Solutions Marketing: Thinking Differently to Build an Award Winning, Customer-Centric Solution

Several years ago, the Solution Insights team worked with a group of marketers and solutions executives to agree on what we meant when we said that a company created, marketed and sold a “solution.”  We received input from senior level marketers in a range of businesses and industries, including  IT, telecommunications, healthcare, manufacturing, and other sectors where companies sell complex, intangible offerings  It became clear that great solutions were not always “home grown” or created by one company, and that our definition needed to include offerings that were created in collaboration with best of breed partners and third parties. (See a discussion of the definition at: solutions-marketing-back-to-the-basics-what-is-the-definition) A recent study in retail indicated that marketing and sales execs put customer engagement as the most important task they faced, and 80% of those execs said that more empowered store associates were the key to improving engagement with customers (Retail Touchpoints, July 2011).  Many of the current customer engagement tools in the retail market were proprietary, back-office focused and did not offer the flexibility that retail managers needed for complete customer engagement on store floors and in showrooms.  The team building the Retail Mobile Manager solution threw out pre-conceptions and existing retail platforms and went back to the customer to really understand the need and driving imperatives.

In short, front-line managers and retail executives wanted a solution that addressed the customer interaction needs of floor associates.  Features and capabilities like highly-customized offers, product look-up, style options, stored preferences, etc. – were all built into a handheld device.  But the retailer also wanted the operational and management functionality that ties the customer interaction to the outlet’s CRM system, the stocking programs and to overall management metrics software.  A tall order – and one that was not currently being met by the patchwork of retail systems that were on the market. By starting with the floor customer engagement need, Greg worked with this cadre of tech firms to create the Retail Mobile Manager, which is a combination of an Android-based handheld device and secure customer engagement software that ties into all the popular retail management systems.  This innovative thinking paid-off as VSR Magazine chose this solution as the most innovative among over 600 entries for the 2013 award.

Based on his experience of co-developing this award-winning solution, Greg offered up a few key tips to those creating customer-centric solutions:
  • Don’t always start with common industry approaches when considering customer-centric solutions.  Take your time to analyze the actual customer need across their value chain and consider all the different ways the problem can be solved.
  • Interoperability and integration is important but it never trumps solving the core customer problem.  If your customer is in the business of exceeding the expectations of its own customers – the end customer or user -- , then you need to design your solution with both your direct customer and their end customer in mind.
  • Think beyond the limits of your own portfolio.  Consider what other third parties can add to help you solve the customer problem.  Those solutions elements may come from OEM’s, integrators and even some of your best resellers in the market—remember, they work with the customer every day!
  • Finally, if you are going to work with a diverse team of industry players to develop the solution, spend time early in the solutions development process to consider the go-to-market and sales strategies and complexities when many firms are involved.  It is best to address those routes to market early and have the support of all involved for a quick and successful launch.

Congratulations to Greg and the teams at Data Capture Solutions, JADAK, Trovera and Panasonic.     It took a lot of hard work and collaboration to come up with a breakthrough solution that significantly changes how retail staff can meet the needs of their customers.  In our experience, getting all of the needed hardware, software and service providers to work effectively and efficiently together requires real orchestration and practical negotiations that are aimed a resolving a major customer problem.  Hmmmm….maybe Greg and his team should see if they can work their magic in Washington!

About the Author: Greg Root has spent 20 years doing services and solutions marketing at Unisys, Cisco, Avaya, and Motorola.  As the founder of TS3 Consultants, he helps small and mid-size technology companies transform themselves from being product centric to solutions focused.  He can be reached at Greg.Root@TS3consultants.com

Image creits: blog.lyris.com, dataxu.com, talkfreely.com

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