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The difference between product marketing and service marketing

UPDATE 27th July 2020 - This post has been updated with some additional information and even more advice. Read on to learn more...

  • Want to understand the difference between product marketing and service marketing? Then this post is for you.
  • We will show you the key differences between the two, with a focus on the B2B tech industry.
  • Understand what your audience is looking for.
  • Get top tips and practical advice.

Successful digital marketing is complex, with different strategies needed to help increase leads, boost sales, and promote your brand. And now it’s potentially more important than ever to get right. A starting point for success is understanding the difference between product marketing and service marketing. Let’s look at how they are different.

A report from McKinsey, the business consulting firm, found that B2B companies during this COVID-19 pandemic see digital interactions as two to three times more important to their customers than traditional interactions. What this says is that your business’s digital marketing strategy has an even greater opportunity to meet customers exactly where they are looking and generate and convert leads.

 

The difference between product marketing and service marketing

The obvious difference between product and service marketing is that products are tangible, and services are intangible.

 

Products - Tangible products are often thought to be easier to market as they can be shown, demonstrated, touched, displayed and are easier for your audience to understand in terms of value or whether they are needed. Whether this is true or not is difficult to call, especially when you consider the blurred lines of the B2B technology world, where products and services are becoming more and more entwined.

Regardless, the aim of your marketing strategy should include finding the right market for your product and promoting it in a way that gets the best response from your target audience. It’s important to remember that your product stays the same regardless of who you are targeting and can be returned if the customer is dissatisfied.

 

Services - Services, being intangible, can be harder to show value. You can’t see or touch a service. Often, then, the goal of marketing services is to create good relationships with your target audience, developing and building trust. You are essentially selling yourself.

 

The traditional differences between product and services

...and how this might affect the marketing decisions around each.

 

Customisation - While products are designed, built and delivered to a range of customers ‘as standard’, services can be tweaked and customised depending on the needs or wants of customers. Your service marketing strategy should reflect this by highlighting the personal touches you provide or how you listen to your customers’ needs.

 

Delivery - When a business sells a product to a customer, the buyer takes it away with them. In the case of a service, the customer must go to the service provider if they want to enjoy or experience it. You cannot separate the service from the provider. For example, if you wanted to buy a DVD from Amazon, you click on the buy button and wait a couple of days for the product to arrive. However, if you want to enjoy the Amazon Prime streaming service, where movies are updated regularly, you need to head to the website and watch the film there.

When selling a service, make the customer experience as smooth and as simple as possible. It means making sure your customer touchpoints are connected and up to date.

 

Ownership - A product can be bought, used and then resold ‘second-hand’, while a service cannot – once it’s been consumed. A product is also a separate entity to the business who creates/sells it. A service, on the other hand, is always connected to the business who provides it. Marketing for services should be all about building the brand and personality of the service provider.

 

Expiration - It’s also important to understand that services are consumed immediately and cannot be returned once carried out. This is where the marketing goal of creating trust comes in.

Remember that if you provide a bad service, your customers cannot return the service, but they may not return as customers. Once a buyer has bought a product, it doesn’t mean they will buy from you again – but if they are happy with it, it’s more likely that they will. Providing a top-quality customer experience whether you’re selling a product or a service, should be priority number one.

 

Time - Usually, services are provided at a specific time for a specific period. After this, the service agreement must be renewed or cancelled. A product can be bought and owned without any time constraints.

Marketing differences here should centre around the value of low-cost monthly subscriptions in the case of services, or a ‘buy once, use forever’ message for a product.

