’s satisfaction but in case of information services, it plays a dicey role. Since information services are intangible, customers depend on other cues to judge the quality of the offering. Factors such as accreditation, stamps, and seals create trust in the minds of the consumer.
For example, if you are a WordPress consultant, it would be helpful, if you can post few success stories as case studies (if not all). The client may not have a problem, since he is getting a free backlink, but it will go a long way to establish your credentials. Similarly, if you have options for online payment, having the a online seal (e.g. PaisaPay, Paypal, WorldPay etc) will go a long way to reassure the validity of your offerings and the trust on your website.
Marketing of information services is that elusive concept which stays incomplete without a thorough understanding of 7 Ps. These form the critical success factors for any service as evaluated by a possible customer and a detailed understanding of these theories are critical for the success for such services. Do let me know if you have any queries.