The overall goal of any marketing campaign is to sell a product. In service-industry marketing, however, the product you are selling is actually a service. There may be a tangible product attached to the service--a new furnace, for example, or the repair of an air conditioner--but the thing they are paying you for is the intangible service you provide. The products they need are your expertise, experience, tools, customer service and elbow grease. 



Selling Yourself


So how do you market intangibles? You can talk at great length about your knowledge level, or how experienced your technicians are, or how great your staff is at ensuring customer satisfaction. The only problem with that, from a customer's standpoint, is the source: you. Every service company is going to claim to be the best, and the customer knows that they cannot all be telling the truth. 



Because of this, the most effective service-industry marketing efforts focus on having somebody else make those claims for you.



Let The Letters Do The Talking


That’s where your professional certifications, affiliations, awards and third-party ratings come in. Simple acronyms like NATE, or an A+ grade from the BBB, can say quite a bit about your company. They represent outside voices, and some of them represent the voices of the customers themselves.



However, such certifications or affiliations must still be promoted, and promoted correctly. The way you present your outside qualifications can either enlighten or confuse prospective customers, and can be seen as either prideful or helpful. 



To help you get the most from your certifications and affiliations, here are some tips on how to properly promote them.

•    Don't oversell. Service-industry marketing is filled with an alphabet soup of affiliations and professional organizations. In the eyes of some customers, many of them do little more than prove that you have paid a membership fee. Don't try to present something that was easy to get as though it were a major award. Doing so is dishonest, and honesty is one of the key things customers desire in a service contractor.

•    Explain the benefits. Just because a particular affiliation is somewhat easy to get doesn’t mean it has no value. Being active in professional organizations can provide real benefits to your customers. It can indicate that you are serious about your craft and committed to the industry, and can help you stay current on all relevant news and trends. If you are going to promote an affiliation, focus on these benefits to the customer.

•    Use recognizable names. Affiliations or certifications that are widely known and respected carry more clout in service-industry marketing. You might list all of them somewhere on your website, but focus mainly on the ones that have some built-in name recognition.

•    Get into the details. Name recognition is helpful even if customers do not know many details about the name, but it’s much more helpful if they do know exactly what it means. NATE certification would be one good example. Customers often will not know about the education and testing required to be NATE-certified, unless you tell them. And explaining the specializations that your technicians are certified for will establish your expertise in those specific areas.

•    Do the research for them. If you have a high rating from the Better Business Bureau, don’t assume that everyone is going to visit the BBB website to find that out. And remember that the vast majority of people are not Angie's List subscribers; they may respect the name and give high weight to its ratings, but they cannot actually see the ratings themselves. If you are a Super Service Award winner, you will need to tell them about it and explain its significance.

•    Don't brag. This is the fine line you have to tread in service-industry marketing. The whole point is to promote your company, and people won't have confidence in you if you don't have confidence in yourself. At the same time, though, nobody likes a braggart. The key is to be service-minded in the way you present your certifications and affiliations; you are helping prospective customers make a wise choice and hire a company that they will be satisfied with.

Remember that service-industry marketing is about selling service. So if your marketing efforts themselves are presented as a way to educate and serve potential customers, you will be well on your way to earning another satisfied customer.

Chris Vaughn is the Content Marketing Director for DigitalSherpa, the world's largest content marketing provider for small businesses. With the recent acquisition of SocialTract, DigitalSherpa is thrilled to welcome the HVAC community in to our client family. Learn more about content marketing and check out our free e-books and whitepapers at http://digitalsherpa.com. Connect with Chris and the DigitalSherpa team on Facebook and Twitter or e-mail Chris directly at cvaughn@digitalsherpa.com.