Definition of “Solution”

solution

Solution. The term is everywhere! It just may be the most overused and least understood term in technology, SaaS, software, consulting, or business today.  So what exactly is a solution? 

definition

Definition of Solution

Based on my experience working with a variety of companies, here is the Solution Marketing Strategies definition of the term “solution”

A complete and integrated offering that includes everything required to solve a customer problem and provide value to the customer:

  • Complete: The solution includes whatever is needed to solve the problem.
  • Integrated: The components are designed to work together.
  • Offering: Whatever is being provided to the customer – could be a software-centric solution, a series of services, a consumer service or good etc.
  • Everything: Includes all of the components – an understanding of users; process; data and content used in the process; hardware, software, other technology; and strategy, integration, support and training services provided by the vendor and their partners (see Solution Framework below)
  • Solves a customer problem: The solution fixes a problem or challenge that the customer has.
  • Value: The solution provides a benefit that is greater than the cost to fully deploy the solution (i.e., Benefit – Cost = Value)

Now that we’ve defined the term “solution,” let’s take a look at the key components of a good solution.

The Solution Framework

Solution-marketing-strategies-solution-framework-tmYou might think of a solution as following a framework.  The Solution Marketing Strategies Solution Framework™ or model describes the following components required to solve a problem. Components can come from the vendor and their partners – and even from the customer. Each of these elements applies to all types of solutions – B2B, B2C, B2E (employee) etc.

  • Customer and pain points – While not solution components per se, the customer and their pain points are the reason that the solution exists.  I.e., we’re trying to solve a problem; this is the “why” for the solution.
  • Users: Solutions are purposely designed to meet the needs of users – everyone who comes in contact with, is a beneficiary or stakeholder of the solution. Users are the “who” for the solution.
  • Process: Solutions are usually built to manage some sort of a repeatable, structured process or informal collaboration process. This applies as much to B2B processes like accounts payable processing as it does to B2C processes like hailing a cab from Uber.  Process defines “how” the solution works.
  • Data and Content: Solutions run on both structured data (such as database records, pricing, analytics) and unstructured content (such as electronic documents, images, sound files, videos, text).  Data and content are “what” flows through the solution.
  • Technology: Solutions often include technology such as equipment, hardware, software (whether cloud or premise-based), and media (such as CDs or DVDs) that enable the solution to manage the process, data and content for the benefit of the customer, users and stakeholders. Technology “enables” the solution.
  • Services: Services fill in the gaps between components and tie the entire solution together into a smoothly operating whole. Services “complete” the solution and can include everything from strategic, integration and deployment services to ongoing support services.

Why it matters

Now that you know what a solution is, you may be asking why it matters at all.  The above definition and framework help you to see what it takes to really solve a problem. For example, providing software alone may not be enough to solve a customer problem – and the definition and framework above can help you to see that more clearly. This definition can also help you to see broader opportunities for your company – new ways to serve the needs of customers, for example, by adding new services to your technology product. And finally, consistent definitions enable alignment with other functions, partners and customers so you can deliver better outcomes and grow revenue.

So what do you think? How would you define the term “solution” and what should it include?

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Think Like a Martian

The value of a fresh perspective

All of the recent news around the NASA’s New Horizons mission and Pluto has me thinking of… Martians.

think-like-a-martianLet me explain.

How would you approach a solution marketing problem if you were a Martian, complete with a fresh perspective and unencumbered with what earthlings already knew?

A fresh perspective

The father of Nobel physicist Richard Feynman (1918-1988) employed this mode of thinking with his son, asking, “Supposing we were Martians, and we came down from Mars to this Earth, and we would look at it from the outside.”  In other words, Feynman was encouraged to consider ”a way of looking at something anew, as if you were seeing it for the first time.”

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Session at ProductCamp: Grow Your Business in New Ways

ProductCamp BostonJust added – new session at ProductCamp Boston! Once again, I’ll be leading a session at ProductCamp Boston, one of the three largest ProductCamps in the world. I hope you’ll join me at ProductCamp for this presentation. See below for registration details. I hope you’ll also join me for the ProductCamp session on Marketing 3.0.

Grow Your Business in New Ways

Saturday 2nd May, 2015 – 12:45 to 1:35pm (EST)
Microsoft NERD Center, Vitruvius (10th floor – conference room on far side from where lunch is served)

It’s no surprise that we “product people” often focus all of our thinking around our products… growing our product’s revenue, expanding our product’s footprint, how to get more people and more companies to buy our product, etc.

But when you step away from that product focus, you begin to see vast new revenue opportunities that you never knew existed. Join us as we explore a new way of thinking about your customers and the markets you serve. Along the way, we’ll learn powerful lessons from leading companies like Apple, Netflix and others.

