Solutions Marketing Success Story: How a Small Company Created a Big Solution

Guest Blog Post: Greg Root

Is Solutions Marketing only for large, global companies?

The short answer is no – small companies, even start-ups, can benefit by applying the concepts and methodologies of Solutions Marketing.

The Challenge:  Creating a Solution in the Enterprise Mobility Industry

In the enterprise mobility industry, large device manufacturers find it difficult to develop solutions where their products are enabled by the right software and services.  Over the past decade most of them have expanded their distribution channels to include the many independent software vendors (ISVs) whose software is critical to the end customer’s use case. By layering their software on top of the devices, the ISV’s became the solution developers and ultimate providers to the customer.  If the manufacturer decided to be part of the solution and develop a solution with one of these ISVs, they would risk alienating all of the other ISVs because of the implied favoritism.

Data Capture Solutions Comes Up with the Right Solution

In late 2011, Data Capture Solutions (DCS), a large mobility reseller in Ellington, CT, transformed its business model away from a product orientation to focus on services and solutions. The company had developed a deep understanding of the challenges retailers face. They developed a new offering concept called the Retail Mobile Manager Solution. By integrating  all of the management, operational, and sales applications onto a single device, DCS’ solution would help retailers

  • integrate sales channels,
  • reduce “out of stocks” and increase same store sales,
  • provide more responsive customer service, and
  • increase the overall efficiency of store operations.

Store management could then spend more time on the sales floor and less time in a back office, and sales associates could provide more personalized help to shoppers.

As a small company, DCS didn’t have the in-house resources to build this solution so they began looking for partners.

They selected:

  • The Panasonic Toughpad as the hardware platform
  • Trovera Software as the custom retail application developer
  • Jadak as the scanner that the Toughpad would integrate with; DCS’ newly integrated hardware, software and services offering would also allow the solution to function as a mobile POS device

The Results – Proof that Size Doesn’t Matter! DCS demonstrated their new solutions offering at the National Retail Federation trade show in late 2011 and the positive response from many of the large retailers convinced the team that they were on the right track. Development continued through the first quarter of 2012, and in April the DCS and Panasonic retail sales teams were introduced to the solution at a meeting in Newport, RI, and as of June 2012 the solution is still going through refinements.  However, DCS did not stop their solution development efforts with Retail Mobile manager.  They also worked with another software company and a device manufacturer  to develop a “Proof of Delivery” solution  in early 2012.  Already this year deals on this solution have been concluded with The Mayo Clinic and The Dana Farber Cancer Center (part of the Harvard Medical complex).

Key Success Factors:

  1. Select the right partners! This may sound obvious but it is critical to partner with at least one company that has undeniable credibility with your target market.  In this case both Trovera and Panasonic gave the Retail Mobile Manager the credibility in the large retailer space that DCS needed to reach.  Mentioning the names of these companies in the marketing and sales materials got the retailers’ attention.
  2. Make sure the sales teams of the partner companies are telling the same story and that you have a well-defined sales engagement process.  DCS and its partners spent several days together ensuring that they all had the same sales scripts and messaging when a major lead was handed over to DCS.

Lessons Learned: The major lesson that came out of this experience was that the company that develops the solution should also market it.  Panasonic was extremely generous in funding much of the solution development work on Retail Mobile Manager and insisted on doing the launch marketing.  The challenge was that their natural tendency was to focus on the product -- theToughpad -- rather than the value of the total solution.  Since DCS had a better understanding of the value of the integrated solution, it would have been better if it had taken the lead in developing the go-to-market strategy.  Even though DCS was miniscule when compared to Panasonic, it was better positioned to build, market and enable the selling of the new solution.

Comments (18)

by
Ryan Cox

Data Capture Solutions (DCS) is a "large mobility reseller?" There seems to be contradictory information in the title and in the description of the company. As someone who is currently early on in the steps of a startup, I am curious how DCS sold the idea to Panasonic Trovera. From what I can tell, DCS must have had to approach these two companies with solutions alone-- partners developed the software and supplied the device. Without the software, at least, how were they able to prove their ideas to their eventual partners? To me, this seems like a huge obstacle, and I'm curious how they overcame it.

