When it comes to marketing a product, it is somehow easier than marketing a service, even in marketing strategies there are only 4P’s involved with marketing a product, whereas service marketing involves seven and sometimes fourteen—depending on the service and the nature of business a given company operates in.

While service marketing is difficult, what makes it even harder when the industry a company operates in is homogenous; having very small differentiations in terms of features, benefits, and/or quality.

Thus, such industries operate based on the grounds of pricing and availability—the customer who knows you, and knows you provide such a service in medium-to-low prices will approach you. Such facts leave no room for service marketers to innovate; ultimately having to join forces with other departments in a given organization to handle the price, operational efficiency, and service quality wars which help them build a brand that sells.

One of those fiercely competitive service industries is the car rental business; marketing is no typical game and the strategies used must be unique, cost effective, and timely. The question then here is: what are those strategies to be used by marketers in the car rental business to prosper?

Focus on Creating a Brand

With no way to determine the real difference between car rental companies and the tendency to make quick decisions, customers tend to depend on the criteria of the brand and/or the price when choosing which company to go with. If the brand criterion is not clear, then the ultimate decision is based on price—which leads to the price war spoken about earlier. Thus, it is vital for the car rental marketers to create a clear brand that stands for whatever the customer in such market connotes with quality.

For example, customers in a given market might connotes quality with a foreign brand name, the variety of service, or the focus of services, providing services of higher prices than competition, providing only one type of cars to be associated with, and/or even focusing more on the quality of workshops and associated services.

Ultimately, understanding how customers perceive your brand is the key to success in such a competitive market place.

Focus on Your Current Customers

If you are an established business in the car rental industry, focusing on your current customers and increasing their satisfaction levels is the key to success. Earning a new customer is a very difficult task in any given industry, but it is much more difficult in the service industry and specially the car rental business. Keeping a happy customer ensures business continuity and additionally attracts new customers. This can happen by offering bundled services to sell more than one service for a good rate (ensuring all services are utilized and at the same time offering a good price).

Additionally, creating loyalty programs giving customers more worth for what they pay for repeatedly. And more importantly, collaborating with your customers on their business providing them transportation solutions for problems they face instead of just offering your service.

For a new car rental business, it is all about attracting new customers and this can only happen by addressing the need of the customers by the availability of the service. Being where your customers need you the most is vital; an established business attracts by its brand name, but a new business needs to be always where its customers are. For example, operating in a hotel chain where tourists utilize car rental services is a great solution for a beginner company.

Pay Attention to Customer Service

Customer service in the rental business is not only defined by how to service the customer; there are many elements associated with such an industry, such as, road service assistance, car replacement, workshop service, addressing customer complaints, etc… Understanding how to create an added value by an added cost effective and value generating service is a must.

An added service might hurt the brand if not of high quality or value, and might hurt the company if draining its resources even if creating high satisfaction levels for the customers. A balanced combination between what is provided and what is perceived ultimately creates customer loyalty and retention.

Never Advertise … Use Marketing

Advertising is a very costly solution for product selling companies, and not a very practical solution for the service selling companies (specially in the car rental business) as they increase cost and take away the efficiency element spoken about earlier needed to face competition if a price war raised. Using TV ads, newspapers, and other traditional means of advertising is not going to increase usage for a car rental company – merely create awareness for the brand which can be created in practical means using marketing methods additionally ensuring ROI and ways to measure your activities efficiency.

Communicate your brand value and services offered by using for instance email marketing where you target a specific list of customers and measure their response rate. Additionally, direct sale is a very effective technique of marketing your service through personal presentation, demonstration, and the sale of your services to consumers where they reside (at work, home, shopping malls, etc…)

Recognize Your Customers

Aside from loyalty programs which depend on usage, recognizing your customers and the value of being associated to your brand is a must. To be a leader in your industry you have to create standards for others to outperform in and reward them on their performance. For example, creating excellence awards to major clients, to the best suppliers, to customers outperforming in their business by default creates an industry leader which creates aspirations for association with your brand.

Create & Drive the Change

Adoption of marketing strategies and having the same offering as the competition is common between all the industries, but the car rental business is a very fast moving, very competitive, and very price sensitive not to allow such mimicking of service offering or marketing strategies’ adoptions. To really win in the car rental business you have to drive the change and be a market leader in what you offer and how you market your product and how you reach your customers. At the end, what you offer is a car no different from what others offer, so be different in how you offer it!