Marketing Products vs Services

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Marketing models are inherently different for products versus services! I recently had reason to contemplate marketing a SaaS product and how it is different from marketing a service. Let’s say that a consulting company has created an online service product that takes some piece of what they’d otherwise do manually for high rates, and they have automated and productized it, and now it is available for a low monthly fee. So how would said consulting company go about marketing this new product?

Even though it is still a service in many ways, this would be more effectively marketed as a product now. The price point, the commitment level,no customization, and the expectations of support are far lower. As such, the need for social proof is much lower. So, traditional B2C marketing channels would likely be more effective here than with the company’s traditional service model.

Product Marketing Model (B2C) – The marketing channels for marketing a SaaS product are primarily online and are primarily search driven. Depending on the exact nature of the product, this may be more or less true, but I think there is a general high-level truth to be observed here, regardless. Online search would be the key and servicing the “pull marketing” nature of search. In other words, be there when your prospect searches for that solution. You could augment your efforts with affiliate relationships.

Since there is no social proof yet, it would be a good idea to offer a free trial to allow the prospect to see it for themselves and get comfortable with it, see if it matches their needs, do competitive research,etc. Depending on your price point and the type of tool, you could use this opportunity to have your outbound sale team follow up to improve user engagement and address any issues.

Services Marketing Model (B2B) – Compare this to how a consulting company would position or market themselves. Search marketing can help somewhat with consulting awareness, but it is generally not the most effective approach. Because the costs are a lot higher and output is less known, prospects will rely alot more upon other existing relationships to provide social proof. As a result, client services can be served well by focusing on more of an inbound marketing approach. By this I mean focusing on doing things to improve one’s reputation and connections with the community. For example, online one could write a blog and get engaged on social channels. They could attend the appropriate conferences and publish a book. Perhaps they might also establish relationships with other vendors that could provide referrals and extend a courtesy referral fee in return.

Many consulting businesses will eventually try to launch a product but many will fail. In some cases it is because they are just not in touch with what the market wants and lack product-market fit. But likely in many other cases, it is because they have not recognized that the marketing model and methods might be fundamentally different for their new product, than what they used to make their consulting business successful. Awareness of this distinction could serve them well.