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September 1, 1999
Seven Ps of Services Marketing
By Michael R. Blumberg
The marketing mix, one of the most basic elements of marketing, states that there are
four principles inherent to any marketing program: product, price, promotion and
placement. These four principles of marketing were developed to explain how decisions
affecting the marketing mix impact the success or failure of the marketing program.
Successful service marketers realize the four "Ps" are highly oriented toward
marketing products and find it challenging to apply the four Ps to marketing services.
Service businesses do not have a product per se, as defined in terms of an objective
form, fit and function. Services are intangible and, while they have a form, their fit and
function often can be very subjective. Without a clear product definition, promotion of a
service becomes even more challenging. Placement has a broader connotation to service
marketing as well. Services can be purchased from one source, but delivered by another
service provider. Many times the point of service purchase is a different location than
the point of delivery. In addition, service delivery can be provided from the original
vendor, or from a third party.
Without the concepts of product, promotion and placement, service marketers are left
only with price as a variable to manage in the traditional marketing mix. Studies have
found that when marketers talk about service simply in terms of form and cannot talk to
the broader issues of product, promotion and placement, customers tend to look only at
price, and often will use price as the only criterion for selecting a service provider.
Quite often, less experienced service marketers will attempt to define a service
product only in terms of the skill and capabilities of the provider. In these situations,
the marketer basically promotes skills and capabilities which, in substance, boil down to
the provision of people’s time. Arguments and/or differences of opinion naturally will
emerge as to length, value and output of time. Time itself is a very subjective issue,
which can be argued or disputed by the customer.
More experienced service marketers realize that services marketing issues revolve
around seven, not four, principles.
The seven marketing principles of the service paradigm are:
1. Promise (also referred to as a portfolio), which can be defined as the offer
the service provider makes to the customer;
2. Process, which describes processes and procedures the service provider will
utilize to deliver services to the customer;
3. Provider, which defines any and all tangible elements of an
infrastructure the service organization utilizes to deliver service;
4. Performance, which is the actual result of the delivery;
5. Perception, which is the result or end-game of promotion and is the
emotional response from customers toward the capability, quality and value of the service;
6. Place, which defines where the services are purchased, how they are sold and
who will determine where the service will be provided; and
7. Price, which defines the value of the amount of money or fees the buyer must
pay to the supplier for receipt of services.
Enlightened Service Marketers
Managers who adopt these principles really understand the subtle and unique differences
between products and service and, in doing so, have become "enlightened"
marketers. Enlightened service marketers have learned how to integrate the seven Ps into
effective marketing programs. This requires that the service marketer fully define and
articulate the service offering (e.g., promise or portfolio) to the customer; describe
processes and procedures (e.g., process), which manage service delivery to give the
customer the comfort level, knowledge and picture of the service(s) to be delivered before
they actually are delivered. In essence, enlightened marketers describe to the potential
customer what the experience will be before he or she receives it.
Enlightened service marketers also leverage their company’s investment in
infrastructure (e.g., provider) in the marketing mix. This builds an expectation of the
level of service and activity the customer can expect from the amount of investment the
supplier has made in its infrastructure. Tools and technology such as field
communications, call centers and remote diagnostics give tangible evidence to a customer
that the provider has an infrastructure it can utilize to leverage the quality of service
Service marketers not only must consider concepts such as promise, process and provider
in the marketing mix, they also must demonstrate performance. In essence, they must
provide evidence that they deliver on the promises they make. Performance results must be
shared continuously with current and potential customers. Service companies must reiterate
continuously that they can consistently achieve the results that are promised. Examples of
performance include customer satisfaction results, testimonials and guarantees, as well as
description of lessons learned from past performance.
Perception is everything in service. Perception can make or break a company. It simply
is not enough to promote the company through marketing collateral. Marketers must deal
with influencing current customer views of future service performance. Service marketers
most effectively manage and influence perception through any means necessary, including
printed material, verbal and visual aids, advertising, communications and customer
The concept of place is a complex issue for service marketers. The service marketer
must deal with a number of different issues in bringing services to market, such as:
Who sells the service: a direct sales force or a channel partner?
Who actually delivers the service: a third party or a channel partner?
How do customers obtain or acquire more service: through a call center or web page, or by calling a service engineer, for example?
