Services marketing strategy

Typically marketing of services is done following the services marketing mix using the 7 Ps framework unlike the marketing of products for which the marketing mix involves the 4 Ps framework. Today, marketing has evolved over time into a discipline of its own. Over time marketing managers have realized the sustainability of pull marketing than the traditional approach of push marketing strategies.

The initial movement in marketing strategies was from a direct marketing scenario to brand marketing. In direct marketing, the marketing managers typically had a role of sales managers and the most important strategic focus was to ensure a incentive structure for the sales force, both internal salesmen and external salesforce (dealers, retailers, distributors) such that the one-to-one marketing could be done at the point of sales. However, it was realized that if a fraction of the sales force deviated or moved to another firm, the entire customer segment was lost to the business. The face of the product or service was essentially the sales force. Now as services gained in importance, it was realized that the differentiation of services was even more difficult based on tangible features like that of a product. This was when brand marketing started getting its due importance, where a pull strategy was implemented so as to “pull” the customer to the product or service based on his perception of the quality of the same.

However, with services gaining prominence over time, it was realized that the very definition of services was evolving as more and more services were being focused on internet or info-tech based services where direct interaction with the customer was lost. While branding definitely ensured that the customers develop a brand association with the service, sometimes the nature of the service is such that the essence of the service is a transactional one. So brand marketing focus gradually started to shift towards customer engagement and the benefits of social networks started getting conceptualized. This paved the way for the next generation of marketing, namely marketing using social media.

Since services cannot be differentiated purely based on features on offer, the major differentiation to create a brand association and thus customer engagement, is through tapping the social networks. In the internet economy, social networks are getting increasingly dominated by social media and thus marketing managers of even larger traditional “brick and sell” firms have started recognizing this fact and focusing their efforts on social media marketing.

The 7 S framework for digital marketing started gaining in prominence for services marketing strategists. While the dynamics of a pure internet marketing strategy is slightly different, the essence of the same has been captured in more comprehensive frameworks on digital marketing, which have been derived purely through the theories based on economic rationality.

Over time, it was realized that social media is perhaps the biggest tool today to lead a brand marketing strategy for many of the services and product categories, since in both cases, the target segment often uses the internet as a source of information (through websites or though the personal social network) while deciding on a service vendor. It is at the point of information search that social media marketing can create the largest impact and thus builds its reputation for having a high impact on “brand recall” at the “point of purchase”.

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Arpan Kar

Professor at IIT / IIM
Prof. Kar (PhD) is a faculty member of the Information Systems & Management area in Indian Institute of Technology Delhi, one of the top universities globally. He has extensive experience in teaching, training, consultancy and research. He has over 35 high impact publications. Prior to joining academia, he has rich experience in Cognizant Business Consulting and IBM Research Laboratory. He is the Editor of Business Fundas.
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