 

An easy comparison

See the chart (source) below for a comparison of the differences between product and service marketing:

 

Product marketing Service marketing
Meaning Product marketing refers to the process in which the marketing activities are aligned to promote and sell a specific product for a particular segment. Service marketing implies the marketing of economic activities, offered by the business to its clients for adequate consideration.
Marketing mix 4 P's: Product, Price, Place, Promotion 7 P's: 4 P's + People, Process, Physical evidence
Sells Value Relationship
Who comes to whom? Products come to customers Customers come to service
Transfer It can be owned and resold to another party. It is neither owned nor transferred to another party.
Returnability Products can be returned. Services cannot be returned after they are rendered.
Tangibility They are tangible, so customer can see and touch it, before coming to the buying decision. They are intangible, so it is difficult to promote services.
Separability Product and the company producing it, are separable. Service cannot be separated from its provider.
Customisation Products cannot be customised as per requirements. Services vary from person to person, they can be customised.
Imagery They are imagery and hence, receive quick response from customers. They are non-imagery and do not receive quick response from customers.
Quality comparison Quality of a product can be easily measured. Quality of service is not measurable.

Bringing product and service marketing together

At Fifty Five and Five we market B2B technology and our clients are IT companies. In this world, companies are dealing much more with a productised offering, rather than simply selling peoples’ time. However, more and more of the products they are selling are sold as services (think Microsoft 365). The cloud has played a big part in this, causing companies to rethink how they offer services to their customers. So if you used to be a purely consultative business it’s important to understand the differences between product and service marketing so you can put in place the right strategy for your company. Our advice when talking about a product such as software which is packaged as a service, is to err on the side of the ‘service marketing’ camp.

 

Finding success in the SaaS boom

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, companies of all sizes, across industries, looking to stay competitive were realising the benefits of running their business with SaaS capabilities. However, just because the market is there, it doesn’t mean IT companies should be complacent about how they market themselves. This is most often to oversight when it comes to differentiation and brand investment

 

Differentiation - In a marketplace where there is a lot of competition, IT companies must find a way to stand out. If you are just another ISV or reseller you’re going to struggle. Through the right marketing strategy, they can do so.

 

Brand investment - Along with the right marketing strategy, you need to turn your company into a brand. Understanding how you are perceived by your audience (and using that knowledge to evolve your brand) is the key to your success.

 

For businesses in the B2B tech world, differentiating themselves in a competitive marketplace is difficult. Understanding the difference between product and service marketing is a crucial first step to success. Check out another of our blogs for advice on how to create a marketing strategy that will help you stand out from the crowd.


Your 4-step guide to creating great content

It’s 2020. You know the deal; effective marketing requires good content, but the internet is crowded with companies competing for clicks, scrolls and views. Creating content that stands out is harder than ever. And yet an effective digital strategy relies on it. So, what’s the solution? How do we create truly great content?

Many have tried to crack the secret to good content. And there’s no single trick to guarantee a piece of content will be truly great. No formula will replace personality, creativity and a strong brand voice. But there are certainly a few things that can help you along that journey.

1. Know your audience

The first key to creating truly good content is to know your audience. It might sound simple, but it’s true; if you’re not sure who you’re talking to, your content will never be able to truly sing. One of the best ways to achieve this is by creating personas before you start planning or writing your content.

A persona is a fictional representation of your ideal target audience, complete with a name, job title and back story. You can find this information by looking through your CRM or website analytics data. The idea is that by giving your ideal character a personality, it becomes easier to target content towards that person; ensuring the resulting piece of content is clearer, more specific and more relevant when the real audience finally reads your piece.

2. Offer a solution

The internet is awash with content. Everywhere you look there are how-to guides, listicles, roundups, recaps, webinars and anything you could possibly think of. Standing out in the crowd is difficult. But it’s not impossible. Good content achieves value by offering a clear solution to a specific problem.

Whenever you plan a piece of content, it’s important to have the audience in mind, and consider what they’re going to take away from the information you provide. Will it explain a tricky concept, will it provide advice, or perhaps simply give a unique opinion or worldview that they might not have encountered? Whatever the case, make sure the value you’re offering is clear, the points you make are concise, and you don’t leave the reader waiting too long to find the real nugget of insight or vital takeaway that you’re offering.

3. Tell a story

Many assume that B2B tech writing is dry, functional and lacking in creativity. That might be sometimes the case, but good content should be eye-catching, compelling and interesting, regardless of whether it’s travel writing or an explainer about Microsoft’s latest productivity update. And the key to that is in storytelling.

