How to develop a marketing strategy and plan for a service business

How to develop a marketing strategy and plan for a service business

develop a marketing strategy

Before you start marketing your service-based business, it’s essential to develop a marketing strategy and plan.

An effective marketing strategy and plan will include your objectives or goals, the target market you want to attract, the service offerings you’re going to provide, and the marketing activities you’re going to implement to achieve your goals.

By taking a strategic approach to your marketing, you’ll also be more likely to achieve your goals sooner and see a higher return on your marketing investment.

So, how do you develop a marketing strategy and plan?

Here’s a list of ten steps I recommend you follow to develop a marketing strategy and plan for your service-based business:

1 Select your market positioning

When it comes to developing a marketing strategy for your service-based business, the first step is to select your market positioning.

This means, selecting a target market or niche, choosing a specialist area, and tailoring your service proposition, so that it’s better or different to your competitors.

Many small businesses fear doing this, as they believe it will reduce both the size of their available market and revenue opportunities.

However, it’s proven to have the opposite effect.

A marketing message that speaks directly to your target market, will be more likely to resonate and stand out to your ideal clients.

When you specialise in an area of expertise, you’ll become known as an authority in something, which is a fantastic way to build credibility and trust with your ideal clients.

And when you differentiate your service proposition, it gives you an opportunity to value-add and set a premium price.

A great way to communicate your market position is via a unique value proposition (UVP) or an elevator pitch.

Work on developing a succinct sentence that communicates your target market, the solutions you provide, and what makes you better or different from your competitors.

2 Conduct target market research

Conducting thorough market research is the key to attracting your target market and developing appealing service offerings.

Conducting thorough market research is the key to attracting your target market and developing appealing service offerings. #marketing #marketresearch Click To Tweet

Market research provides examples of the language your ideal client uses when talking about your services.

The research will also give you insights into the struggles they face and the fears they have. This will enable you to design better solutions that overcome these factors.

Methods for conducting market research include:

  • Inviting past or potential clients for coffee or lunch and asking them questions;
  • Searching Facebook groups for problems to find out what they’re struggling with;
  • Reading relevant book reviews on to see what solutions they value;
  • Sending out a survey to your email list which includes open-ended questions; and
  • Reading industry reports and case studies on services in your niche.

In addition to researching your target market, also spend some time checking out your competition.

Visit their website, take note of the types of services and offers they provide, and find out what others say about your competition in online reviews.

When you develop a marketing strategy and plan, it’s essential to include market research in your ongoing marketing activities.

There are valuable insights you can gather via surveys, reviews, and feedback forms to continuously improve your service business.

RELATED: Free Training – How to research your target market

Not sure where to start when it comes to marketing your service-based small business? That’s where I can help. Get started by downloading my free Ultimate Marketing Checklist by clicking the button below: 

3 Build a great website

When you’re a service-based business, your ideal clients are likely to “visit” you via your website.

As such, it’s essential to provide a great first impression.

And, to ensure your website functions well and is easy to navigate.

If you’re not confident with the technical side, then hire a website developer to help you.

Alternatively, spend money educating yourself on how to build, maintain, and manage your site.

Another way to invest in your website is with high-quality photos. It can make all the difference!

Also, if copywriting is not your strength, then employing a copywriting specialist could deliver better returns through higher conversion rates.

RELATED: 15 Ways to drive traffic to your small business website

4 Design a strong brand

When it comes to branding your service-based business, develop a marketing strategy and plan that includes your:

  • Mission statement;
  • Personal story; and
  • A brand style guide.

Your mission statement articulates whom you want to help with your business and ‘why.’

It’s an integral part of your brand, as it’s a way to build a stronger connection with your target market.

Sharing your personal story is another great way to build a connection with your audience.

It can be difficult to write and talk about yourself, so be sure to ask for help if you need another perspective.

Include both your mission statement and a personal story on the ‘About’ page of your site.

Your style guide is the final part of your branding, which includes your visual identity and values.

Design a professional logo and select the fonts, images, and colour palette that you will use.

Also, think of 4-5 words that you would use to describe your brand values.

