Solutions Marketers Still Lag Way Behind Product and Services Marketers – but is a Change in the Wind?

recently searched LinkedIn and found that in the US there are 3,165 professionals with the title of “Solutions Marketer”, and another 642 with the slightly different title of “Solution Marketer”.

In context, how many is that?  Well, the total is a little more than the number of spectators who can fit into Harvard’s basketball arena, but it’s less than half the number of climbers who reached the summit of Mt. Everest last year (6,871).

 

Lavietes Pavilion at Harvard University Top of Mt. Everest
sports everest
Solutions vs. Product vs. Services

These comparisons made me ask the question – why aren’t there more solutions marketers today? LinkedIn has over 75,000 product marketers in its database.   However, while solutions marketers are a small percentage in terms of the number of product marketers, there’s a much smaller gap between the number of solutions marketers and the number of services marketers.  LinkedIn has over 75,000 product marketers in its database.   In comparison with services marketers, however, there’s a much smaller gap — there are just over 5,000 services marketers.

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I keep an eye on the trends around solutions marketing – Google Alerts, blog sites, discussions with colleagues and clients – and everything appears to indicate that the number of companies that are shifting from a pure product approach to a more integrated product/service/IP approach has been growing steadily over the past few years.  An IDC report published earlier this year based upon a survey of over 100 technology companies concerning their marketing challenges and plans seemed to indicate the trend is continuing.  In response to the following question, “Looking forward to 2016, which areas of spend do you imagine will have the greatest increase in your company?”, the marketing function that rose to the top of the list was…solutions marketing!

The factors that are driving companies to move from a product to a solutions focus are still in play – the continuing commoditization of products and customer that are demanding companies deliver real value and a measurable ROI instead of more product features and functionality.  There is ample evidence that what was once largely a phenomenon in technology has now expanded into nearly every B2B industry. Estelle Schweizer, a Communications Marketer in the Global Healthcare division at Schneider Electric, a leader in the energy and automation management sectors, described how her company is thinking about solutions in this way:



“Solutions marketing focuses on the end value for the customer. Instead of listing product features, we ask ourselves:  How are we simplifying our customers’ lives, helping them become more efficient or saving them money?”   



The Changing Nature of Products

So, what is the reason there are still relatively so few solutions marketers, especially in comparison to the number of product marketers?  It is just that titles haven’t kept up? Perhaps.  But I’m wondering if there isn’t another, less obvious reason – the fact that products, because they are more and more “intelligent,” are actually becoming solutions.   Everything from residential thermostats to coffee pots to industrial lathes now have computer chips embedded in them that bring new value to the customer.   These “smart” machines now require different and more services and are often networked to other machines or service providers, requiring a solutions approach instead of a traditional product emphasis.

The Internet of Things

Nowhere has this shift to smart products been more clear than the creation of what some now call  “the internet of things (IoT)”.  How significant is this?  Consider the following:

The total economic value-add from IoT across industries will reach $1.9 trillion worldwide in 2020, anticipates Gartner. Fifty billion devices will be connected to the Internet by 2020, predicts Cisco.
The remote patient monitoring market doubled from 2007 to 2011 and is projected to double again by 2016.
The utility smart grid transformation is expected to almost double the customer information system market, from $2.5 billion in 2013 to $5.5 billion in 2020, based on a study from Navigant Research.
Wide deployment of IoT technologies in the auto industry could save $100 billion annually in accident reductions, according to McKinsey.
The industrial Internet could add $10-15 trillion to global GDP, essentially doubling the US economy, says GE.

economyWhere Does This Leave Solutions Marketers?

The trend is clear – products will continue to be smarter and more connected, and marketers, regardless of their title, will need the skills and experience to deal with more customer-focused solutions instead of discrete, “dumb” products.  Joyce Maroney, Senior Director, Customer Experience and Services Marketing at Kronos Corp., put it this way: The role of solutions marketers will continue to grow as customers of complex technology increasingly demand that vendors provide them with solutions tailored not only to their industry, but also to the specific needs of their individual environments.

But will the explosion of the IoT translate into new titles, training programs, and organization shifts within Marketing departments?   Will it translate into a spike in the demand for Solutions Marketers?  That’s harder to tell.  Perhaps we’ll have our answer when the number of solutions marketers in LinkedIn is greater than the seating capacity of Wembley stadium (90,000) instead of Harvard’s arena, or at least it exceeds the number of climbers who successfully reach the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro (50,000) instead of Mt. Everest!  Stay tuned…



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