Lately, there’s been a lot of talk about the myriad changes that are afoot in the IT space—and what their ultimate implications will be for firms at every point on the spectrum. With the volatility and uncertainty that has beset the global economy and the rapid evolution of the IT vertical, it’s clear that some VARs and many others in the industry may be overdue for an overhaul.
The gradual shift in the conception of IT from a product-based to a service-based industry is one of the most widely discussed trends that have emerged in the wake of the recent circumstances that have befallen the market. As many sectors of the industry have approached saturation, an ever-expanding coterie of innovative resellers has begun to move away from a transaction-based model and embrace a service orientation, instead.
From a strategic business perspective, this move makes a lot of sense. After all, service-based businesses are by their very definition better positioned to cultivate lasting, loyal clienteles. By focusing on developing a consultative, long-term relationship with your customers, your firm will be much more likely to enjoy steady and consistent growth over time—and to escape the worst of the lean times that tend to be the all-too-common downfall of sales-based businesses.
But switching your firm’s orientation from transaction-based sales to a service focus doesn’t just happen with a snap of your fingers. In order to make the transition complete, you’ll have to revisit every aspect of the way you do business—including the way you portray your firm and its services to current and potential clients. Here are some tips to help you devise an effective service-oriented marketing message.
Sell your story and your personality. Believe it or not, the marketing gurus are now starting to say that bland, homogenized “corporate” speak is not the best way to attract clients who are going to be in it for the long haul. The best way to differentiate your firm in a crowded field of competitors is advertising your unique take on things. If you’ve got an interesting back story or a quirky, diverse team, use them to your advantage to cultivate emotional investment on the part of current and prospective clients.
Emphasize the value of a long-term relationship. If customers are bouncing between firms each time they need IT products or services, they’re probably losing a considerable amount of time and money by starting from scratch, as it were, with each new provider. Slant your marketing message to appeal to clients who are ready to get off the provider carousel and stick with one proven, reliable source.
Make their business your business. Highlight your strategic planning capabilities by researching each prospect and developing recommendations that reflect your understanding of their market, their business, and the chief challenges facing their firm. Demonstrate that you are vested in their success, and they’ll be more likely to invest—emotionally and financially—in your firm.
Offer rewards to your loyal clients. Promotions that offer incentives, discounts, or other rewards for loyalty and long-term relationships are a great way to emphasize a service orientation in your marketing message. For example, a well-placed ad that mentions a discount on repeat orders or extended service contracts will not only compel one-time customers to call back, but they’ll also help snare new value-conscious customers who are looking to make smart selections from the get-go.
Cultivate a consultative relationship with ongoing communication. The key to developing long-term, service-oriented relationships with your customers is creating a shared sense of shared history, familiarity, and ongoing dialogue. Try to aim for targeted marketing messages that are more personal, especially when you’re contacting established or past customers. Nix the mass mailings that are often little better than generic form letters and put a personal spin on your communications whenever possible.
Are you pondering making the shift to a more service-oriented approach? If so, have you given any thought to how you’ll convey the shift in your marketing mix? Let us know in the comments.