One of the most common questions I’m asked as a marketing consultant is how to differentiate a service business from its competitors. After all, most accounting firms deliver the same services as other accounting firms. Ditto for law firms, IT firms, banks, and even marketing agencies.
One strategy is to focus on the knowledge and experience of the firm’s employees. I recently wrote about the importance of selling what you know (your smarts), not what you do (your services) to effectively market a professional services business.
There’s another factor that can help differentiate your company in a competitive market: How your employees make your customers feel. Case in point: My UPS delivery guy, Tom.
What can smart marketers learn about marketplace differentiation and customer retention from a UPS driver in Cleveland, Ohio? Here are some tips for your smart marketing strategy.
Delivering Packages and Much More
I opened a UPS account almost 20 years ago when I started a marketing consulting business from my home near Cleveland. A driver named Tom was assigned to my area. Later, when I moved the business to a nearby office building, Tom’s route covered my home and business.
Tom’s been serving us in both locations for many years. Like most UPS drivers, he’s smart, courteous, and efficient.
But Tom delivers much more than packages. He provides an exceptional level of personal service that you won’t find in a job description for a delivery truck driver. As the competent, caring face of the company, Tom helps ensure our loyalty to UPS.
Here are five principles of customer loyalty and retention that Tom practices every day:
- Know the customer. Tom figured out quickly that my home was also my business. From the very beginning, he treated me like an executive, even when my office was 10 feet from the kitchen. As we grew, he came to know our whole team and what our business is about.
- Value the customer. Though ours is a small business, Tom gives us the same respect as a large client. Our packages seem to be just as important as the ones he’s delivering to the biggest tenants in the building.
- Anticipate the customer’s needs. If there’s no one available to sign for a package, Tom will deliver home-bound shipments to our office and vice versa. That may not be in the UPS rule book, but it gets important packages to us without delay and we love it.
- Know your own business. Tom can answer almost any question about shipping via UPS. We can consult the UPS website (and we do), but it’s nice to get the right answer from a real person.
- Delight the customer. When my business was home-based, my children helped answer the door. Tom brought them Dum-Dum lollipops and Tootsie Rolls. All these years later, he still leaves treats for my dog. Is this a corporate strategy to protect UPS drivers from dog bites? I doubt it. I think he’s just a genuinely nice guy who cares about the people he serves.
Lessons for Your Smart Marketing Strategy
If you’re marketing professional services, you’re selling what your people deliver. Promoting their expertise is essential, but so is promoting how they exemplify your commitment to great customer service.
Here’s how to make customer service excellence a core part of your brand and your marketing:
- Hire and train employees who make your customers feel so good about your company that they wouldn’t consider switching vendors because they place so much value on your team.
- Ask customers to help you tell your story in marketing campaigns through testimonials and case studies. Feature employees alongside customers in your advertising.
- Never forget that business is about relationships. Building great relationships with customers – who have the power to refer you to new prospects – is the smartest marketing strategy of all.