These values will guide your business’s tone and brand presence, as well as help you with creating and curating content.

5 Create offers and package your services

When you create a service package, it makes it easier for you to avoid trading your time for money.

It enables you to ‘hide’ your hourly rate inside a package price and position your services based on value rather than on cost.

When you create a service package, it makes it easier for you to avoid trading your time for money. #marketing #servicebusiness #marketingstrategy Click To Tweet

It’s important to package your services because it’s the total price that you want your target market to focus on and determine value.

For example, if you had a high hourly rate but took less time to complete a task, then your total package price may be the same as a competitor’s who had a low hourly rate but took longer.

The marketing objective is to present your services on the total value you provide; as opposed to getting caught in a discussion around hourly rates which are comparable to your competitors.

As your business grows and your systems and processes mature, it will also take you less time to deliver your services. This time saving will improve the profitability of your small business.

Designing and promoting a service offer is a great way to create urgency with your target market and build momentum.

As an example, an offer could be a special limited-time bonus or a new exclusive service that’s only available to people who are on your email list.

When designing your service offers, try to avoid discounting and think about how you can value-add instead.

Sometimes all our ideal clients need is a bonus to take a risk and finally work with us.

Not sure where to start when it comes to marketing your service-based small business? That’s where I can help. Get started by downloading my free Ultimate Marketing Checklist by clicking the button below: 

6 Write a marketing plan including your objectives and targets

A lot of people hate planning! It can mean structure and accountability, and that’s just not for everyone.

But, that’s ok. Some of us enjoy planning while others don’t.

However, a marketing plan doesn’t have to be complicated or long.

It can even be on one page if that’s what works for you.

A marketing plan needs to have your objectives or what you want to achieve; the activities you are going to undertake to achieve your goals, and the targets you are going to set yourself so you can measure and track your performance.

When you’re investing time and money in anything, the results or the outcome will be directly linked to what’s put into the process.

So, if you don’t see the results you want from your marketing efforts, take a step back and consider what you’re putting into it.

Do you have a plan in place (even a simple one) to help you make strategic decisions?

Have you identified what works best and are you focusing more of your time on that activity?

When you have a plan that is measurable, it makes it a lot easier to track your performance.

It provides you with an opportunity to review what’s working, and what’s not. And then make adjustments to improve your performance.

RELATED: How to write a marketing plan for a service-based business

7 Build a content platform through writing or speaking

Content is a valuable marketing asset for your business, whether it’s written, audio, or visual.

There are two types of content you can create – your core content and your promotional content.

Your core content builds a platform or a voice for you to showcase your expertise and position yourself as an authority.

While promotional content helps you to build awareness with your followers or community.

The format for your core content could include a blog, a video series, a podcast, live Facebook or LinkedIn video, Instagram TV, special events, online webinars, an email newsletter, and information sessions or presentations.

If you’re not sure what core content to create, consider two things:

Firstly, what type of content would be the easiest for your target market to consume?

For example, if you’re producing technical ‘how-to’ information would it be better to write a blog post, or to record a series of videos that include screenshots showing them how to do something?

Secondly, what kind of content are you going to enjoy creating and have the time to produce consistently?

If you hate writing or have limited time, then the truth is you’re going to be less likely to be able to produce weekly blog articles.

A more realistic format for you might be Facebook live videos which are fast to produce.

Consistency is the key here, so choose an appropriate format for creating a core base for your content marketing strategy.

Once you have a solid foundation for your core content, then creating promotional content becomes a whole lot easier as you can repurpose it in multiple ways.

Promotional content includes social media posts that promote your core content and the services you sell. You may also create a range of promotional awareness content pieces such as inspirational quotes, questions, tips, and fun stories as examples.

RELATED: How to create an effective content marketing strategy

8 Grow your community and email list

At any given time, there’s only going to be a certain number of people who are ready to buy from you.

Additionally, it’s near impossible (or indeed very costly) to be able to identify these people specifically with your marketing.

It’s also not uncommon for people to take their time before making a decision to work with you.

