BY HARRY BECKWITH
Service companies often struggle with marketing efforts because their “product” is not a physical thing. Services are abstract and their effectiveness and value are hard to measure from a customer point of view. Harry Beckwith explains that marketing and selling a service requires a completely different approach than marketing and selling a physical product. Though Selling the Invisible contains “how-to” sections, such as “Quick Fixes”, it is more of a “how-to-think-about book.” Using entertaining and revealing stories from major corporations and artists to provide examples and drive home key points, Beckwith delivers effective tips and reminders that help service companies begin to think differently and grow their business.
The approach of learning how to think, as opposed to learning simply what to do, is the foundation of the book and is what makes it so refreshing and effective. Beckwith clearly outlines the foundation for this “how-to-think” approach with specific questions such as “What am I good at?” and specific exercises such as defining a service, understanding prospects, and understanding a customer’s buying behavior. While much of the material in the book will not be seen as particularly new or ground-breaking, it's the way the material entices readers to look at these effective marketing elements with a different, creative view, that makes the material so valuable.
While readers will find the traditional marketing elements such as product, promotion, place, and price – the focus of Selling the Invisible is on how customer service and relationships impact sales. From how to use customer complaints to improve a service and better position that service, to more clearly defining a service and the targeted customers, the material Beckwith presents will surely create some “aha” moments, if not a genuine epiphany!
The early chapters of the book, such as “Surveying and Research: Even Your Best Friends Won't Tell You” and “Marketing is Not a Department” focus on learning how to objectively think about the effectiveness of current marketing efforts. From assuming that current service levels are inadequate to realizing that everything a company does is marketing, the emphasis here is to help companies realize what a valuable resource their customers are in better defining, and presenting, the services being offered.
Later chapters such as “Planning: The Eighteen Fallacies”, “Anchors, Warts, and American Express: How Prospects Think”, and “The More You Say, the Less People Hear: Positioning and Focus” continue the “how-to-think” approach by questioning traditional marketing staples and learning how to find effective alternatives. These chapters help readers better understand how the right thought processes and the right questions often reveal opportunities and issues that may have gone unnoticed with a more traditional marketing approach.
The final chapters in the book focus on the importance of rethinking pricing, branding, selling, and keeping customers happy. These final chapters bring everything together with concrete exercises, many of which challenge conventional marketing techniques, and provide readers with an opportunity to put their new “thinking” skills to work. Because of the fresh, thought-provoking approach to marketing and selling the “invisible,” the book will be a valuable resource for any service provider. With an open mind and the desire to put the lessons learned into action, they could transform how their service is marketed and create more value for their customers and more growth for their company.