Solutions Marketing: An MBA Course


S teve Hurley , Managing Director of Solutions Insights, is also a faculty at the Hult International Bu siness School (HIBS), a graduate business school. HIBS is  currently ranked #5 in the world for international MBA programs by The Financial Times and was also ranked 29th in the world for all MBA business programs by The Economist.

Steve has been teaching a Solutions Marketing course at HIBS since 2009, which is believed to be the only MBA-level Solutions Marketing (SM) course taught anywhere in the world.  HIBS has 5 campuses around the world -- Boston, London, Dubai, Shanghai, and San Francisco.  Steve has taught the SM course on both the Boston and London campuses, and is slated to teach it on the Dubai and Shanghai campuses in the summer of 2012.

Solutions Marketing Course Description:

The Solutions Marketing course is described on the HIBS website as follows:

Technology and professional services firms have moved aggressively over the last few years to improve their ability to provide true solutions to their customer base. Amid the changing customer landscape, marketers are leading the charge to shift at least a portion of their portfolios from discrete products and services to more integrated, business-oriented solutions.

Solutions Marketing: Transforming the Business provides a hands-on immersion in the models, tools, and best practice examples that companies need to market and sell solutions. Based on a number of new models, including ITSMA’s Solutions Roadmap, this workshop will help marketing, sales, and business development leaders identify the critical next steps they can take to improve results right now.

The concept of solutions marketing is a new one – however, there is very little written about it in academia.  In several leading industries, however, it is becoming the dominant business model.   Technology-based companies, professional services firms, extractive industry companies, and financial services companies are leading the way in moving to a solutions model.

This course provides the latest thinking and techniques that are being applied inside some of the world’s biggest and most influential companies.   Many of the insights provided the students are drawn from the research and consulting experiences of ITSMA, the world’s leading services/solutions marketing and sales association focused on the technology sector.  Companies that are discussed in detail include IBM, Cisco, HP, Infosys, Cognizant. Avaya, Lucent-Alcatel, and a number of other industry leaders.  Examples are also drawn from other non-high technology industries.


Learning Outcomes/Course Objectives:

By the end of this course, the students learn or are able to:

  • Apply the solutions principles to transform companies to be more customer-centric
  • Articulate the differences between product, services, and solutions marketing
  • Understand how to develop and manage the right solutions
  • Create compelling marketing campaigns
  • Measure solutions success

Course Format/Pedagogical Approach:

This is not a traditional lecture-based course.  There are multiple exercises and activities in the classroom to support and re-enforce the solutions marketing concepts.

  • Harvard-style case studies
  • PPT presentations
  • Case studies of “best practice” examples taken from companies that have excelled at one aspect of solutions marketing
  • Small group assignments done during class

HBS cases and articles:

Silo Busting: How to Execute on the Promise of Customer Focus"; HBR article  by Ranjay Gulati, 2009

Find out how some companies--like GE Healthcare, Best Buy, and commercial real estate provider Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL)--have restructured themselves around customer needs to deliver true solutions. They did so by engaging in four sets of activities: Coordination.

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Jones Lang Lasalle 2005-2008”; HBS case study; Ranjay Gulati, 2011

The case traces the evolution of Jones Lang LaSalle's organization and strategy between the years 2005-2008, as it transitioned from a modular to an integrated structure. The case protagonist, CEO Peter Roberts, deals with the challenges of creating an organization that pursues multiple logics and requires both focus and collaboration among individuals and groups.

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Case Studies Written by Steve Hurley

Best Buy: Was The Geek Squad the Solution?

The Geek Squad slotted right into Best Buy’s strategy as the key differentiator since it would provide the expert advice and support that was lacking in the electronics consumer product market today. Stephens was of the view that The Geek Squad had an edge over its direct competitors because:

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EMC2: Changing the Game with an Innovative Solutions Strategy

Find out how Nina Hargus, VP of Global Services Marketing provided the marketing support for the newly created solutions offering — the Virtual Computing Environment (VCE)

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A Go-To-Market Strategy for New Solutions at Getronics: Creating Compelling Value Propositions

Find out how Bev Burgess, Managing Director of The Capsicum Group, developed a go-to-market plan for a new set of solutions offerings that Getronics UK wanted to roll out that dealt with Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI).

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GovServices IT: plan to transform the company to a solutions model

Find out how Mark Stoneham, Director of Marketing, planned to transform the company to a solutions model.

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