A New Way of Thinking about What’s Different with Solutions Marketing

Solutions Insights’ Solutions Marketing Success Model:

Winston Churchill summed it up best – solutions marketing is a “riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma”.  OK, so he was talking about Russia and not solutions marketing, but I have no doubt that if solutions marketing as we know it today existed in the 1940’s, he would have described it exactly the same way.

All of our B2B marketing friends and colleagues who’ve practiced solutions marketing know that it’s different than product or services marketing.  The tools and methods -- and sometimes even the desired outcomes -- are not the same.  All of the surveys that we’ve conducted in recent years have confirmed this belief.  In fact, our most recent survey that we did in conjunction with 5 other associations and universities revealed that it’s not only different, but it’s also a lot harder.

The biggest challenge is how to define and articulate these differences.  Some are relatively obvious, while others are more subtle and complex.  But regardless of whether they’re simple or complex, it’s very hard for a company to develop a first-rate solutions marketing team until these differences can be both defined and measured.

The Differences in Solutions Marketing:

So here’s the good news – at Solutions Insights, we’ve been thinking about this problem for a long time and think we’ve come up with a way to begin to solve this problem.  We’ve just completed an in-depth analysis of the delta between product and solutions marketing, and have identified what we believe to be the key ways in which solutions marketing differs from product or services marketing.  These differences can be categorized in one of two ways:

  • Qualitatively different – These activities, while similar, must be performed either at a different level or in a different way by a solutions marketer.   For example, value propositions for a solution focuses on very different attributes, experiences and benefits than a value proposition for a product or service.
  • Uniquely different – These activities are required only in the context of a solution and generally are not performed by product marketing.  The need to determine the percentage of the solution that is standardized versus customized,  for example, is an activity product marketers typically don’t do.

Our New Success Model:

Based on this analysis, we’ve developed a Solutions Marketing Success Model that describes these differences along five different core dimensions:

How You Can Apply the Model:

There are a number of ways in which this model can support your solutions marketing activities and programs:

  • Assessing the competencies of your solutions marketing staff
  • Determining if you’re engaged in the right activities
  • Understanding what the delta is between services/product marketing and solutions marketing

By employing the model for any one of these purposes you should see a measurable impact on your solutions marketing performance.

Your Feedback:

Solutions marketing  is, of course, evolutionary, not revolutionary.  Many of the skills and competencies that support product and services marketing are also necessary for solutions marketers.   The core fundamentals of marketing don’t change.  What our model attempts to delineate, however, are the key variances that ultimately will spell the difference between success or failure as a solutions marketer.

While we’ve aggressively “road tested” this model, it will continue to evolve as the marketing function changes due to factors such as technology and globalization.  We’d love to get your opinions about it.  The “Suggestion Box” is out and we welcome your comments!

Click here to download a copy of the Solutions Marketing Framework in PDF format..

Article by: Steve Hurley, Managing Director, Solutions Insights

Comments (0)