Ignite | A B2B Marketing Blog

What to do when your prospect doesn't understand what you do

By Kelsey Robinson | April 30, 2015

Is the Services Marketing Dilemma costing you business?

I took my car to be serviced a couple weeks ago.  When the mechanic had finished, he handed me an invoice of all the checks and changes he’d made. The problem is I have a very limited understanding of cars.  I can’t determine whether he actually repaired what he said he did; I have no way to know whether his work was sloppy or exceptional.  Unless my car breaks down on the way home from the garage, I assume that he did a good job. 

Many industries face a similar plight. Service providers — insurers, bankers, mechanics — all perform work that their clients don’t really understand. Therefore, customers are not able to evaluate the quality of the work or the value of the service you performed. Unless something goes wrong or you clearly fixed their issues, customers don’t have a concrete way to measure your performance.

Did the car break down again? No, so the mechanic must have done a good job.

Does my loan package fit my needs?  Yes, so my banker actually listened to me.

This inherent knowledge gap creates a problem called the services marketing dilemma.  Customers don’t understand the process so they can’t knowledgeably evaluate the value you’re providing. It’s difficult to talk about the quality of the service you provide, so everyone in your industry ends up sounding the same. All banks say they provide great service, right?

So how do you convince your customers that you can make their lives, their businesses better? That your firm is better than your competitor’s?  How do you get your customers to keep coming back?

One of the best ways to promote your company is through your existing customers.  Let them demonstrate how you solved their problems. We recently interviewed a number of customers for a bank in Atlanta that we work with. A couple of their comments are worth noting.

One customer said, “They communicate well.  That’s how you achieve feelings of trust and confidence – through good communication.”

Another said this regarding a banker, “If my banker goes to another bank, we’d follow him.”

It’s very telling that this customer’s entire involvement with the bank is tied up with their relationship manager. In a service business, interaction with sales people makes up the vast majority of the customer’s experience, rather than product satisfaction. 

There are two takeaways to consider. First, be transparent. Make sure your customers know what is happening at every stage of the process, even if they don’t fully understand what’s going on.  Knowing you’re doing what you promised will reassure them and convince them to come back. More importantly, it mitigates situations when clients can’t get everything they want. There is an inherent tension between underwriting and the bankers on the commercial team. But when a decision goes against a particular transaction, having a history with the client of looking out for their best interest can help prevent the loss of the entire relationship.

For most banks, the Service Marketing Dilemma has less to do with the terms of the loan, and more to do with the inscrutable way that decisions are made. The customer has little insight into the process, and so they are left with little understanding of the reasons behind decisions.

Second, focus on the interactions customers have with your company. Study every step of your customers’ experiences, considering how it makes your customers feel. Are you communicating well and building trust?

Finally, and most importantly, do you have such great sales people that your customers would follow them out the door?

Posted in: B2B Sales, B2B Marketing, Financial Services

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