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Service Marketing and Product Marketing: What’s the Difference?

An essential function of any successful business is marketing. However, to be most effective, the kind of marketing and the strategy involved should be tailored to each business and to the product or service it offers. Hence, marketing usually falls in one of two categories: service marketing or product marketing.

Although both types of marketing share similarities, many of the basic strategies are different. Service marketing builds on many of the fundamentals of product marketing, but involves more intangible components. For those interested in marketing service-based businesses, degree programs like the University of Texas at Tyler’s online Master of Business Administration (MBA) with a Concentration in Marketing combine a generalized study of advanced business practices with a focused study of service marketing, the challenges it poses and strategies proven to be effective.

How Are Service Marketing and Product Marketing Defined?

Product marketing is often referred to using the four P’s: product, price, place and promotion. states that product marketing is “aimed at finding out the right market for a product and its placement in such a way that it gets [a] good customer response. It entails promotion and sale of a product to its [the company’s] target audience, i.e. prospective and existing buyers.”

Building on the four P’s, service marketing also involves people, process and physical existence, suggesting the more complex, intangible aspect of building reputation and relationships. defines service marketing simply: “The promotion of economic activities offered by a business to its clients,” giving examples like “selling telecommunications, health treatment … and professional services.”

What Are Some Similarities Between Service Marketing and Product Marketing?

Both forms of marketing entail essentially the same thing: to promote and sell something. The basic tenets of the marketing process apply to both. The marketer should research the demographic and target market as well as devise and execute the marketing strategy and modes of distribution that will be most effective in reaching that target audience.

Both forms of marketing then need to solicit customer feedback in order to make market-based improvements to the product or service, enhance the customer experience, and even refine the marketing strategy moving forward. The results, data and customer feedback on a marketing strategy can also provide the business (client) useful information with which to fine-tune the strategy when launching new services or products and expanding into new markets.

What Are Some Differences Between Service Marketing and Product Marketing?

Unlike service marketing, product marketing promotes items that customers can touch, purchase and use. Products are tangible. Marketing a product means connecting the product and its consumer base through various media (paid ads on social media, search engine marketing, radio and newspaper advertisements, etc.). The marketer provides knowledge of product and price in hopes of persuading the customer to buy.

For instance, say you are hosting a party at your house and need music. You see a quality home stereo system advertised online. After searching for information on the stereo, you buy it at a nearby store or from an online retailer. You try it out and decide if it proves to be the high-quality stereo advertised. Depending on if it lives up to, or falls below, your expectations, you keep it or return it.

On the other hand, services cannot be touched. They are not bought through a distributor, detached from the “manufacturer.” Services are rendered directly by the provider, usually at the time of sale. By nature, a service is never the same twice. Where a product is the same every time, a service can be customized exactly to the customer’s needs. Services cannot be returned, and are therefore “perishable.” Services have an intangible impact, depending wholly on the quality of the service and the experience of the customer.

Marketing services involves getting the word out to potential customers through media as described for product marketing. But in service marketing, the intent lies in building relationships with customers, leading to both customer retention and a good reputation. Loyal customers spread the word through personal interaction, social media and other methods of communication. Word of mouth and testimonials are essential for success in service marketing.

If you wish to hire a live band for your party, you may find local bands online, see them advertised through social media, or better yet, suggested to you by a friend. You listen to samples of their music, read performance reviews and ask friends about them. You decide to hire the band to play at your party. If they live up to your expectations, your investment was worthwhile. If they fail to meet your expectations, you cannot return the experience and service (although you might get a partial refund).

Though service and product marketing share much in common, they require different approaches and focuses to be effective. Learning about the unique aspects of service marketing through a specialized master’s degree program like UT Tyler’s online MBA with a Concentration in Marketing can help graduates succeed in this nuanced and complex field.

Learn about the UT Tyler online MBA with a concentration in Marketing program.


The Houston Chronicle: Is Service Marketing Different From Product Marketing?

The Houston Chronicle: Difference Between Marketing Products and Services The Difference Between Marketing a Product and a Service

BusinessDictionary: Service Marketing

Key Differences: Difference Between Product Marketing and Service Marketing

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