Anatomy of a Solutions Marketer

The word “solution” is now part of the technology marketing landscape. It started to gain popularity back in the 1990s when we were trying to describe an integrated system that included hardware and software and services…a package that’s more application-focused and more directly solves customer problems.

But now, as many of you know, I have a thing about using the word “solution” in any context beyond chemistry. I’m concerned that the word has been overused and misused along the way. The big questions are… Do our customers know what we’re talking about when we say we provide “solutions”? How do we prevent further erosion of the term and maybe even build up a context that better defines its use? To get to that point, we need to understand what’s going on with use of the word.

A new report from Solutions Insights, ITSMA, and ISA takes the first step in that journey. Anatomy of a Solutions Marketer is based on a February 2012 survey of 133 representatives of mostly technology companies. The report defines “solutions” as a combination of products and/or services with intellectual capital, focused on a particular problem and driving measurable business value.

I started out in Product Management oh so many years ago. The biggest challenge was we PMs had all the responsibility for a product line and no direct authority over the different departments we had to work with: engineering, manufacturing, sales, marcom. If there was a glitch in the product launch timeline — say engineering needed another month to debug — it pushed everyone’s plans out the window. I remember a number of heated conversations in the halls when schedules started to slip. It seems Solutions Marketing is following in PM’s footsteps.

Findings of the survey include:

· Solutions marketing is more challenging than either product or services marketing.

· Successful solutions marketers are not born. It takes experience, knowledge, and ability to foster relationships across the organization.

· Solutions marketers are a very experienced group of professionals, averaging 16 years in marketing!

· Nearly all solutions marketers were either product or services marketers (or both!) prior to their stints in solutions.

· Respondents identified a host of challenges–the top two are internally focused (enabling the sales force and working across organizational silos).

· When asked to rank the difficulty of solutions-related challenges, changing culture and behavior far outranked selling solutions. This seems silly. Why are we fighting ourselves when the important thing is the customer?

· Solutions marketers have to master not only marketing skills but also interpersonal skills to become change agents and work effectively across the silos.

Read the abbreviated report, Anatomy of a Solutions Marketer.

For more information, contact Steve Hurley at Solutions Insights.

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