Marketing Design Company Services; How Does It Differ from Business-to-Business Product Marketing?

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Abstract As an industrial designer working for a design consultancy or design agency, you are selling a service rather than a real product. Marketing research and literature however are generally focusing on the marketing of products. A literature study has been performed to research how the marketing of service businesses like design agencies differ from regular product businesses. Differences between products and services, the purchasing behaviour of clients and current marketing situation of design companies resulted in a general advice on how to market design companies. Most important differences between products and services are that services are intangible, the production and consumption are inseparable and there is a lack of ownership. Despite the differences, general marketing knowledge is still applicable in service marketing, i.e. the core of creating added value. However, the focus on the means to achieve this may be different in services. Clients of service companies make their decisions based on trust, reliability and experience. The perceived service quality is much more important than pricing. As every employee in a service company is a salesman and helps to build this reliability and brand image, the internal communication and human administration should fit with the communication and positioning to the outer world. Key words Service marketing, design company, purchasing decisions, competitive advantage 1. Introduction Literature on marketing is generally focussed on the marketing of products. Industrial designers working in a design company, like a design consultancy or agency, do however sell a service instead of a real product. This service is for instance providing professional advice on design directions or designing (a part of) a product. The amount of service firms has grown rapidly the past decades and also more and more large industries leading firms are turning to service support as a way to achieve sustainable competitive advantage (Geoffrey et al, 1993). Despite this growth in service offerings, research and education on marketing still focuses mainly on product marketing. In marketing a service offering, communicating the benefits compared to competitors might be more difficult than for real products, where product characteristics are measurable and clearly communicated. Building a trustful bond with the customer and having an attractive product portfolio may be factors that are more important for service businesses. Both parties agree before hand on the price of the service. But how do clients make the decision for a design company? In this research information will be gained on the purchasing behaviour of the customers and on the sales behaviour of the service businesses. What is most interesting for the customer, the price, the time, the quality, the commitment? There will be focused how clients make purchasing decisions and how a design company can use that information to successfully market their service. Are general corporate and business strategy models for product businesses also valid for service businesses? What is recommended when promoting/marketing a service,

like a design consult? Research in general service marketing is used to create a solid base of knowledge in this area. Then there will be focused on design companies more detailed. Main research question: How does the marketing of a service business like design agencies differ from regular product businesses? Sub research questions: What are the differences and similarities between products and services? Which factors are important for clients when purchasing a service? What are useful marketing tools for service businesses to gain a sustainable competitive advantage?

2. Method A literature study has been performed to find answers to the research questions. Articles and books that treat the subjects in general are combined with more in-depth researches about one single aspect in service marketing. Both literature on...
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