Incorporating Organizational Change Into Your Solutions Marketing Approach

Four Steps for Transformation Success Guest Blog Post: Charles Born

Good solutions solve complex problems and often evolve into highly complex company offerings with complex value propositions. They need to be effectively communicated to potential buyers so that sales are successful. A solution marketing approach also requires a need for collaboration throughout the organization so that solutions development, marketing and sales are all aligned. This change in organizational behaviour is often minimized or even overlooked.

In my experience everyone understands and generally succeeds in some measure in the external parts of the solutions equation -- communication to the external stakeholders, including potential customers and industry influencers (analysts, bloggers, press, etc). But, when solutions sales targets aren't achieved, the source of the problem is often internal alignment issues. As solutions marketers, we must effectively plan and manage these collaboration and communication complexities. Moreover, successfully solving them means understanding where you and your stakeholders are in the change process for selling and supporting solutions.

Four Steps to Effective Change Management for Solutions Transformation When do you start to plan and manage the change management factors that are inhibiting stronger solutions sales?

As a marketer, I've worked with a number of organizational development consultants and various approaches to implement organizational change. I've distilled the approaches into four basic steps I've found useful for solutions marketing. My premise is based on two important concepts that I believe must be understood for solutions marketing success.

  • Ultimately,it is people and relationships that make up organizations, not buildings, systems or processes.
  • Most people don't like being forced out of their comfort zones and they must have a reason to do so.

Step 1 - Craft your internal message Just as you take great care to craft messages and value propositions to your external audience, you need to spend equal care in crafting a different but complimentary set of internal messages. This internal message should contain three components:

  • What are you trying solve?
  • How does it affect the organization and what internal challenges are there because of this?
Explain to the internal audience what the risks are if the solutions do not succeed. You must explain all the aspects of risk to the solution, the company, the brand and to them as a group of individuals as applicable.
Explain not only the benefits to the customer but the potential benefits to the company. Get specific by organization, department and if possible to a group of individuals. Organizations are made up of people, and this part of the message explains how each of them participates in this solution. Your benefits description answers the proverbial 'what's in it for me' question so often overlooked. Everyone needs to see and understand those benefits in order to risk moving outside their comfort zones. Be aware, not everyone may perceive or actually receive benefit from these changes, and you should be aware of that as well.

Step 2 - Develop a detailed internal communication plan. Developing and implementing a detailed internal communication plan is vitally important. It needs to clearly articulate who is involved in the change process, their respective responsibilities, and the expected outputs and impacts. The goal is to identify stakeholder segments and develop a communication plan appropriate to each segment. Owners of the internal communication plan must understand the organization and have the capability to listen, empathize and adapt to the feedback they receive from the organization.

To successfully develop an internal communication plan you must identify and categorize stakeholders on two key qualities:

Who does this change impact? Stakeholders hold an interest in the change to the degree to which they are impacted by the change. High interest stakeholders are greatly impacted by the change; low interest stakeholders are minimally impacted by the change.
Who can impact the change necessary to make the solution a success? Power refers to the level of formal or informal influence a stakeholder has and not necessarily organizational title.

We can identify stakeholder power, interest and communication needs by using the Power-InteresMatrix diagram below. The grid identifies four 'blocks' of behavior for stakeholders.

It's important to understand that choices may need to be made. It may not always be possible to find win-win solutions for every stakeholder group as a solution supportive of one stakeholder group might create a conflict of interest for another stakeholder. These situations need to be carefully identified, considered and planned for.

Step 3 - Identify your Cheerleaders When there are tough decisions to be made, it takes strong leadership and visible support from key people within your organization - your cheerleaders. You will most likely find them among the High Power and High Influence stakeholders identified previously in the Power-Influence Matrix. Managing the change necessary to support the solution isn't enough - you have to lead it.

Cheerleaders won't necessarily follow the traditional company hierarchy. To lead solutions change, you need to bring together a coalition of influential people whose power comes from a variety of sources, including job title, status, expertise, and organizational political importance.

Step 4 -Implement the plan No matter the urgency of a solution to market leadership for your company, implementing change in a large global organization can take a great deal of time. Yet, there is no sense in performing an extensive roll out of an external solutions launch plan when the moving parts of the organization are not in alignment to support it. This is why planning for organizational change can't happen AFTER you build the solution - it needs to be part of it. It's doubtful you can wait to do this serially - and so a roll out plan needs to adjust for that.

But, no matter how you're implementing, there are some very important factors to consider at this point in your plan:

  • There is a need to celebrate short term wins - loudly - not just externally but especially internally. Everyone loves positive momentum. Create it - and celebrate it.
  • Do your job as managers and leaders - eliminate obstacles and roadblocks. Watch for them - plan for them ahead of time - and diligently work to let people to do their jobs.
  • Follow the communication plan. Empower the team to execute and lead the plan across the organization considering all the issues we have identified here.
The Key Lessons in Change Management for Solutions

Ultimately, to be successful you will need to make continuous efforts to ensure that solutions are seen in every aspect of your organization and that they are a core part of your organization. Your corporate culture often determines what gets done, so the values behind your solutions vision must show in day-to-day work so that solutions have a solid place in that culture. It's also important that your company's leaders continue to support the change brought about by the solutions approach. As this change process is continual, if you lose the support of these people, you might end up back where you started.