Consider, for instance, a company that installs a new productivity app. Which of the following statements is more compelling:

  • “John no longer has to spend two hours each day trawling through emails.”
  • “Productivity in the business has increased 20%”

That’s right; it’s the first one. Humans love a story. We love to meet characters, understand their wants and needs, experience what they experience. And even in the driest, most technical piece of B2B content, stories can be found. A story can be as simple as a character having a problem and finding the solution. It’s much more fascinating to talk about people and lives than it is to talk about abstract business benefits.

But whether you’re talking about software licenses of digital transformation, make sure your content is grounded in the stories of the people and lives that technology will impact.

4. Add value

Here’s a secret about online content; a lot of it isn’t very good - or more specifically, plenty of content fails to add value. It might be coherent, well written, eye-catching or funny – but if you’re stating the blindingly obvious or just repeating information that can be found elsewhere, you’re not creating good content. And chances are, your audience will pick up on that.

The benefit of the internet being awash with bad content is that it’s very easy to learn what not to do. So, when you’re planning content ideas, make sure to do some research into similar pieces of content. See what they’re saying, where they go wrong and where they add value. And then consider how you can make your content different; how you can say something different, give new information, perhaps even challenge a consensus.

Are you content with your content?

Creating good content isn’t always easy, but it’s worth the effort when done properly. If you offer something that isn’t available elsewhere, the readers will begin to flock in. And by presenting your content as informed, expert and unique, your readers will naturally assume the service or product you are selling is equally unique.

At Fifty Five and Five, we work with technology providers of all shapes and sizes to make sure their content really sings. That involves all of the things we discussed in this blog; finding an angle and telling a story, all underpinned with a detailed understanding of the audience and the subject matter we discuss. But it’s about more than just that; it’s about understanding the unique personality and culture of the companies we work with and finding how to translate that into truly winning content.

If you want to find out how we do that, simply get in touch today.


Microsoft Inspire 2020: keynote takeaways

Microsoft Inspire 2020 kicked off on Tuesday – this time in an online-only format. Like the rest of the partner network, we were disappointed to miss out on attending in person (last year, Queen and Adam Lambert played – yes, it was epic). But it hasn’t stopped us from enjoying the highlights from the comfort of our homes. Vegas will still be there next year.

As well as the Nevada sunshine and musical headliners, another regular highlight at the Microsoft conference are the annual keynote addresses. In case you missed it, we’ve put together the main Inspire 2020 keynote takeaways from the speakers on the first day, which was led by Gavriella Schuster (Microsoft Corporate VP of Commercial Partners) Judson Althoff, (Executive VP of Worldwide Commercial Business) and Nick Parker (Corporate VP of Consumer and Device Sales).

The COVID-19 pandemic

Unsurprisingly, the pandemic was a central talking point for this year’s event. The speakers celebrated frontline workers throughout – highlighting how they continue to make daily life possible. Schuster, Althoff and Parker also commended the many Microsoft partners that have built solutions to help the world adapt to these trying times.

Althoff referred to the ‘digital first responders’ behind frontline workers – those that have built rapid solutions to make continued education, remote working and accessing necessary services possible. He praised these people for connecting the world digitally and helping communities to move forwards.

Accelerating the cloud shift

Althoff explained that the growth of the cloud is still crucial in helping customers achieve their economic goals:

‘Our solution areas, our cloud capabilities – from modern workplace through security, business applications, apps and infrastructure, data and AI – across Microsoft 365, Dynamics 365 and Azure – these are the ingredients that will help customers persevere in these difficult times.’

He continued by explaining that the world needs this innovation now more than ever. He called on partners to help in addressing customers’ needs – whether they have the consulting practices that bring these virtual solutions to life, or the assets and intellectual property as an independent software vendor (ISV) or software-as-a-service (SaaS) provider.

Opportunities for remote working

On the topic of remote working solutions, Schuster explained that the pandemic has changed the way we work forever. She referenced how demand for Microsoft Teams has surged, and highlighted how the real transformation could be seen when customers learnt the ‘full value of Microsoft 365 as a secure, remote work collaboration solution.’

