Creating a Competency Assessment Tool for Solutions Marketing: How Would You Score?

AssessmentMarketing Solutions IS Different

In our research and consulting work, we continue to find that marketing solutions requires different – and likely broader and deeper – knowledge and skills than marketing products and services. In the multi-industry study we conducted last year, 63% of the solutions marketers who responded felt that marketing solutions was more difficult than marketing products. We also discovered that solutions marketers were more experienced than product or services marketers, with an average marketing tenure of more than 16 years.

Creating a Competency Model for Solutions Marketing

For a long time, clients have been asking for a way to quantify and assess these differences, in particular the knowledge and skills solutions marketers need to create and promote high-value, customer-focused solutions. Since we couldn’t find a rigorous reliable tool to do the job, we finally decided this year to create a solutions marketing competency tool ourselves.

The first thing we did was team up with an expert -- Chris Quinn, Founder and CEO of Imprint Learning Solutions. Chris has already spent seven years developing and testing the most comprehensive and effective marketing assessment tool on the market today. It is also unique in a number of ways. Not only does it provide a comprehensive and scientifically-validated set of questions to assess marketing knowledge, it also has the following features:

  1. Behavioral descriptions of key competencies across four levels of proficiency
  2. The ability to establish and measure target levels of proficiency based on the specific job role and the level of the individual being assessed
  3. The ability to assess the degree of alignment between the manager and his or her direct reports

  The Imprint Learning Solutions Marketing Readiness Diagnostic (MRD) Tool

Imprint Learning Solutions has developed and implemented a cloud-based tool -- the Marketing Readiness Diagnostic (MRD) – that has been rigorously tested and reflects insights gained from more than 5,000 assessments the company has conducted worldwide with dozens of companies in technology, life sciences, and education including Dell, Hewlett Packard, Microsoft, Xerox and DuPont. In addition to customized competency assessments, Imprint Learning Solutions can also recommend and provide learning tools and frameworks and approaches to performance coaching.

Solutions Marketing Assessment tool

What the Imprint Learning Solutions tool didn’t include until now, however, was a module that could be used to evaluate solutions marketers. That’s where we came in. Key Categories for Evaluating Solutions Marketers When we dug into the MRD, we found a number of foundational marketing topics that were relevant to Solutions Marketing including:

  1. Branding
  2. Market Intelligence
  3. Segmentation
  4. Value Propositions
  5. Marketing Mix
  6. Relationship Marketing
  7. Value-Based Pricing
  8. Market Planning

Because it was designed primarily for product marketers, the MRD still had some gaps, however, when it came those things that are either significantly different or unique to solutions marketing.  Using our Solutions Marketing Success Model, we were able to identify nine additional areas that could be used to assess the competency of a solutions marketer:

  1. Customer and Industry Research
  2. Market Segmentation and Selection
  3. Solutions Development
  4. Pricing
  5. Thought Leadership Development
  6. Sales Process Analysis
  7. Systems Applications Requirements
  8. Customer Value Tracking
  9. Customer Reference Management

Once identified these areas, we then spent considerable time working with Chris to develop job levels and assessment questions that he could add to his marketing diagnostic tool. The result – a Solutions Marketing Competency Assessment tool – will be useful not only for our clients but also, according to Chris, for many of his current clients.

“The contributions of Solutions Insights are a perfect complement to our foundational model and will be very useful for several of our clients that are committed to developing and marketing solutions,” Chris observed. “Companies who use this diagnostic tool will very quickly be able to understand what their current and prospective solutions marketers need to both learn and do differently to be more effective.”

timthumbAn Investment in People Can Deliver the Highest ROI

At this time of year, marketing organizations large and small, are deciding how to invest to improve their marketing effectiveness in 2015. The list of potential investments probably includes improved MRM systems, better quality content, more effective content management, and, increased SEO capabilities. An often neglected area of investment – and one which can, in fact, deliver the best ROI, is increasing the knowledge and skills of the marketing team. If you do that right, all of the other investments will be implemented the right way.

If you’re interested in becoming an early user/tester of the Solutions Marketing Readiness Diagnostic Tool, give me a call. I’d be happy to talk with you about how you can take the first step toward creating a highly competent and effective solutions marketing team that will be the envy of your industry.

Author: Steve Hurley

Contact: or 781-686-1607

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