About the Author - Charles Born has 30 years of broad global marketing experience in B2B and B2C environments. He is passionate about using solutions and solutions marketing to create dialogs and establish value with B2B consumers. He is an Associate with Solutions Insights. He can be reached at or through Solutions Insights.

Charles Born, Crazy Moon Consulting, LLC 408-458-0268 Graphic credit:,,,,,

Comments (11)

Juan Alonso

Charles, I found this post extremely useful when it comes to jump start a change management plan towards solutions. I think the road might be different for every firm but the guidelines are the same, and every step is as important as the other three in order to achieve success. I would like to know if there is a way of benchmarking the progress of adoption of your plan within the firm, how can you know if it is being as effective as planned?, can you make adjustments down the road? What kind of insights do you need to have in order to know if these adjustments have to be done or if you need to stick to your original plan until the end?

francesca musco

Great article that focus on the importance of the organisation change management as essential requirement to be a successful solution company. The article highlights all the critical aspects needed to support the change (internal communication, key people support, celebration of the positive results…). I like mostly the expression "it is people and relationships that make up organizations, not buildings, systems or processes". This is true ad it is also dramatically true that the resistant to the change is often high. I would add that it is not possible to change immediately an entire organization (mainly a firm with thousand employees). The process requires gradual steps to be successful. For instance, a solution company that I recently analyzed starts the changing process selecting and training the top-performer employees. Then, when they have successfully acquired the new procedures, the company gives them the full visibility using them like an inspiration and motivation source for the rest of its workforce. I would also add that the change management is fundamental when a solution is implemented too. Indeed, the solution company has to enable the customer to use the implemented solution. Otherwise, the customer will be not satisfied because the solution will be just an expense and will not bring any benefit. During my experience like management consultant in the IT and process re-engineering sector, I could see several time that the client didn’t get the expected improvement from a new management system, nonetheless a perfect implementation phase, because the key users were not well supported in the processes change and continued using their old and inefficient procedures.

Onaolapo Odejayi

Notwithstanding the age-long saying that "Change is a constant thing", the resistance to it is just as constant. This article definitely explains the process of introducing and getting a widespread acceptance of change in an organisation very clearly. However, there are two more issues that should not be overlooked in the change process: - In addition to identifying the interest and power groups within an organisation, brainstorming sessions should be organised. At such gatherings, employees should be encouraged to come up with ways to better incorporate change. Such suggestions should not be discarded, but should be incorporated (even if they still need some fine-tuning). The pride that comes from ownership of anything (even an idea) makes it a lot easier for people to embrace change. - Also, there will definitely be some highly opinionated personalities who will not yield to change. Such people should be removed from the environment, so they don't become bad influences in the organisation.

Meilin Arman

I agree with Juan, your blog gives a very good insights about the changing management within the company into a Solutions base. Actually, your steps was about the same what we have been doing in our firm. And usually what we do is planning with 1, 2 or 3 Scenarios, just in case to make sure that we are ready for any kind of risk that might be happened. So that we are pretty much set up with the Solutions as well. For example, how if scenario A happens, how we gonna solve the problem, who is in charge or responsible for the issue, and what is the options available. As I work in Energy industry, where the team who are responsible in putting together the ideas are coming from the Business Development, and where this team meets our customer get thoughts and try to develop and collaborate within the organization and when it comes to approval from the Top Management, then after they would try to implement it. Of course the leader / Top performer in each department play a big role in influencing the rest of the team members in order to make the process align and to a successful result.

Charles Born

I wanted to address Juan's questions. Juan, you pose an interesting question. Just a point of clarification. You stated in your post ‘progress of plan within the firm’, and so that makes me think you may be seeing this as two separate benchmarks – one for the external plan and one for the internal plan. Not the approach I would take. I recommend one plan – integrated together – with benchmarks on the external plan reflective of the business objectives you desired for the solution. If the business objectives are not being achieved as planned and the internal and external plan is on track, then you need to possibly rethink the plan and make adjustments. Just where you make those adjustments will require an analysis of both internal and external programs. It could be some of the external programs are not resonating. Or internal cheerleaders are not helping break down barriers and obstacles. Sales and CRM data might point out where to look, but it’s just as likely going to take some personal investigation. If you’re constantly monitoring the plan and getting feedback throughout the implementation, this should not come as a surprise. One of the reasons to have a plan and constantly monitor it is to use it as an early warning tool – so that you avoid problems before they occur and make mid point corrections. Remember, a plan is not static. It’s constantly monitored, reviewed and changed as warranted. Let me know if this answered your question.// Charlie Born

