The Concept of Service Marketing

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A hardware store employee compares products for a customer
A hardware store employee compares products for a customer (Image: kadmy/iStock/Getty Images)

Service marketing has increased in importance in the 21st century thanks to growth in the service sector of the U.S. economy. More companies are offering intangible service solutions that require expanded marketing consideration beyond conventional product marketing. The marketing mix -- or the four P's of marketing (product, place, price and promotion) -- is relevant in marketing services as well as products. However, services marketing requires consideration of three additional marketing elements as well.

Service Marketing Characteristics

Before addressing the three additional elements of the service marketing mix, you have to understand the traits that make services different from products. The Learn Marketing website outlines the five unique characteristics of services. The first, lack of ownership, signifies that service consumers do not receive a tangible good to own. This relates to the second basic service trait, intangibility. Inseparability explains that service delivery is not separate from the provider. Fourth, services eventually perish, while goods have a shelf life. Fifth, the characteristic of heterogeneity shows that services are hard to deliver consistently.

7 P's: People

In the 21st century, the Extended Marketing Mix concept has been popularized thanks to tremendous growth in the U.S. service sector. The Encyclopedia of Business (2nd Ed.) notes that 97 percent of new jobs added from 1990 through 2002 were service jobs. The 7 P's expands on the original four elements of the marketing mix to account for service characteristics. The fifth P is people. Knowledge workers, other employees and management all add to the value of a product and service, or service-only offering, notes the Value Based Management website. The quality of the provider affects service marketing as much as the actual service.

7 P's: Process

Part of marketing centers on maintaining long-term relationships with loyal customers. To do this, companies need to have well-established and consistent service processes. Timely and accurate delivery of services within stated terms is vital. Tools and communication used in customer retention programs are important as well. Retailers, for instance, must have systems in place to fulfill commitments of fast and friendly service. Without defined processes for employees to follow, consistently delivery is challenging, notes Learn Marketing.

7 P's: Physical Evidence

A final critical service marketing element is physical evidence. This is directly tied to the service characteristic of intangibility. With products, your customers can look at, touch and feel your offering. To provide a similar experience, some physical evidence to validate service delivery is an important marketing consideration. If you provide lawn care service, your physical evidence of a quality service delivery is the neatly cut and manicured lawn. In a restaurant, your physical evidence of service is cleanliness, efficient food preparation and a friendly, courteous server. Without these proofs, customer retention and word of mouth are poor.

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