Marketing can be a challenge for many Service Industry businesses.
That’s OK: it’s a challenge for lawyers, accountants, engineers and nuclear physicists too (Really! I’ve seen it).
What Does “Marketing” Mean to You?
Marketing is unlike most things we do because it focuses on perception and appearance. People have misconceptions about marketing too, and it has a (sometimes deserved) reputation for dishonesty. But when running a business, you need to push these ideas aside. Marketing is just another name for telling your customers Who You Are and What You Do.
The Two Sides.
I look at marketing as the combination of two halves. One half is your Message (“What” you say). The other half is your Tactics (“How” and “Where” you say it).
You need both halves to make it work, but too many companies neglect their message and give all their attention to finding good tactics. But before you jump in, you should think about the message first.
The job of your marketing message is to create the “face” your company presents to the world. This face is only as accurate as you make it, and unethical people abuse this power. But if used right, marketing provides an advantage by bringing you more of the right kind of customers.
A Good Marketing Message Does…
There are a hundred ways to do bad marketing, but good marketing has a few things in common:
- It puts your best foot forward, emphasizing the things that are best about your company.
- It creates an image that’s clear and easy to understand, so it doesn’t confuse customers.
- It doesn’t mislead customers about who you are, what you do, or what they can expect if they hire you.
I’ve spent the past several years observing our customers in industries like Landscaping, Lawn Care, Asphalt Maintenance, and Snow & Ice Management, and I have a simple insight I think is valid enough to share.
When you’re marketing your service industry business, don’t try to be everything to everyone. …Specialize!
Every service-based company has jobs that are its specialties. Even big companies with lots of experience, who might be able to “Do It All” are better at some things than at others.
Companies who say they “Do It All”, are marketing themselves to appeal to every type of potential customer. They want to cast a big net and they’ll figure it out if they win the work.
I think this is a mistake for a few reasons.
Firstly, saying that you do 10 services isn’t a great way to sell to someone only interested in 1 service. If your face to the world says “We Do It All”, you miss the chance to say “We do THIS, and we’re really good at it”.
Secondly, when this big net strategy does work, it can bring you work that’s unfamiliar and challenging to do.
Also, by forcing your business to try to do everything, you make it harder for teams to become true experts at doing one thing.
Play To Your Strengths
So maybe you should focus on the things you do best, when you tell your customer who you are.
Sealcoating companies are great about staying on message about their specialization. They might do minor asphalt repairs, but they attract clients who are primarily looking for sealing work.
Companies that make their revenue cutting grass are often pretty good at this too. They might do other things, but they tell customers they mow grass all day, and they work for customers who need this specialized ability. Everything else is incidental.
It Doesn’t Limit You
Telling the world you’re a design-build specialist doesn’t mean you can’t do maintenance, and promoting yourself to commercial customers doesn’t mean you can’t work residential too. Nobody says you can’t do all the jobs and work for all the clients.
But how you present yourself can make it more likely that specific types of customers (The ones that are best for you) will call you.
Give Your Company a Consistent “Face”
The “face” you give your company through marketing will tell potential customers many things about you. You should decide early on how you want to answer these three basic questions.
- Who do you work for? – Homeowners, Corporations, HOAs, DOTs? Present yourself to appeal to your target customer first.
- What kind of work do you do? – Select a cornerstone service to name first. Some examples:
- “Sealcoating, and Related Services”. – Emphasis on Sealcoating.
- “Mowing and Landscape Services”. – Emphasis on the “Lawn” side.
- “Landscaping and Lawn Care”. – Emphasis on the “Landscape” side.
- What kind of provider are you? – What is your value proposition? Are you a discount provider, a reliable middle-of-the-road-er, or a high-end, confidence provider? See: What Are You Selling
Everything your customer sees “about” your company gives them clues about one or more of these questions. Be consistent about the answers you’re giving, and you’ll build an image they’ll understand.
Getting it Done.
Be consistent about who you are and what you do in everything that’s customer-facing.
The hardest part is having the discipline to stay on message. Your signage, ads, website, Facebook page etc… All should be clear about what your focus is, and that’s how customers will see you.
Are you a generalist or a specialist? How is that working out? Let us know in the comments?