To expand on this point, Schuster turned to Windows Virtual Desktop (WVD) as a notable opportunity for partners moving forwards:

‘With WVD, organisations can get up and running in minutes from the Azure portal. You have the flexibility to choose the virtual machines, the regional locations, and you can set up multi sessions for the users...You can manage that environment and turn it into a managed service opportunity – without much heavy lifting.’

Moving towards Managed Services

Schuster told her audience that now is the right time to meet customers where they are. She said that, with customers uneasy about big up-front costs, it’s possible to develop a managed service practice and show up as a hero to the customer.

‘What happens if you don’t take this step? Now may be the time. Maybe this year, your investors are expecting a little less from you, and the customers are asking for monthly terms. You can make the investment into managed services that will help your customers and build your business long-term. And if you don’t have the resources for all this support, this is a great opportunity to partner together.’

Partners were ready for this moment

Perhaps the most inspiring part of this keynote was Schuster’s comments on the Microsoft partner ecosystem. She explained that, while there is uncertainty all around, the MPN manage it by creating certainty – wherever they can:

‘You were built for this moment in time. You are the certainty...we were ready because the solutions we’ve been building together over the last 18 months are the same ones our customers need right now – solutions and services around remote work, business continuity, security and cloud migrations.’

Each year at Microsoft Inspire, we discover more about the partner network and empower companies to achieve more through their digital marketing strategies. If you want to improve your marketing get in touch with the team at Fifty Five and Five today.


5 top PPC trends 2020

Whatever you can say about 2020 so far, nobody can claim it’s been uneventful. Businesses, markets, economies – they’ve all been on a rollercoaster ride in the months since the clock struck midnight, the fireworks went off, and this year began. And the world of pay-per-click (PPC) marketing hasn’t been sitting still either. As a digital marketing executive at Fifty Five and Five, I’ve been closely monitoring recent changes in the paid media world and evaluating how they impact the marketing landscape and how new developments allow us to better serve our clients. In this blog, you’ll learn my discoveries and what they mean for your business. Let’s explore the top 5 PPC trends 2020 has seen so far.

1. The rise of automation

Although some marketers have regarded automation with suspicion – and others have outright rejected it – it’s becoming a reality we can’t avoid. And one that’s starting to show significant benefits.

More and more marketers are adopting Google’s responsive ads and Facebook’s automated ads. Facebook’s offering hasn’t yet delivered the results we’re looking for in our tests, but the format is still young, so time will tell if they will improve PPC performance in future.

Google’s responsive ads achieved a click-through rate (CTR) of 5.69% in a recent PPC campaign – compared to a 4.32% CTR via the expanded text ad format. It’s a promising start, which might owe something to the fact the Google’s responsive ads were launched earlier (May ‘18) than Facebook’s (Dec ‘18).

In any case, it’s clear that automation is definitely the way the wind’s blowing. Here are three of the biggest benefits of getting on board with the trend:

  • Higher CTRs: Google’s responsive ads performed 5.75% better than expanded and converted 8.5% better.
  • Easier to understand: the Google Ads interface allows users to see whether their ad’s quality is good enough or need improvement.
  • Saves time: Optimise your ads and achieve better results with less manual tweaking and experimentation.

Now I’ll run through some top tips for making the most of PPC automation:

Be smart when building ads

Now you have a smart tool that tells you whether your ads are good or bad and whether you’ve inserted the keyword enough in the text. Be smart and select the best-performing keywords to implement in the copy so your ads will perform even better.

You’ve got time now. Use it well!

I’ve often faced the challenge of not being able to optimise negative keywords because I don’t have time. In the past, monitoring ads often required going through worse performing ads, analysing what isn’t working and talking to the writing team to improve them. That’s over now, so we can focus on other more important matters like keywords and improving audience targeting. For example, Google Ads provides the option to target a specific audience sector and it offers stats that help you see whether those audiences are performing. Marketers are also able to tweak the bid for each audience, which is an excellent way to use the time that automation is helping you save.

