I changed dentists recently. Not noteworthy, except that after my first visit, I received a card in my mailbox. It was a thank you for using our service and some information about their practice.
That same week, I contacted a pest control service. Again, not very noteworthy, except for the letter I received after the service thanking me for the business included a magnetized business card for the refrigerator.
Both of those establishments, like law firms, are service oriented.
A Bit of History
In the early 1980s, service marketing emerged as a separate category of marketing. This change was in response to the shift in employment from product creation to provision of services. The shift was worldwide and scholars recognized the importance of services. Around that time the U.S. Supreme Court allowed lawyers to enter the marketing world with their decision in Bates v. State Bar of Arizona, which upheld their right to advertise.
Services were then defined as “deeds, processes, and performances,” (Zeithmal & Bitner, 1996) or "Services are processes (economic activities) that provide time, place, form, problem-solving, or experiential value to the recipient." (Lovelock, 2007)
Recently, the view is that services are like a rental, whereby clients pay for experiences or solutions that add value to their lives. The term “rent” is used to describe payment for use of something or access to skills and expertise such as preparing a will or surgery. For many in our society, they own very little, renting what they need when they need it, whether it be a physical space or labor for work they can’t or don’t want to do.
How do you market to these consumers?
My new dentist and pest control service would say that the goal of marketing for a service business should be getting to know their customers and building a relationship with them. Sending a personalized note was a good start.
Other small, meaningful gestures that help people get to know you include:
- Birthday cards
- Congratulatory cards for events, awards, new memberships, etc.
- Holiday cards
- Postcards announcing a new associate, service, or office location
Your quarterly newsletter can be sent both digitally and by mail. Did you know that 74% of consumers like to receive something in their mailbox? A printed newsletter laying on a table is seen and read by the members of the household and visitors to the home.
Marketing to other lawyers is also important. Collect business cards or make note of the names of those you meet at bar events. Don’t dump the cards in a drawer—send a note memorializing your conversation or include them in your periodic mailings.
The digital world supports your marketing efforts. The key to this form of service marketing is to use the internet to enhance what you know about a person and then keep building relationships with tangible items for which you will need a stamp.
After years practicing law, Roberta Gubbins served as editor of the Ingham County Legal News. Since leaving the paper, she provides legal content writing for lawyers. She is editor of The Mentor, the SBM Master Lawyers newsletter. Writing as Alexandra Hawthorne, she published a cozy mystery, Murder One in Midvale Corners.
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