by
Maria Abondano

Very meaningful article to help us understand that is not only important to create and implement a solution, but is important to communicate our clients of it. DCS was very intelligent in the alliances they made and in the implementation of the solution but their past product oriented mentality didn't change. They were only thinking of selling using their product, but is obvious that they weren't sure the impact the solution created would have in their clients. DCS has to measure the impact of this solution and start a training process in the whole organization to use this solution as part of the selling process. Using solutions the company would have a define objective and target market. They would change from a push strategy to a pull strategy, where they can teach their clients the benefits of their products. Also, a training process must be started for the current employees to teach them what the solution is?, how can they use it?, and how to create value using it?

by
Brittany Harrison

Interesting blog! When moving to a solutions marketing strategy for a large multinational corporation, the obstacles to integrate across business units seem to be a greater challenge. However, larger companies are often equipped with more knowledge on how to overcome those challenges as well. What I found interesting about the blog is that it highlighted some of the challenges unique to small corporations such as building credibility by partnering with a large firm. I wonder how the cost to benefit model works within a small company since the key accounts for small corporations are smaller. Secondly as a small company attempting to partner with large multinationals, how did DCS prevent their partners from implementing their solution on their own?

by
Richard Lee

Great post by Greg Root. It is very true that Solutions Marketing isn’t only for big corporations but also to SME’s. With the short amount of time, DCS was able to create a new solution and market their solution to The Mayo Clinic and The Dana Farber Cancer Center. I believe the only reason was due to their size of the company. Having the organization of a company small, they are able to communicate seamlessly from the marketing to sales department and with partners to streamline the process. As stated, one of their key success factors was that DCS and their partners only spent several days to have their sales aligned with each other. DCS had a very deep understanding of their retailer customers and I believe that they had a deeper understanding of how to market themselves and sell their solution to the retailers through its partners. The key take away I received from the blog was the strategic marketing they had planned then choosing a partner and also working together with their partners on how to successfully market their solution, which both companies had a stake in. Panasonic had the brand recognition and DCS was better positioned in selling the solution.

by
Brian Ahn

It is a very good article for a products-oriented company. I learned the following: First, try to truly find what the problems of the customers are. Second, based on the deep understanding that we have of the customer’s problem, try to find a solution. Also, in some cases when you are a small player, one needs to find partners. This article also mentioned that we should find the right partner and make sure the sales teams of the partner company are telling the same story as we do and that we have a well-defined sales engagement process. Also I found that the big players aren’t flexible. It is harder to change their fixed style of marketing, even though a lot of money can invest it. But for a small player it is always easier to change their style of marketing because of less hierarchy and decision making head count.

by
Lahti Dunstan

I found this article valuable because it addressed the applicability of solutions across various-sized companies. It seems like most articles gear their case studies toward major companies performing massive efforts to create solutions for large-scale initiatives. This, however, speaks to the versatility of solutions marketing and how it can benefit more than just one type of company. DCS seems to do a good job of knowing what their customers not only want, but need. They approach this by putting considerable effort toward sales/marketing alignment. This keeps both the sales and marketing people (and everyone else in the company for that matter) saying the same message to the public. Ensuring everyone is on the same track is essential to the positioning of the brand and the trajectory of the marketing plan. DCS also connects with the most appropriate partners. They have chosen companies that compliment them, but don't depend on them. While Panasonic funded and launched their own marketing strategy, it still reflects well on DCS.

by
Janina Kaiser

It is interesting how even small companies can come up with solutions of such scale. DCS's partners seem to have been crucial in scaling its capabilities and it would be great to hear more about its proceedings in partnering and designing this solution. The market seems to develop an increasing need for cooperation where single companies cannot add the value sought by customers. This blog post shows once again how complex and difficult the creation and good marketing of a true solution is. DCS successfully created such a solution, but the whole effort and its success was hampered by one little mistake: leaving the marketing to its partner Panasonic. While one could assume that Panasonic's brand and the company's reach are a better basis for successful marketing, Panasonic seems to not have grasped the whole value of this solution: Being exactly this, a solution and not a product. A good solutions company has to go through the whole cycle.

