It wasn’t that long ago when we bought a car with the purpose of the car to be to be sturdy enough to carry us, and our luggage around, for the next 10 years. Four wheels, steering wheel, seats and seat belts, and a decent engine..
Many moons have passed and we now buy cars that not only service us as a car, but also charge our phones, connect to our ‘cloud’ and play us our favorite playlist. It remembers our favorite destinations (can nearly drive us there on its own). It is also monitored - for safety or to be alert for an emergency - by a far distant ‘Personal Assistant’. I kid you not, they exist and happily speak to you and help you determine the best route, or search for a phone number and even call for a reservation for you… before then also storing and programming the route into your car. Are we now buying a car or are we buying a travel leisure service?
The world has moved to such lengths and the car industry may be a pioneer in having moved from a product to a service world whilst still owning high levels of brand choice preference (be honest, you all have preferred car brands… even if you don’t drive it)
Other industries are swamped by companies who sell mere products, and they struggle to make the switch.
So what does it mean to change a product into a service offering?
Here is a simple enough definition.
When buying a product a client will ask: What can you MAKE for me? Whereas when buying a service (which may be based on a product) the client will ask: What can you DO for me? As time is such a high-value commodity, one can say that a service is an added service benefit. For example, a car buyer now buys a comprehensive bundle of service benefits, in addition to the tangible components of the car.
So the added service benefit includes a consult, provides advice pertinent to your own situation, training or education, as well as alleviation of administrative tasks to come with operating a product.
So the key marketer question changes from What am I selling and who to? To : What problem am I really solving? What deeper need am I really addressing?
Consumers have a global choice of products and distributors and no longer require someone physical, in a location far away from their purchase destination to share information they can freely obtain on their own. The buying cycle has changed. Now where does it start, how has it changed, and how can you adapt your product and current sales process to provide a leading service within your industry and not get pushed on price promotion for your product.
So to help you steer your way to a service driven business here are a few strategies that can help you transition or enhance your existing business model.
Steps to build a service based products
As consumer needs and preferences change faster than ever, selling a product alone doesn’t make the cut anymore. To meet the expectations of today’s consumer, companies must create services, which learn and adapt based on behaviour. Many companies have started to use social media as a service tool. Twitter has become a fast response customer service and apps allow you to scan a businesses’ products better and customized to your preferences. However marketers often don’t think beyond an app advertising what they are selling. So a products’ service needs to be more than an app gimmick. It needs to add value to a product that you are selling, not just give you more viewing options.
The moment you provide a service related to your products, you are no longer a marketer. You become a partner.
In order to transition your business, it is crucial to take a step back and look at your target market and really understand the shifts, trends, usage and most of all needs.
Number 1: The Subscription experience.
Services that autonomously improve themselves, services that can be truly customized and eventually make a move from a product experience to the subscription experience have become a main game changer in a companies financial and business model.
Moving from selling a ‘good’ to selling ‘time’ is a great start to changing a financial model. The Economist was quick to realise that print no longer cuts the mustard an offers its content in varying subscription models to its clients. They choose from the get go how much they want to read and can pay according to their consumption. They still pay monthly and annually and are more likely to renew as they get what they paid for and can consume.
Number 2: Add a complementing service
Look at your good and evaluate what services would be complementing the application, sale, and entire consumer life-cycle of that good. Ask yourself, what else can you do that adds value? Elevate the experience through educational experiences, which can reinforce the core business whilst further addressing customers’ needs. Is there a possibility of creating an interactive demonstrative environment where customers can interact? Or a personalised customer service that is charged at a premium but can save the client time and money? Piece together a more holistic set of services and products using a broader view od users’ needs, including how yu price and finance the offering.
Number 3: Become great at prototyping
In a world where every year new responsive technology is creating more customized ways to fulfil customers’ needs, being quick and ‘trial and error’ have become an important part. Inside an organisation this needs to be managed with expert project management skills and empowered employees and leader who have authority to take decisions as part of achieving the greater ambition of the business. The process requires to develop service based tools and services basic framework and let your customers interact and feedback. Adopt the necessary changes before roll out. Important is to use this process to gauge price, preferences and customers’ expectations. This dialog builds trust and reinforces your company values and most of all the promise you made to your customers.
Number 4: Develop relevant content and thought leadership
A marketing and PR driven method is to write about your expertise. Author a blog or a news page that covers developments, applications from different areas, announces new discoveries and heroes your people. This helps to personify your product but also interact with your target audience. Subscribers to your blog are instantly becoming likely customers. Your content needs to be well crafted and relevant so you keep targets in the buying cycle loop. Be careful with commenting sections and ensure you paint a picture in your blogs about the bigger picture. Herewith we mean that your product fits into an ecosystem and is generally part of solving a bigger problem. Show empathy and understanding. And customers will turn to you for help.
Number 5: Vamp up your Account Managers skills
Account Management has drastically changed. An account manager today has to consult a client, collate data of the client experience to evolve and improve the client’s experience at every stage of their customer cycle and win more business, whilst all along truly representing their business’ values and purpose. Training your team to not sell to existing client but consult them on upgrades, as well as developing a fast response process that enables them to implement feedback related improvements and taking time sensitive decisions is key.
A final word is to remember that research is gold. Understanding the shifting and changing needs of your market is important as well as being aware of what other industries are up to. But most importantly is listening to your existing customers and your workforce. Conducting internal surveys in employee satisfaction and developing measures to ensure each of your people acts like a brand ambassador can have a great impact on revenue and is a vital step towards creating a successful service focused business.
To help you get there, we would suggest looking at the following training and mentorship programs.
KEY ACCOUNT MANAGEMENT
Please remember that we also offer academies, where different modules will be taught throughout the year in a coherent and interactive, on the job learning process. These academies provide a partnered approach to changing your process and improving effectiveness.
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