About ProductCamp Boston

ProductCamp Boston is the only full-day unconference for product managers and product marketers in the Boston area. Because it’s an unconference, ProductCamp is organized by attendees, for attendees so you can get the most out of the day. Over 400 product management, product marketing professionals, developers, entrepreneurs, students and industry thought-leaders come together to network, share and learn about product management, product development, market trends, product marketing, startups, product design, career development, and more. ProductCamp website | Register for ProductCamp Boston

About Steve Robins

Steve Robins is the principal of Solution Marketing Strategies. For the last 15 years, Steve Robins has been transforming technology firms into market-leading, customer-focused solution providers. He’s held senior marketing roles at FirstBest Systems, EMC Documentum, and KANA Software. An industry thought-leader, Steve started the top-rated solution marketing blog, writes a marketing tech column for TechTarget, and has co-chaired the ProductCamp Boston unconference for several years.

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Session at ProductCamp: Marketing 3.0 – What’s Next?

ProductCamp BostonOnce again, I’ll be leading a session at ProductCamp Boston, one of the three largest ProductCamps in the world. I hope you’ll join me at ProductCamp and participate in this interactive discussion.  See below for registration details.  I hope you’ll also join me for the ProductCamp session on Growing Your Business in New Ways.

Discussion: Marketing 3.0 – What’s Next

Saturday 2nd May, 2015 – 1:45 to 2:35pm (EST) – note time change
Microsoft NERD Center, Commons B (10th floor – far side from where lunch is served)

Empowered consumers, content marketing, social selling, agile marketing and an explosion of new marketing (martech) tools: the world of marketing is rapidly evolving.

Join this interactive discussion about the challenges, opportunities and imperatives of the new marketing department of today. What’s working? What’s not? What needs to change? What does the marketing 3.0 department look like? What is its mission and goals?

Update

Read the session notes on Slideshare

About ProductCamp Boston

ProductCamp Boston is the only full-day unconference for product managers and product marketers in the Boston area. Because it’s an unconference, ProductCamp is organized by attendees, for attendees so you can get the most out of the day. Over 400 product management, product marketing professionals, developers, entrepreneurs, students and industry thought-leaders come together to network, share and learn about product management, product development, market trends, product marketing, startups, product design, career development, and more. ProductCamp website | Register for ProductCamp Boston

About Steve Robins

Steve Robins is the principal of Solution Marketing Strategies. For the last 15 years, Steve Robins has been transforming technology firms into market-leading, customer-focused solution providers. He’s held senior marketing roles at FirstBest Systems, EMC Documentum, and KANA Software. An industry thought-leader, Steve started the top-rated solution marketing blog, writes a marketing tech column for TechTarget, and has co-chaired the ProductCamp Boston unconference for several years.

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Predicting a Solution’s Value

Predicting valuePredictive lead scoring can identify the leads that will place the greatest value on your solution – and pay the highest price.

Value, the difference between the benefit that a customer receives and the total cost to achieve that benefit, is central to solution marketing.  But value is also closely tied to lead scoring as well, with major implications for your company’s revenue and profitability.  As I recently wrote in SearchCRM,

A lead score predicts the likelihood that a given lead will ultimately convert into a closed deal. The higher the score, the more likely that a lead will turn into a sale. The score may incorporate predictors such as the lead’s current challenges and technologies, the presence of an active and budgeted project, selected demographic/firmographic data, and even frequency of activity.

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How Apple Creates a Future that Sells

AplWatch-HomeScreen-PR-PRINT_2Today Apple announced additional details of AppleWatch as well as a new, slimmer (!) MacBook line at a media event in San Francisco.  Apple is an iconic company and their innovation can provide helpful lessons, many of which apply to solution marketers. Which takes me to the AppleWatch: Needing to be tethered to a iPhone via WiFi, and carrying a not-insignificant price for an optional gizmo, it’s not clear how well this new product will perform I the market.  But if anyone can make a go of it, Apple can.  Here’s why. Continue reading

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Cyber Lessons from Black Friday

Black Friday offers an important lesson for cyber (i.e., enterprise software) solution marketers. 

Bombarded by Black Friday

Cyber lessons from Black FridayOver the last few weeks, we’ve been bombarded with a never-ending stream of Black Friday TV commercials. These included a litany of TV commercials for BMWs and other cars on sale for Black Friday. Maybe it’s all due to a surge in self-gifting, although experts were predicting a drop for 2014.

In a world where everything from clothes to cars was on sale on or around Black Friday, retailers were competing against just about every other retailer for the $381 that the typical shopper spent this past weekend, according to the National Retail Federation.  That included direct competitors offering similar goods, indirect competitors who offered different goods that solved the same problem (say, giving a nice gift) and what I’ll call Share of Budget competitors who solved different problems but competed for the same budget.

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