8 ways to make your service business observable, no magic required

If no one can see you, do you exist? Just like we question whether sound occurs when a tree falls in the forest when no one is around, your service industry business needs to check how visible it is to clients when you’re out of sight.

The issue of observability is very real for service industry businesses that don’t produce anything tangible. Dictionary.com defines observable as: “capable of being or liable to be observed; noticeable; visible; discernible. Deserving of attention; noteworthy.”

Also important to service industry businesses and hard to see is word of mouth. Fortunately social networks have given us some visibility of word of mouth through the use of analytics, the ability to ‘share’ and track conversions. Now better known as word of mouse.

Whether online or offline, word of mouth relies on our networks to connect conversations, to share ideas or pass on recommendations. One school of thought said recommendations from highly visible influencers are more powerful, however it's not that simple. In Paul Adams’ book Grouped, he shows the true influencers are the people closest to us, in our closest groups, circles and hangouts. It makes sense that we’ll take a recommendation from someone we know over someone we don’t, even if they do have celebrity status. It’s a matter of trust. There’s no substitute for it.

Movember is a terrific example of how an intangible disease combines a visual device (the moustache) to achieve visibility (awareness) with word of mouth (discussion) to create action (fund raising). In case you don’t know, the Movember initiative was created to change the face of men’s health and fund programs to improve lives of men affected by prostate cancer, testicular cancer and mental health problems.

When November rolls around we start to notice men growing a moustache and it sends a powerful message about what they’re doing or stimulates a conversation to ask them why. The biggest threat to Movember is the hipster who wears their moustache and beard all year round.

If you understand the need to make your service industry business observable these are eight ideas to consider for your business:

  1. Participate online via social media and encourage your people to be visible online in a professional capacity too
  2. Create content that's useful to your customers and that they want to share with their contacts
  3. Use design in suprising ways in your physical environment and collateral to get noticed
  4. Align with good causes, causes that product tangible results for those less fortunate
  5. Partner and co-brand with product businesses where there's mutual benefit
  6. Be consistent in your branding as the repetition will make you more identifiable
  7. Create products like ebooks or research reports that add value to your service
  8. Distribute meaningful promotional premiums (calculators or storage boxes for an accountancy firm) to bring a tangible element to your service.

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