2. SEO and PPC are now a team

This year has also seen search engine optimisation (SEO) and PPC working increasingly closely together. These two disciplines are indispensable to a digital marketer’s toolbox, and their new convergence means that together they offer even more value. This PPC trend 2020 introduced is a victory for joined-up digital marketing: when all the elements fit together and work perfectly.

Here’s how SEO can help to improve PPC performance:

Increased visibility

By running a PPC campaign along with SEO, you’re ensuring your website’s traffic increases considerably and also you’ll give the impression that you are a permanent presence in your market.

More keyword data to analyse

Running SEO and PPC campaigns together means you can see and analyse a wealth of additional data that will enable you to make more informed decisions in your global marketing strategy.

Best-performing PPC ad copy informs organic content strategy

It’s useful to see which of your ads work well and lead to maximum conversions. You can then create title tags, meta description and content using these as your basis, learning from what has worked for PPC.

3. Audience targeting is getting better

More and more businesses are realising the importance of accurate targeting of their digital marketing, and of offering potential customers valuable content. At Fifty Five and Five, we’re already long-time devotees of the art of content marketing, so it’s good to see others are reaching the same conclusions we have.

Here are the most effective ways to reach your target audience via PPC:

Define your audience via personas

Defining your audience involves more than selecting the right keywords or targeting the correct audience in Facebook ads. By creating our own consumer personas, you’ll be able to be more specific and accurate with your targeting and ensure you’re building the right audience across all the different channels.

Offer useful and relevant content

Content isn’t just about getting the client’s offering out there and waiting for leads to come. Don’t just try to trigger clicks: provide content that responds to their needs at that moment. Using the right tone and expressing the intention to help will reach your audience and encourage them not just to click on the ad but go further, completing a lead form or visiting the website the ad links to.

Build a relevant audience in each platform

Each platform is different and they’re continually changing. It’s recommended to stay up to date with the latest news, so you can be a useful, credible authority for your audience. They have questions, and you want to be the one with the answers. For instance, if they’re following you for digital marketing news and insights, they may ask: “should we use hashtags in Twitter ad copy?” Or “should we build an audience on LinkedIn based on skills or job titles?” Keeping up with new announcements means you can provide the information they’re looking for.

4. ¡Viva el video!

Video is one of the most engaging types of content available to marketers, and we love to work with the format because of the amazing results it can deliver. The better optimised the video is, the better results you can get. For example, our latest video campaign on LinkedIn reached a view rate of 34.25% – which is higher than the benchmark provided by LinkedIn.

So how can we make the most of video content to create very successful campaigns? Here are our tips for the fundamentals:

  • Briefer is often better. Usually a short length of around 30 seconds is best.
  • Focusing on the content is the key. Be dynamic and get straight to the point.
  • Music matters. Don’t annoy your audience with a distracting background track.

5. It’s time for portfolio bidding

This is really clever and useful stuff, and a topic I’m fascinated with – it could be one of the most exciting PPC trends 2020 has brought. I could write an entire blog on the subject, and perhaps one day I will. But for now, let’s take a look at what portfolio bidding is and what it offers.

The PPC bidding portfolio is a library where you can store different bidding strategies used across campaigns and ad groups, as well as keywords, to help you reach your goals.

Here’s why I think the bidding portfolio is very cool:

  • It helps you to ensure all your campaigns are fully optimized at all times, giving you the best chance that they will succeed.
  • It saves lots of time in managing each campaign’s budget and it also gives you more control over what you spend.
  • Its new seasonality feature lets you tweak bids for specific periods of time. This means you can align them better with other activity.

I think you’ll be hearing the words ‘bidding portfolio’ more and more in digital marketing conversations as time goes by, so my advice is to get acquainted with it sooner rather than later. My prediction: it’ll get to the point where you wonder how you managed without it – like all the best developments.

What will be the next PPC trends 2020 brings?

I hope this article has been useful and that you’re finding these changes in the PPC landscape as interesting as I am. The year’s not over yet, and there’s still time for new trends to emerge before we usher in 2021. It’s a fast-moving world – let’s see what’s up next.


