Following on my previous post on Product Marketing 101 and Product Marketing 102, I want to try to touch on what you can do when the product is a service, and when you are looking at the question from the perspective of a professional firm. This perspective was prompted by a great post from Brad Feld on Consulting vs. Professional Services which links to some previous discussion with Didier Beck on how product marketing framework apply (or not…) to services (and not to product).
Professional Services is easier to define - in my little universe it's what software companies do to implement and support their software products. This activity is almost always in support of a pre-existing product that addresses a well-defined need.
Consulting is a little harder to define, partly because it has a broader range.
It gets tricky when you mix both Professional Services and Consulting within the same company. Return Path has a young consulting group (which they refer to as strategic solutions) that helps companies understand how to be more effective with their email marketing. This is not in support of any specific Return Path product, yet in encompasses all of the capabilities that Return Path can bring to a customer, along with others from Return Path partners and complimentary providers. However, within Return Path's Delivery Assurance products, there is a professional services component - as many deliverability customers want help interpreting and understanding the information they are getting as well as learning how to take action on it. In this case, there's a clear consulting group that engages with customers independent of the specific products that Return Path sell and a professional services group that helps support the specific Return Path products being used by their customers.
This also back some reading memory from managing the professional service firm [must read book on how to manage profession service organisations] by David H Maister.
Professional firms differ from other business enterprises in two distinct ways:,
· They provide highly customized services and thus cannot apply many of the management principles developed for product-based industries.
· They are highly personalized, involving the skills of individuals.
Such firms must therefore compete not only for clients but also for talented professionals (interestingly, a Venture Capital firm is also a professional firm, where all the issues raised by David apply) .
Going back to brad’s point I would think that the product framework described in Product Marketing 101 and Product Marketing 102, also applies to a service offering positioning, and should be applied to resolve the difference between what each group should do.
- For (target customers - beachhead segment only)
- Who are dissatisfied with (the current service alternatives)
- Our service is a (new product category)
- That provides (key problem-solving capability)
- Unlike (the alternative)
- We have assembled (key whole service features for your specific application)