Solutions Marketing: A 4-Step Model to Building an Effective Customer Advocacy Program

"Our solutions providers can’t assume that we’ll stay loyal to them. From our point of view, they need to earn our business every day. If they provide us the value that they promise, we’ll be great customers for them. We’ll even help them get other customers."

Does this sound like any of your customers? We’ve heard this opinion about satisfaction and loyalty from a lot of different solutions buyers. In our experience, they tend to be fair but demanding. Many of them appreciate the value that you bring them, but have the “but that was yesterday…what are you doing for me today?” attitude.

Driving Business Value — the Basis for all Customer Advocacy Activities:

Nothing can replace having great solutions packages that you can provide your customers. Niceties like immediately responding to phone calls, providing project updates on a weekly basis, having your executives stay in touch with their executives, etc., won’t substitute for great technology and solutions implementation processes and methodologies. It’s the overall value embedded in your solutions offerings that will carry the day. Your first step in driving high levels of customer satisfaction and loyalty — which should ultimately lead to proactive advocacy on your behalf — is to deliver real business value with every project or delivery.

The Case for a Strong Customer Advocacy Program:

However, in today’s global, hypercompetitive market, it can be really hard to differentiate your solutions over the long term. Even if your customers agree that you provide real business value, you still will have to emphasize the value deliver — and, in fact, add to it — by having a strong Customer Advocacy program.

The Role of Solutions Marketing:

Solutions Marketers have a critical role in transforming your customers into your company’s advocates. As I said earlier, the cornerstone of long-term relationship with your customers will always be the value delivered through your solutions. To ensure that you leverage that value, here are 4 steps that you can take that will put a spotlight on that value and lead to stronger relationships with your customer.

Why is this Model Relevant to Solutions Marketers?

While all of these activities could be relevant to services or product-based companies, they should be part and parcel for solutions companies. The main reasons for this are:

  • Solutions, by definition, are about solving your customer’s business problems. This requires deeper knowledge of your customer’s problems, competitive position, strategy, etc. Your importance and status to your customer increases as you deliver more complex solutions with greater business impact.
  • You have a longer relationship with your customer. Solutions typically take longer to implement and enable inside the customer’s environment, and the impact of the solution takes longer to measure. This can work to your advantage if you “keep your nose clean” and fulfill your promises as laid out in your Value Propositions.

So…now that we’ve looked at what to do, the next question is how to do it.

  • Should all of the programs within each of the 4-step model operate independently?
  • Should they all be managed and controlled by a single person or group?
  • Where should the responsibility for making this happen live within an organization?

Share your experiences and insights with us…while we have our own opinions, we’d love to hear yours.

Comments (4)

by
Yerikho

Regarding the implementation process: Solution as regarded as the most complex things to be implemented by organization either its big profit or not profit organization. Also, it has a long time to be implemented. In addition for that, solution marketing also takes the longer sales cycle than marketing. Based on those conditions, it is better to execute the 4 step model independently. By executing the model independently, it will reduce the amount of complexity and workload for each steps. Regarding the operation flows of 4 step models: Based on case discussion in the class and some online blog provided, it really depends on each organization as it differs from one to another in term of : • Organization structure • Organization objective • Organization size • Organization background • Its customer segment, needs and expectation • Stakeholder expectation • Balance scorecard assessment : learning and growth, customer satisfaction, internal process and financial performance With those factors combined with balance scorecard, I believe that particular organization will be able to decide whether 4 step model should be implemented by an individual or a group. Regarding process execution: I personally believe that for a starting point, there should be a solution marketing council / special department at a company consists of people that responsible for the implementation. However, for the longer run, it is necessary to involve bigger part of the company to involve in this program as its complex and require time energy to be implemented.

by
Nishant Pratik

Good to see this insightful article. In my opinion, the 4 step model should not be made to operate independently. Thinking of it a from a solutions approach, all steps go hand in hand and are dependent on each other. So for better control and accountability, the model should be made to function under a single umbrella of a big marketing campaign within an organization. May be a body like Solutions Council can take ownership here to drive the initiatives as outlined. The steps can be taken up parallely but within the ambit of a single authority. This parallel approach will save time and a single authority will make the entire process implementation more efficient .So this dual strategy of being time effective will push this model to kick off in the right direction of building an effective customer advocacy program and follow it through.

by
Juliana Ortega

Marketing should be in charge for making these four steps happen, but always working in a collaborative way with sales force. I would complement this model with a continuous measurement of the results from the implementation of these programs. The purpose of the model is to leverage in the value the company is delivering to the clients, the model look for feedback from customers. This information should be used to produce reports; these reports are a way to remind clients how beneficial is the relationship. Having a continuous flow of physical evidence will prove to clients how all the activities are adding more and more value leading to a higher level in customer satisfaction.

by
Gustavo de Oliveira

Its interesting the approach showed using the 4 steps, where, beyond the actual solution, methodology or processes to be implemented, also include the relationship with customers. This involvement is important not only at the beginning of the process, where you need to proof that you are the one capable to do the work but, also, to use your client satisfaction as a source of differentiation using his advocacy on your favor. Due to the fact that it is hard to separate each step while implementing the actual solution, I don't think that separately the steps can work as efficiently as working together. The best scenario would be only one person managing every steps, however, given the high complexity of all of these steps, the best way to control it is each part being managed by a group of experts and, after gathering the information from even step, one person analyze it in order to understand the value added to the customer's business. To manage the steps you can involve more than one area across the company. For instance, the first step should be controlled by the Sales and/or Marketing team, while the second should involve engineers to help with deep knowledge about the solution to be implemented. To enhance the model, the company can implement the solution along with a total quality model in order to keep the solution running properly and accordingly to consumer's expectations.