• Professional Services Marketing Goes Mainstream

    Always the bridesmaid and never the bride.  That is traditionally the frustration of service marketing professionals who fight for budgets and resources to promote their wares.  In a tough economy, marketing executives are giving new emphasis to this much-maligned, high-margin business.

    In a white paper titled “The Services Marketing Mix,” author Kathy Macchi says services marketing is “the poor stepchild in many technology companies.”  Because a company’s core products tend to be the main revenue generator, marketing strategists often develop a biased view of professional services that fall into one of three categories: 

    1. If a company markets product and services equally, it will weaken the overall message and portray the company as a “services company.”
    2. If the main objective is to boost revenue, limited marketing resources must align with that focus.
    3. It is the salesperson’s responsibility to promote services, not the marketing department’s.

    The reluctance of marketing to adopt a proactive approach to promoting services along with products can have an adverse impact on the company’s overall marketing strategy.

    A robust service marketing initiative can help increase the market share of a company in the long run.  For example, Hewlett-Packard introduced a new level of service for customers running critical business applications on virtualized x86-based hardware in December 2010.  The offering, called Critical Advantage, provides customers a dedicated team of engineers to help design and manage their x86-based virtual environments.  Customers are assigned a team of engineers, including a named account manager. This team is the elite services staff trained to deal with large complex systems.  Their job is to advise customers on how to optimize their virtual environments and perform annual services such as a capacity analysis or a security review.

    Similarly, earlier in 2010, PC manufacturer Lenovo introduced a new services program to accelerate its sales cycle.  Their portfolio of service offerings includes direct access to high-level technicians who handle break/fix warranty issues.  A soon-to-be-established Lenovo Services Sales Support Center will be a single point-of-contact center to handle resellers’ sales teams’ questions on Lenovo products through chat, e-mail and phone support.

    Despite these high-profile PS marketing success stories, most technology companies leave services marketing to the corporate marketing teams that are already burdened with other functions like marketing communications, public relations, competitive analysis and go-to-marketing strategy.

    Macchi says technology organizations make two mistakes with regard to their services marketing portfolio.  First, they have no dedicated services marketing personnel — no product or product marketing managers for services, and second, they work from a go-to-market strategy that relies heavily on how the company has typically taken products to market. 

    The latest recession has elevated the role of professional services marketing from bridesmaid to maid of honor.  Maintaining this focus through the recovery will require marketing strategists to carry these lessons into their long-term planning.  Professional services marketing professionals can help by highlighting revenue opportunities and success stories in their planning proposals.

    ReferenceThe Services Marketing Mix by Kathy Macchi, Principal, Allegro Associates, and Thomas E. Lah, Executive Director, TPSA 

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