Before the advent of Tylenol, Advil, Motrin or Excedrin, the world somehow got by on aspirin for general aches and pains. But marketers never rest in looking for ways to gain competitive advantage, hence, the myriad of pain relievers available today for every discomfort imaginable. For example, there’s Tylenol for a cold, flu, sinus, arthritis and a slew of other ailments.
The difference between aspirin and many of the pain relievers available today is more about packaging and positioning than it is about ingredients. Each brand of pain reliever uses a common ingredient or platform plus a sprinkling of additional ingredients for specific ailments.
Translate this concept to B2B products and services and witness how ERP software in the 90’s has become enterprise solutions for retail, healthcare, non-profit and automotive. Telephone service has matured into telecommunication solutions for large enterprises or small and medium businesses. The concept can be applied to any product or service. The key is RELEVANCE.
Much like pain relievers, most B2B products and services use a common platform and emphasize specific features that constitute an industry specific solution.
Why make the transformation?
For starters, solutions drive higher ticket sales because they generally offer multiple products or services. Who doesn’t want more revenue? Throw in the stickiness factor because multi-product solutions reach a broader base of users within each customer account. And finally, history has proven that companies offering solutions have far greater market appeal than those just selling generic products or services. Apple didn’t invent downloadable music or the portable music player. They simply delivered both as an integrated solution.
Three Steps to Make it Happen
- Determine the best way to segment your target customers. It’s usually a good idea to refer to them as they refer to themselves to keep the relevance factor high, i.e., pharmaceutical, retail, small business, etc. Begin with the segments where your products or services are the best fit today.
- Formalize the product marketing function (not to be confused with product management) and organize it according to your chosen industry segments. Assign solutions marketing managers by market segment instead of the traditional product centric alignment.
- Develop value propositions around common problems in each segment and deliver those value propositions in communications targeted to specific audiences.
The essence of solutions marketing is to utilize your marketing horsepower, which is limited in most companies, to the segments where you can succeed the fastest. IT shouldn’t prohibit you from selling into other segments if the product is a good fit. It just means you’re not going to dedicate any resources to segments beyond your chosen priorities.
Focus is the biggest challenge in every company. Those who make a habit of it become market leaders.