by
Leander Moores

What DCS managed to build is remarkable, a solutions offering from a relatively small company is a hard story to come across. This success story shows that it is possible for a startup to build solutions by building specific aspects of its structure to fit the offering. DCS did a great job at overcoming the limitations of its size to implement solutions, and here are the points they have achieved: 1) An Offering, this is the first thing needed by a solutions provider an offering that combines product(s) and/or solutions which answers to a customer issue. DCS has managed to create a package by mixing in software and hardware together which answers retailers needs. 2) Proof is one of the fundamentals of solutions as customers want to buy an offering that has been used and proven. Having three big names (Jadak, Panasonic and Trovera) as partners to provide the solution to be credible and having demos at conventions was proof enough. 3) Pull Marketing is how the information gets around for a solutions offering. DCS did this by saying what their product was, showing it and just waiting for customers to come. This is because their customers knew what they wanted and DCS seemed to have found a close to perfect fit for them. 4) Customers Knowledge is what makes the solution work, as understanding them on a deep level means you will know what will help them create more value. Although not much is discussed about this here, it is evident that DCS knew their customers as referred to with: " [DCS] had developed a deep understanding of the challenges retailers face." 5) Alignment throughout all the partners and/or business units to have an internal and external clear message. Panasonic took that aspect of the solutions implementation very seriously, as they have been referred to be deeply involved with DCS in their marketing. We can also note that the four partners came together for several days to create a unified and clear message about the solutions offering. After all these implementations being successful, one can't help to wonder about one or two key issues that may arise from such a case. First of all, a solution should have some kind of IP which could be transferable towards a different client, making the different IPs of an offering more standardized and therefore available for a different BU. For instance, DCS's Retail Mobile Manager Solution can be made available under a different name, using everything but the scanner from Jadak, and offered to restaurants or bars? Secondly, the importance of partners might be overstated as they might come up with the same solutions or even better. Panasonic, for example, now proposes solutions for different industries using their "ToughPad". They may not be developing a solutions for retailers, but they are doing a medical care solutions offering which is also what DCS is doing. So how important is it to include partners in your strategy and how can you protect the solutions created from being compiled now that your partners know the "recipe"? (external source: http://www.panasonic.com/business/toughpad/us/custom-android-tablet-solutions.asp)

by
Alexandre Leclerc

I really enjoyed reading this blog, which I found very interesting and inspiring for small companies trying to make it in the technology industry. I think this is a great example of how solution can help large business to provide tailored offering for specific industry by utilizing both parties strengths. Panasonic did not have the depth of knowledge to develop a specific software solution for each industry their products are used, therefore it makes a lot a sense to work with smaller but highly skilled company that have a very good understanding of their customers needs. I also saw a very good approach in creating synergy in the sales team. Also, I was wondering by having Panasonic launching the solution on the market, wouldn’t this also create a certain favoritism toward Data Capture Solutions and reduce the level of enthusiams for other companies to compete against DCS?

by
Chiara Aengevelt

This case study on DCS shows that solution management isn’t only a future concept for large corporations but has a huge potential for small companies. It might even be arguable that small companies have the more appropriate organizational structure to become a solution provider. Smaller firms tend to be more flexible and have fewer hierarchies, making shifts towards a solution driven organization easier. It can be a lucrative opportunity for small companies to capture specialized niche markets, which the larger competitors are unable to cater effectively. Strong and credible partnership, as described in the case, help smaller solution providers to gain the necessary market attention and leverage the connection. The initial Retail Mobile Manager gave DSC the experience and know-how to develop solutions for other segment. Small companies and even start-up should consider becoming solution providers as a source of future expansion and growth.

by
Janina Kaiser

It is interesting how even small companies can come up with solutions of such scale. DCS's partners seem to have been crucial in scaling its capabilities and it would be great to hear more about its proceedings in partnering and designing this solution. The market seems to develop an increasing need for cooperation where single companies cannot add the value sought by customers. This blog post shows once again how complex and difficult the creation and good marketing of a true solution is. DCS successfully created such a solution, but the whole effort and its success was hampered by one little mistake: leaving the marketing to its partner Panasonic. While one could assume that Panasonic's brand and the company's reach are a better basis for successful marketing, Panasonic seems to not have grasped the whole value of this solution: Being exactly this, a solution and not a product. A true solutions company should go through the whole solutions marketing cycle.

by
Eliott Cohen-Skalli

A clear thing that comes out through this article is that even though we tend to think that a solution model could only apply in big firms, it seems that stratups could also deal with a solution management system. One obvious reason for this is that the marketing of a product or a service is sometimes much easier in a smaller structure. Nevertheless, it also seems that creating strategic partnerships is a key ingredient in order to provide the needed credibility to market a solution process. We will of course evolve to a world where it is easier and easier to create brand relationships and therefore we could make the assumption that startups will definitely adopt a solution model in the long term. Moreover, we have also seen that successful startups have all tried to enhance their Pull Marketing in order to create that relationship with the customer. We have seen particularly in Europe how brands found innovative ways (Though leadership, Social activities) to create a traction toward their products or services.