Services often are delivered by an organization the customer does not deal with, as in
the case of a service subcontractor or partner, or when the customer must turn to a dealer
or distributor channel for provision of services.
Price issues also take on different elements in service marketing. Enlightened service
marketers understand the value-added potential of both time and perception in determining
price. Time is a variable that service marketers can manage and control to their
advantage. Service marketers realize that they can charge premiums for rapid-response
service, whereas the price of product is the same, regardless of whether the product could
be produced in two hours or two days. Furthermore, perception can impact price by as much
as 1,000 percent in a service business, compared to 100 percent in a product business.
Profitable Marketing Mix
The following example illustrates how an organization can utilize the seven Ps of
service marketing to create a marketing mix that results in increased revenue and market
share: The XYZ Company offers local area network (LAN) service and support, and
essentially offers people the skills and expertise to support LANs. This is the extent of
its service product. This service can be provided either on-site or remotely. XYZ prices
by the hour and promotes its service through advertisements in a local business paper.
This particular marketing program, based on the four Ps of product marketing, is producing
less-than-encouraging results for the XYZ Company. Revenue and profits are not growing as
rapidly as market projections. XYZ’s experience does not reflect the fact that network
service is a fast-growing market opportunity.
The Seven Principles of Services Marketing
The service offering or portfolio
7Encapsulates skills and capabilities
Processes and procedures utilized to ensure service delivery
7Deals with who, how and when
Tangible elements of service and support infrastructure
7Tools and technology used in service delivery process
Actual results of service process
7Proof that company can deliver on promise
Visual and verbal communications that create awareness and desire for service
7The emotional response or reaction solicited through
Identification of service sales distribution and delivery channel
7Direct sales force vs. inside sales
7Deals with how customer will purchase service and who will
Value or amount that customer pays for service
7Time and materials
7Time and perception create value
Source: D.F. Blumberg & Associates Inc.,
In contrast, the ABC Company is in the same business as XYZ. However, the ABC Company
has become more successful than XYZ by incorporating the seven Ps of service marketing
into its marketing mix. For example, the ABC Company’s promise is a clearly defined and
articulated portfolio of service offerings ranging from 24×7 coverage to remote monitoring
to four-hour response time. The ABC Company also is effective in describing to the
customer the process of how service will be delivered, including describing the skills and
certification of employees and defining the processes and procedures the company utilizes
to deliver service to the customer. ABC Company explains the call-handling and
call-management processes and the training and experience of service personnel assigned to
the customer site. In its marketing collateral and sales presentation material, the ABC
Company clearly describes its capabilities as a network service provider.
Customers are impressed by the fact that ABC Company invested a large amount of money
in building a state-of-the-art network management system with remote monitoring and
diagnostics capabilities. The ABC Company utilizes customer testimonials and results of
customer satisfaction surveys to demonstrate performance. The fact that ABC Company
continually tracks customer satisfaction performance and offers a performance guarantee
further builds customer confidence and loyalty.
Clearly, the ABC Company is managing its perception as a provider in radio and print
media and through its relationship with customers. The message to the market is that ABC
is a financially stable company with the unique ability to support mission-critical
network technology. ABC sells its services directly to chief financial officers (CFOs) of
mid-size companies through a direct sales force. Although on occasion ABC uses
subcontractors to deliver service to its customers, customers have the perception that ABC
is a one-stop shop for service. This, by the way, is the perception the ABC service
marketing team manages to its fullest. Furthermore, since ABC is perceived as being the
best at what it does, and since it can demonstrate results, the company can offer premium
service at a premium price.
The XYZ Company and the ABC Company share the same basic characteristics: They are in
the same business, serve the same customer base, offer the same service, have been in
business for the same number of years and hire the same type of personnel. However,
revenues and profits of the ABC Company are three times higher than XYZ’s. Clearly, the
ABC Company is doing a much better job in managing the marketing mix from the perspective
of the service paradigm. The XYZ Company is struggling because its marketing mix is based
on a product model.
While the example above represents fictitious companies, it is intended to be
representative of everyday real-world situations. One only needs to compare the experience
of leading companies’ results with organizations that are struggling to see the real
differences in their marketing approach. This clearly demonstrates that successful service
companies are rethinking and re-inventing how they market service to their customers. The
seven Ps of service marketing represent a new model for building a successful service
Michael R. Blumberg, CMC, is vice president of strategic planning and market
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