Anuradha Gelda

I agree with the article and the comments posted above. To build upon Ona's comment above, it is true that sometimes you end up with headstrong employees or employees who are not able to adapt to the new skills to change over to the solutions approach. In this case, intense training can be the best option but if after the allotted time of training the employee is still not able to grasp the concept properly then it is best to let them go and hire someone who is already familiar with the solutions model and able to adapt to it and apply it in the workplace. Another way to motivate employees who are reluctant to change and are the type of people that once in their comfort zone and use to doing things a certain way prefer to continue doing things that way. For managers a good motivator can be to be to make them responsible for profit and loss in a particular zone or area for the company through solutions and then how well they do will be reflected in their performance evaluation form. If they do bad, more then 2-3x then the best conclusion would be that they are not fit for the job anymore and need to be replace

Serena Giordano

I would like to focus on the second step of the transformation. In my experience, to develop a ditailed internal communication plan is really hard critical to the success of the transformation. As Onaolapo mentioned, it is really hard to change since there is a constant resistance, therefore it require time. It is even more difficult if rules and responsibilities change during the transformation. Sometimes, I noticed, people find hard to associate colleagues that previously had different roles. That is why it is really important for everyone to take time and "digest" the changes.

Eunjoo Choi

Thank you for the article! I'd like to add one more point. I think depends on what kinds of the corporate’s culture they have, the way of implicating the solution should be different. Corporate culture has to be taken into consideration because it is a guideline the way of people's behaviors and communication. For example, if they have open-door policy and everybody has a right to make decisions, it would help to convince people to change their positions and responsibilities by communication by emphasizing corporate’s benefits. If the culture is more hierarchy, it would be more efficient to just give them what/how to do with reasonable compensation.

Jairo Ramirez

I found these four steps in some way, similar to the Kotler's 8 steps change model. I have to say that these ones seems to be more simple an as effective as Kotler ones. At the end that is what you need, understand why to change (or create a sense of urgency and a vision of change). Create a communication plan (or communicate the vision). Identify your Cheerleaders (or form a powerful coalition). Implement the plan (remove obstacles, short term wins, etc)


There are a few points that I feel should be addressed as I am perhaps a bit jaded having gone through several change management proceses. I agree with the four steps and see in essence overlap with many other proposed theories e.g. Kotter’s 8 steps, Lewin’s Force Field Analysis etc... so I am in complete agreement, that change management is all about the people (soft skills) and little to do with the hardware (infrastructure etc..) as they are merely what I would call sanitary enablers. Sanitary enablers being minimal amount of provided assets to allow for ‘something’ to occur. i.e CRM tool for metrics and information retainment. The other 95% of the work is dealing with the people - motivating/incentivizing, understanding, communicating, relationship building etc... the hard assets is more binary, while the human factor becomes the gray area. As such solutions is not really something unique in this aspect, it is merely another form of doing things. The big leap is requiring people to change old habits into new. Kotter proposed his 8 steps and I feel that it is a very succinct model and perhaps a bit easier to follow as far as the order that things should be done. Arguable Kotter lacks the motivational theorists perspective to his 8 steps, which covers the incentives and motivators to enable the change. Two-factor theory of Herzberg is just one reference for this. What I have seen is that in many change management cases, top level management ‘misreads’ the motivational factors of their employees and quite often deploys the same incentive structures (usually financial) across their organization rather than catering to each individuals needs. As Herzberg would argue this type of incentive structure is purely ‘hygienic’ rather than motivational - this being extremely important when ‘celebrating the win’. If you celebrate the win, but peer recognition/monetary reward/holiday is of no importance to the group, motivation to continue change disappears and suddenly you may have an unproductive workforce. The most common mistake I see from management is the frequency of pushing change downwards without what Onaolapo mentions, involving the entire organization in the change management process. If you are able to create an emotional buy-in from the entire organization for the need for change, the success rate would be much higher. Having brainstorming sessions on developing the end goal is just one way to go about it, but very effective. It is also a very good way to find key individuals that hinders the change management process from being successful and finding their motivators to create and be a part of the change. 
 Overall, a good blog post! A bit of a new twist to a topic hotly debated in many organizations and MBA programs :)

Charles Born

I’ve enjoyed reading all your comments to the post. I think we all agree whether you follow Kotter, Lewin or some variation like mine, it is encouraging to see you all agree with the need to incorporate change management into the solutions marketing process. One question I pose to the readers here is that if we agree change management is so integral to this process, I’m wondering if it is taught in today’s marketing or MBA classes or is it still found only in HR or Organizational Development study. And finally one very interesting observation – and a question. What happens when you have done everything right but there are still key individuals that are hindering the change management process? As someone pointed out in a post – you may need to replace certain individuals in an organization if they are refusing to get on board with company direction. At what point do you make those decisions? What happens if you make them too early or too late? And what is marketing’s role in that – if any?