Marching forward with solutions marketing...at least on the Web

Notwithstanding the endless angst about "solutions" as a meaningful term, it's clear that B2B technology firms continue to march ahead promoting their solutions offerings and capabilities. Our latest evidence comes from a web-based analysis of 51 of the world's leading B2B technology firms (IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, SAP, Accenture, etc.). The objective of the analysis, conducted by Solutions Insights Associate Nell Belgado, was to explore how, and how many top tech firms are positioning themselves on the Web as solutions providers rather than simply promoting their discrete products and/or services. As usual, we relied on a specific definition of the term, as developed by ITSMA: "A solution is a combination of products, services, and intellectual capital, focused on a particular customer problem and driving measurable business value." Key findings include the following:
  • Solutions as a main business category: About half of the company websites included a top-level section dedicated solely to solutions. Software and services firms were a bit more likely to include this type of section (58%) while hardware and equipment firms were a bit less likely (44%).
  • Solutions definition: Most companies (82%) define solutions as a combination of products, services, and the unique capability to make them work together. There was virtually no difference in the percentage across the two sub-segments. This type of presentation reflects an important shift in recent years; not too long ago a number of tech firms were promoting stand-alone products as solutions.
  • Business focus for solutions: A similarly large majority of companies that highlighted solutions, even if not right on the home page, described solutions in terms of resolving specific business issues (88%). Again, software and services companies had the higher total here (94%) vs. a slightly lower but still large majority of the hardware and equipment companies (75%).
Although we don't have specific baseline data to document the trend, anecdotal information along with our experience working with many of these companies over the past decade suggests that, at least on the Web, companies are focusing less and less on products and more on addressing customer business problems. It's been a slow process, but it certainly seems they've gotten the message from their buyers: "Stop just selling technology and help me drive growth, improve operations, and strengthen the bottom line." The key question now, of course, is how many companies that profess a solutions orientation on their websites actually know how to develop, market, sell, and deliver the kinds of solutions their customers truly need? Based on our experience, those numbers would be quite a bit lower. But that's a subject for another study!

Comments (1)

by
Vivek S

Websites have evolved from mere content and information provider to a source of marketing for companies. As discussed in the blog, the extent to which companies indulge in developing and marketing solutions is still unclear. Most of companies start by recognizing themselves as a solutions company first on their websites. That's the easy part. The difficult part is to continue working towards meeting customer needs and successfully creating a customer centric model. We have also gone through success stories of companies like IBM, Acccenture, etc. that have successfully undergone solutions transformation. It is quite eveident that "Solutions marketing is incredibly complex. It is not for light-weights - by Steve Hurley".