Service Business Secrets: Branding!
It's not a secret.
It's a simple execution of consistent performance, backed by the customer's ability to trust you.
Several of our recent posts have discussed customer service. We are service companies, after all. Yes, even us software developers up here in Minnesota consider ourselves to be in the service business. We make a product (and it’s a damn good one, though we’re biased), but it’s our commitment to our customers on an ongoing basis, the service we provide in training and support, that is a core element to what we do.
For our customers - be it the Green industry (lawn care, landscaping, and irrigation businesses), HVAC companies, fire and security businesses, plumbers, electricians, and so forth – it’s not the products they install but the services they provide that set them apart from their competitors.
For any service business, but particularly SMB (small and medium business), word-of-mouth marketing is a crucial component to the marketing mix. And while there are a lot of innovative ways to generate referrals, the only sustainable way is to provide excellent service that customers trust.
And that, my friends, is branding.
Branding is not a magic trick. It’s not even that complicated. It is consistency. It is providing a regularly exceptional experience to your customers.
It starts with the simple things: a uniformed employee, seeing a well-designed logo present on all communications, and courtesy over the phone. And as you do more for a customer – provide more services – you gain the opportunity to impress them again and again with your consistent performance.
A few years ago I worked with a regional electrical distributor, promoting HindSite at a series of business education workshops. One of the educators was Steve Eickman from Anchor Marketing. He was giving a “Marketing 101” course, and he had a great description of how branding works.
To paraphrase: Branding is essentially how people feel about your company. But it’s not a switch, it’s not “ON” or “OFF.” Think of it as a meter. When you show up on time, speak knowledgeably, have a clean appearance, the meter goes up. When you forget a return visit, bill the wrong amount, or get their name wrong, the meter goes down.
Every single time an employee talks to a customer, or is seen by a customer wearing or affiliated with your logo, you are actively branding yourself. The more efficient, professional, and customer-friendly your operations are, the better your brand will be. The better your brand is, the better your referral and word-of-mouth marketing will be.
Secrets to marketing your service business? There may be some fun tricks, and there's always some PR opportunities, but there are no secrets. It comes down to doing what you do best - taking care of your customers - and doing it consistently, so that your customers can trust you.