A lot of the marketing work I do (for myself and for my clients) promotes a service. A conversation I had with some entrepreneurs about Facebook marketing made me think about how selling a service is different from selling a product.
Say you spot a Facebook Ad for a dress that is absolutely gorgeous but you have never heard of the brand. Would you click on the website and check it out? What if you saw an ad for a life coach you knew nothing about? Would you click then?
It seems obvious to me that it’s more likely that you would express interest in the dress than in the life coach. Even if it’s pretty clear that you need advice more than you need more clothing! That’s because you don’t need to trust the dress designer in the same way you need to trust a life coach. Now, it’s true that you will probably check the price and the fabric and the overall look of the website before you buy the dress (and maybe even ask some friends if they know the brand), but that’s enough information to make an informed decision.
But a life coach is much more complex. You will want to hear from a number of satisfied customers (preferably friends of yours), you’ll want to talk to the coach herself to see if her service suits your needs and you may want to think about it for quite a long time before committing.
This is all down to one word: TRUST.
The level of trust needed for purchasing a product is generally less than the level needed for signing up for a personalized service. You need to trust both the service itself and the people providing it. You need to feel that they are experts in their field, have your best interests at heart and are pleasant to work with.
That’s why referrals are so powerful. When someone you respect tells you that they had a positive experience with a service provider, you are much more likely to purchase it yourself. I have a colleague who is so convincing in his referrals, that he does all the hard work for me! The people he sends me have decided to work with me before we have even had a phone conversation.
Testimonials on websites and social media are also a form of referral - while you don’t necessarily know the people praising the service, you may still be convinced by their words. And if you’ve been following a service’s social media platforms, you may have learned to trust that they are experts. If they’re doing social media the right way, you will have also learned something about their brand personality and be able to know if this is a company you are likely to want to work with.
Back to the Facebook Ads. The original conversation was about whether it’s important to build an organic audience on Facebook before promoting the brand with ads. In the ensuing debate, I realized that some of us were talking about products while others were talking about services. Unless a product is extremely expensive, chances are that online ads will be successful. But an ad for a service is probably not going to succeed if it doesn’t have an organic community behind it.
If you’re marketing a service, start by building trust online. Ads are the second step and not the first.