No more third-party cookies. What’s next?

The digital world has been rocked by the news that Google plans to completely phase out support for third-party cookies in Chrome, its web browser.

Why has Google made this decision? When do they want to have finished phasing out third-party cookies? What does that mean for internet users, businesses, and digital marketing?

In this blog, we’ll explore how the changes will affect everyone, as well as the steps businesses can start taking in order to make the transition.

But first things first. Some of you may be wondering, “What is a third-party cookie, anyway?” Let’s cover that quickly.

What are third party cookies?

Cookies record your individual preferences for the websites you visit. They’re used to identify individual users and give them a personalised browsing experience – the website ‘remembers’ who you are, so what you see is tailored to you.

  • First-party cookies are created and stored by the website you’re visiting at the time – a first party. They’re used by them when you visit to collect analytics data, remember preferences such as your language settings, and generally ensure that your user experience is smooth and personalised.
  • Third-party cookies are created by sites other than the ones you’re visiting – third parties. They’re commonly used to track users across multiple sites, and for retargeting and serving ads to them. If you’ve ever felt like you’ve been “followed around the internet” by an ad or product which appears time and time again wherever you go, it’s likely you’re seeing third-party cookies in action.

Internet privacy issues

Being tracked around the web using third-party cookies and served targeted ads is an experience many find pretty spooky, and one that some find downright creepy. These sentiments are part of a wider backlash that’s taken place recently, critical of businesses seen to be compromising internet users’ privacy for commercial purposes. Tech ethics in general is a huge talking point right now, from data protection discussions around legislation like the GDPR to responsible deployment of AI.

Google is one of many companies making efforts to be on ‘the right side’ of Internet privacy. Back in August 2019, they announced their plan to develop a set of open standards to enhance privacy on the web: the Privacy Sandbox. The ultimate goal is for someday all a person’s browsing data to be stored in this ‘sandbox’, on the user’s device, instead of in cookies. And this data will also be anonymised for privacy compliance.

Phasing out third-party cookies is the next step toward that goal. The likes of Firefox and Safari have already phased them out, but Google is taking a more drawn-out approach, over a period of two years, to ensure that online advertisers can make the transition successfully. As of March 2020, the Google Chrome browser accounted for around 63% of the global market share for internet browsers. That’s why, although others have already blocked third-party cookies, this is the definitive event that truly sounds their death knell.

But what does all this mean for you, in the here and now?

Major consequences for pay-per-click (PPC) advertising

These developments are sure to impact the world of paid media advertising very significantly. That’s because PPC ads rely heavily on using third-party cookies, and data gathered using them, to find, identify and target marketing prospects all over the web.

However, all is not lost. Even without third-party cookies, there are still ways to achieve highly targeted and effective marketing.

What are the alternatives?

  • Targeted ads in social media. You can launch targeted ad or promoted posts in social media. You can target audiences in terms of their industries, demographics, and similarities with your own followers.
  • Contact list retargeting. Retarget prospects on your contact lists on platforms including LinkedIn. Your contact list is cross-referenced with their member list, so you can serve ads to leads you’ve already identified.
  • Make the most of first-party cookies. You can still use first-party cookies on your site to obtain valuable user data. This can be used to refine your personas, create campaigns and improve your marketing.
  • Ramp up email and content marketing. Use existing and new data gathered via first party cookies, social media insights and more to make content marketing and email marketing really hit the mark.

A web without third-party cookies

Although the death of third-party cookies may pose some initial problems as businesses and markers phase them out and adopt other forms of marketing, in the long run it’s a necessary step toward fostering greater trust.

It’s also an opportunity for businesses to differentiate themselves from the competition. The more other businesses and consumers trust that your data protection practices are above board, the more comfortable they’ll feel sharing their own data and giving you their custom. As with most tech ethics issues, the winners in the world after third-party cookies will be those who turn data protection into a point of pride, not a thorn in their side.

Want to discuss how you can make the most of your marketing without third-party cookies? Get in touch with the team at Fifty Five and Five today.