Solutions Marketers: What Are Companies Looking For?

Over the last decade, the move to solutions by global companies has been steadily growing.  More and more B2B companies – in nearly every industry – have realized that merely producing and selling good products will, sooner or later, hamper their growth and profitability. Customers can no longer afford to buy products that simply offer a faster whiz-bang or the latest technology.  Instead, they want and need integrated solutions that solve important, often critical, business problems.

An Analysis of Job Descriptions for Solutions Marketers

Solutions Insights has developed a solutions marketing competency model that lays out the skills and competencies we believe are required to be an excellent solutions marketer.  As part of our research, we decided to compare our model with the qualifications and experience companies listed in current job postings.   To do that, we randomly selected and analyzed 25 solutions marketing job descriptions recently posted on LinkedIn.  The results were interesting -- and a bit surprising.

Examples of the companies in the survey:

Profiles and Demographics

To put the research in context, here are some important demographic breakdowns:

Industry # of Companies
IT 10
Healthcare 7
Telecommunications 3
Other 5
Job Level # of Companies
Executives 8
Directors 3
Managers & Others 14

Two other important demographic factors were company size and whether the hiring company was primarily product or services-based. While we couldn’t tell in all cases, since some of them were private, it appeared that the large majority of the companies represented had revenues greater than $1 billion. Of those we weren’t sure about, 2-5 may have been small businesses or start-ups. In terms of products and services, five or six companies were pure services businesses. The rest were a combination of products and services.

  • Experienced Product Managers and Marketers have the advantage – We were surprised at the number that had product experience as a requirement.  Because complex solutions -- like services – are intangible, we’ve always felt that the focus and skills required for solutions marketing were much closer to those required for services marketing than those required for product marketing.  Based on these job descriptions, however, companies don’t see services marketing experience as an advantage.  Indeed, none listed services marketing experience as a requirement.
  • Interpersonal skills, and the ability to work with a range of internal groups/divisions, is key – This is in line with our belief that solutions marketers have to have outstanding interpersonal and communication skills.   Creating and marketing solutions requires collaboration across product and services divisions as well as with other functional areas -- from sales operations to finance. Making this happen successfully requires the ability to see what’s needed cross-functionally.  Another required skill is the ability to persuade a diverse group of constituencies that contributing to cross-BU solutions is, in fact, in their long-term best interest.
  • Marcom skills and activities are still a primary focus – This was both a surprise and a bit of a disappointment.  At Solutions Insights we believe that solutions marketers at “best of breed” solutions companies are involved across the full spectrum of end-to-end marketing activities –from ideation to solutions development, and then all the way through to sales enablement, post-sales customer satisfaction, and account growth.  This sample set of job descriptions were nevertheless heavily weighted towards marcom activities, with the next most important skill areas being internal/external partner collaboration and deep customer research.   They were surprisingly light on strategic planning, solutions development, customer life cycle management, and account planning and growth. Specifically, the percentage of these companies who included various functions in their job responsibilities roughly broke down as follows:
    • Marcom – 80-85%
    • Cross-BU and partner management – 70-75%
    • Customer and industry research – 40-50%
    • Sales enablement – 40-50%
    • Solutions development and creation – 20-25%
    • Customer retention and account growth – 10-20%
  • Experience in social media marketing is a basic requirement – it wasn’t that long ago that marketers who were adept at integrating social media tools and programs into broader marketing programs and campaigns were far and few between.  They were the innovative, “out there” team within the marketing department.  That’s no longer the case.  Nearly every single job description required the candidates to be well versed in social media.  This is another proof point that social media is alive and well, and appropriate for B2B marketing.

Who is the Best Fit for the Solutions Marketing Jobs of Today? To net it out, what we learned from this brief – and admittedly unscientific – analysis is that if you’re looking for a solutions marketing job today, the main skills, competencies and experience that most companies seem to value are:

  • Experience in managing and marketing products
  • An ability to get diverse teams with different agendas to work together toward a mutual goal
  • Strong capabilities in the development and implementation of communication strategies including, of course, successful application of social media tools and processes.

And while it wasn’t overtly stated in any of the job descriptions, we would strongly suggest one more essential qualification – the ability to articulate what a solution is, and how it needs to be marketed and sold differently than products and services.   If you can focus on this, as well as the other capabilities listed above, you’ll jump to the top of the candidate list.

Author: Steve Hurley, Managing Director at Solutions Insights

Image credits: mashable.com, herndon.patch.com

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