I am a shareholder in two companies, the first one, Kennedy Reid, is a recruitment firm that firmly sits within the “service industry”. The second Bullion Cellars is a high end wine business that delivers a “product”.
How we sell each business intrigues me and led me to reading an excellent book a few years ago called, “Selling The Invisible” by Harry Beckwith.
As a career recruiter I am all too aware of the difficulties of selling services but it was Beckwith’s book that gave me the clearest perspective of my prospective buyers in the recruitment business.
Services are not products, they are not tangible. A product can be seen and it can be touched. As Beckwith points out, “a service does not even exist when you buy one. If you go to a hairdresser, you cannot see, touch, or try out a haircut before you buy it. You order it and then you get it.”
Consider this perspective compared to purchasing a car. You can feel the finish of the car on your hand, you can hear the steady rumble of the engine, you see the car from many different angles, and you smell that “newcar smell”.
You cannot sense much about a service, “in most cases you buy a service touch, taste, feel, smell and sight unseen.”
This creates anxiety in the buyer from the outset.
Few services also have clear cut price tags.
As a recruiter I can give the customer an idea of cost but mostly it is dependent on the individual they end up employing and the salary they pay that individual. “At the moment of engaging me, most clients are not sure what they will be paying for the service once it is completed because of the variables at play”.
This creates more anxiety in the buyer.
When a product fails, it is mostly obvious. If my TV breaks down, it is most likely under warranty, hence de risking the purchase for the customer.
“With service failures, the only recourse is either painful negotiation or agonizing litigation”.
This creates even more anxiety in the buyer.
A product is usually made using a well-tested and monitored process ensuring consistent quality. “Service companies deliver their “product” through a series of acts that rarely can be routinized into a reliable process”.
“Compared to products, services are loose cannons”, that are tougher to guarantee. How do you guarantee a good haircut?
Product failures are a lot less likely to be taken personally because the product itself is normally built by people that live a long way away and they are not people we have met. “Services, by contrast, usually are provided by people we have met or at least spoken with, so when that person fails to do what he/she promised, we tend to take it personally.”
Once you factor in all of the differences between marketing a “product” and marketing a “service” you can see that, “as a service marketer you face prospects almost shaking with worry, and sensitive to any mistake you might make. That is where your marketing must start: with a clear understanding of that worried soul”.
Selling The Invisible – A Field Guide to Modern Marketing was written by Harry Beckwith and offers practical and easy-to-read strategies for turning more prospects into clients in the “Service” industry.
STUART FREEMAN – MANAGING DIRECTOR AT KENNEDY REID