by
Yelena Sedykh

I agree with the main message in the article that not just large companies can implement solutions and I believe that solutions approach trend will develop across businesses of all sizes. First of all, trend of customization of every product and service became more and more noticeable and force all companies to develop toward solutions approach. Secondly, large companies because of the big and slow structure very often don't see all ongoing trends in the market and most advanced of them are already looking for potential partners who can provide new business ideas and implement it. Finally, small sized companies have advantage in mobility and flexibility which is very important factor for developing new directions of doing business and clients satisfaction. Following ongoing trends, such kind of partnership will be developing and more and more small and medium sized companies will succeed in implementing new solutions in the market.

by
Christoph Liesche

It becomes clear that small companies can leverage their size by partnering with a big player in the market. But how can small companies leverage their skills and expertise without a big partner in the background? And how can especially young startup companies transform into a solutions business or even found their offering based on solutions? When young companies startup with one/or more solutions to offer for their prospective clients, the salesforce has to market and sell the offering effectively to the right customer. However, especially in the early phases, the company's infrastructure is likely not to be ready to fully market solutions. Accordingly, salesforce and the supporting backoffice can be very inexperienced due to: - incomplete understanding of the customer and the market - lack of solution-selling skills and lack of corporate funds to provide extensive training - young marketing divisions with few in depth information about market and customers

by
Robert Hsia

It seems that with the advent of this new services and solutions model by, DCS, providing solutions for large companies such as Panasonic might be a short lived business concept. After some years of success and growth with this model, DCS will need to transition to a new business model or perhaps it would be smart for a company like Panasonic to buy this company. It is a stop gap sales channel for Panasonic and if a company like DCS can profit from this, why would Panasonic not also implement this into their own business, or am I missing something here? Which also, furthers the point that large companies will need to eventually turn to the solutions path.

by
Denise Chiong

This was a great read because it re-affirmed that shifting into a solutions focus is not only relevant for large companies but also for smaller organizations such as DCS. This can serve as a best practice example for other small companies looking to enter the solutions business. DCS seemed to have done the right thing by selecting the right partners, such as technology giant Panasonic. Most importantly, the retail mobile manager solution was a success due to collaboration not just internally, but rather, externally as well. DCS worked together with their external partners to develop a cohesive message to target the market. Without collaboration, DCS' shift to solutions may not have been successful. It also helped that DCS identified the need for a solution in the retail industry. Coming from a retailing background, the retail mobile manager would have been extremely helpful in our daily operations.

by
NDesgranges

As all good entrepreneurial stories this one starts with a feeling that something is missing on the market – that there is a need, which is not fully satisfied yet. By capitalizing the understanding of the market Data Capture Solutions (DCS) decided to focus more on the market gap than on what they were used to do. Each entrepreneur can now focus on assembling and matching existing solutions and products in order to create his own solution. The century of web 2,0 is marked by the growing collaboration platform for brainstorming, design and funds - the crowd enables entrepreneurs to involve huge amounts of resources for relatively low investments. Big companies such as Apple, Samsung or Microsoft have already decided to develop platforms such as Application Stores to stream value from these communities. For example with the SDK Apple has transformed an outdated concept – the iPad. By simplifying production, distribution, and marketing and sales Apple has freed creativity in a new world of opportunities for entrepreneurs. In this case we are facing a new type of business model based on collaboration, partnership and value blending. In order to satisfy the market with a complete new offer the solution marketer can “cook” the perfect fusion between different corporations and their know-how.

by
Sua Yun

This posting allowed me to think differently. Before reading this, I thought that Solutions marketing is one of strategies to win in the competitive market for large, global companies. The change of business model from product orientation to focus on services and solutions allowed them to understand customers more deeply. So, by integrating all of functions and processes onto a single device, DCS solution would help customers. DCS understood well what problems customers have and what solutions would help customers the best. And they finally developed one of a kind solution for customers. In addition, they continued communicating with customers. I found that solutions marketing could be a key success factor for small business.