Often, ideal clients may need to see or hear from your business many times before they trust you enough to give you their money.

That’s where growing your community and email list comes in.

It will likely become an essential part of your marketing strategy and plan.

RELATED: How to build an email list when you’re first starting out

Growing a following on your selected social media platforms is an excellent way to build awareness, provide value, and nurture your sales prospects.

However, you don’t have any ownership or control over the data or connections on these platforms.

As such, be sure to focus on how you can convince your social media followers to join your email list.

Also, add email list building strategies to your online marketing plan.

There’s a direct correlation between the size of your email list and the revenue opportunities for your business.

So, ensure you have at least one activity on your marketing to-do list each day to grow your community and build your email list.

Not sure where to start when it comes to marketing your service-based small business? That’s where I can help. Get started by downloading my free Ultimate Marketing Checklist by clicking the button below: 

9 Seek out collaboration opportunities

If your business is new, you probably won’t have a large community or strong brand awareness.

However, there will be others in your niche who offer complementary services that you could collaborate or partner with.

If they are an established business, they will have a list of clients who may need your services.

And in time as your client base grows, you’ll be able to refer business back to your collaboration partners as well.

When looking for collaboration partners, take a strategic approach.

Develop a marketing strategy that is focused on trying to build fewer, but more thoughtful and deeper business connections.

For a collaboration to work well, there needs to be value in it for both partners.

Find out what your potential partner would find valuable and approach them with the view to give, rather than to receive in the first instance.

Establishing partnerships with other businesses takes time, so ensure you have set aside a good amount of time to build a healthy relationship.

RELATED: 5 Essential steps for creating an effective marketing collaboration

10 Collect testimonials and ask for referrals

There’s a very high level of trust required in a service-based sales transaction, as your client is making a purchasing decision based on what value they think they’re going to receive.

Therefore, they’ll be looking for evidence of results from past clients to give them confidence that they are making the right decision.

Implementing a strategy for collecting client testimonials is essential for a service-based business.

Implementing a strategy for collecting client testimonials is essential for a service-based business. #marketingstrategy #smallbusiness Click To Tweet

Help your clients by giving them templates for testimonials that communicate the transformation they achieved while working with you.

Templates such as… “When I first started working with [name of business], I was {struggling with XYZ}. However, now I {have achieved/seen XYZ results} and have no hesitation in recommending her”.

Another important factor is to decide where you want to build your list of testimonials online for social proof.

RELATED: How to use client testimonials in your content marketing strategy

There are so many platforms available nowadays, so choose the platform that is most visited by your target market and ask your clients to leave you a recommendation there.

Regarding referrals, these can often come from business partnerships as well as via networking.

Try to put yourself in positions where you are meeting or attending events with potential referral partners as often as you can.

Referral partnerships are another relationship that is built over time, so ensure you focus on making a connection first before asking for a referral.

When you follow these steps, you’ll be well on your way to developing a marketing strategy and plan that will build a solid foundation for your business.

In addition, when you start working with more clients, you’ll gain a deeper understanding of what their main challenges are. This insight will give you additional ideas for developing service packages and promotional offers.

Just remember to take things one step at a time when you develop a marketing strategy and stay focused on the end goals and objectives that you want to achieve.

Tired of trying to figure out what you’re missing when it comes to finding clients and making sales in your service business?

Break through the barriers that are holding you back with the support of an MBA-qualified Marketing Coach and Business Mentor who will tailor a 1:1 program specifically for you.

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BUSINESS BREAKTHROUGH is a 3 or 6-month 1:1 Coaching Program for service-based business owners who want to develop the strategy, systems, and structure they need to find clients and make sales, so they can stop feeling stuck and start gaining massive momentum in their business.

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Hayley Robertson
Hayley Robertson
Want to attract new clients and grow your business without the stress and overwhelm? That's where I can help! Join the My Client Strategy Academy or learn more about my 1:1 marketing coaching programs. Before starting my business, I spent more than 15 years working for some of Australia's largest service-based organisations and hold a Masters of Business Administration (MBA) and a Bachelor of Management (Marketing). Learn more about me here.