Segmentation in the marketing of a service-led firm

I had a very interesting discussion with someone recently at an Exeter networking event (let us call him “Mr X”), which started with the question “what is marketing?”

Our conversation moved on and Mr X raised the issue that no longer is it just about suppliers segmenting their market but that consumers are now segmenting the supplier. For example, you might use one garage for your oil change but go to another for your annual service, or you might use one particular law firm for your employment advice but would never trust them to handle your company’s corporate affairs.

This problem is made even harder for those selling a service where the business relationship is based on a personal relationship. A client may have a very strong relationship with an individual at a firm and buy the service they provide simply because of that relationship and trust. They might not feel inclined to use the other services the firm has to offer because they do not have those same relationships with his/her colleagues.

It should really be an easy win.

We all know it is easier and more successful to win more work from an existing client than to attract a new one. However, in a world where the consumer is increasingly more discerning and knowledgeable about what is on offer and individual relationships are so important, how do you ensure that your company’s services are fully utilised and not cherry picked?

My response to Mr X was that it must all come down to branding and communication. Each part of the business needs to share and demonstrate the same core values.  Here are some techniques that might help in practice:

  • Start with a clear strategy – what does your business offer, who is your target market, what do you want to achieve?
  • Identify the weaker areas of your business and address them – could it be a skills shortage or maybe just a case of a light hiding under a bushel?
  • Communicate your strategy to all employees of the firm and make sure they understand it (include this as a part of the induction programme for all new employees).
  • Remember that all clients are clients of the firm and not “my client”. If you introduced the client to the firm it is your responsibility to develop that relationship and introduce other colleagues/areas of the business.
  • Recruit new team members on the basis of how well they align to your strategy.
  • Assess all marketing opportunities against their fit with your strategy.
  • Ask your clients for their feedback – is it just they do not know about certain areas of your business or is there something more concerning? If you do not feel comfortable asking the questions yourself you can always use a reputable third party to do so on your behalf.

Above all, remember you cannot be all things to all men and there is often a value in accepting where you are weak and removing this as a service from your business.

Defining “marketing” is clearly a very large topic and I have only just scratched the surface. Understanding segmentation, whether of customers or suppliers, is an interesting challenge for all businesses. Please feel free to comment below on how firms that you know are successfully overcoming these issues. I would love to hear your experience.

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