You know what you do. You know you do it well. However, potential clients might not know that and your marketing kit might not convey an adequate understanding of what, exactly, it is that you do. The key to effective packaging lies in definition, which must state what something is. You cannot define your service, your brand, or anything else by stating what it is not.
John Jantsch of Duct Tape Marketing states that “packaging is all about how you package concepts and principles in ways that define your core difference, methodology and brand.” That packaging must consider the brand, which entails development of a point of view. Speak to your clients and listen to their feedback: they’ll tell you whether your brand stands out and why. If they use your service despite the brand, then you’ve got bigger problems that can be fixed in a blog.
The packaging of your brand and the service(s) you provide “breaks down into a series of named and branded deliverables,” says Jantsch. It “keeps the level of consulting consistent in a way that it can be duplicated in the hands of others.”
Once you’ve define what it is you do and how it is you do it, then you must develop processes and tools that guide the execution of effort so that employees can duplicate that excellence without micromanagement. A sure way to fluster your staff and build resentment is to stand over their shoulders and monitor every little thing they do.
The concept of packaging services to support and enhance a company’s brand isn’t new. CRC Press published a book on the topic in 1996. The image surrounding the brand and the service may be considered a “silent salesman,” that first glance that determines attraction. Susan LaPlante-Dube echoes that sentiment: “Services – you can’t see them, you can’t touch them and you can’t take them out of the box for a demonstration. Yet all of this is what you must do in order to sell them.” The abstract objective of turning your service into a physical product is to make the intangible tangible.
Although turning what you do into a commodity may go against current wisdom, think of it this way: Repackaging your service as a tangible product makes it easier for customers to understand and buy. Be aware, however, that it’s likely your company isn’t the only one offering that service, so you must distinguish your service as the preferred option. Distinguishing characteristics may include location, ease of use, customer service, price, flexibility, business niche, and so forth.
For instance, if you operate a landscaping company, then you won’t be promoting your business to potential customers 500 miles away. You may market your company as using all-natural, ecologically friendly, sustainably sourced fertilizer. You might cite client testimonials: “This company turned our dry, barren lot into a luxurious paradise!” You might promote expertise in xeriscaping to reduce any need for irrigation and the use of indigenous species to avoid planting foreign and possibly invasive species.
Listing a menu of standard services with costs attached also helps potential customers calculate whether your service will fit into their budgets. Be sure to specify what’s included in the cost and feel free to establish service levels: lower service levels at lower costs and vice versa. For instance, a personal chef might state that cooking and freezing three meals with certain, commonly available ingredients in sufficient quantity to feed four people costs X dollars. Accommodating special dietary restrictions may add to the cost. For instance, Salted Chef in Dayton, Ohio offers a table for pricing. The table states that the chef will procure the necessary ingredients for meal preparation, but at an added cost of $25 for shopping.
Before packaging your service, however, determine whether packaging makes sense. First, understand your market. According to David Hofferberth, “You must have a compelling answer to the question “Why should we package this service?” Too often firms begin packaging services to correct internal problems. Instead, focus should be on the market and the pervasive business problem the service solves.” The packaging you decide upon—assuming you decide to proceed with this effort—should focus outward: what will best serve the client base? That outward focus–supplemented by feedback from your existing clients–will inform the process that guides the effort to define and package whatever it is that you do so that you can sell and deliver that service with predictable and consistent results.