– By Steve Robins
Celebrating a year of blogging on solution marketing
First, thank you to everyone that reads this blog day-in and day-out – it’s been a great ride since February 2009. Thanks also to everyone who expressed interest in solution marketing at Product Camp Boston #1 and #2, and on the LinkedIn group and elsewhere. And thanks to those who’ve helped to make this a great blog. As they say, the best is yet to come.
In celebration of this milestone, following is a solution marketing recap from the last twelve months.
- Value really matters. Long viewed as a major cash cow by Oracle and SAP, their support customers decided it was time to break from the herd as increasing numbers looked outside for higher value support contracts – with fewer benefits – but significantly lower cost. Turns out, the whole debacle was a career killer for SAP’s CEO. Note to Larry: if you want to protect 50% of your corporate revenue, you’ll need to PROVIDE MORE VALUE!
Solutions Show Up In the Darndest Places
- Automotive Solutions? With the economy tanking a year ago, Hyundai realized that the only way to jump-start car sales was to mitigate the risk of job loss. They couldn’t prevent new car buyers from losing their jobs – but they could take back cars and nullify loans in case of job loss. Way more than a product, this was a real solution to a problem. Soon companies like JetBlue and Ford were following their lead. Think about it: Hyundai the leader. Impressive!
- Open Source and SaaS Solutions. More than mere products, solutions include whatever’s necessary to solve a problem. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise to learn that open source offerings that include service and support are in fact, solutions. And with their turnkey, complete view of solving a business problem so too are SaaS offerings.
It’s the Business Problem, Stupid
- Who owns your message? Heck, as a marketer you may be responsible for your message – but that doesn’t mean that you can actually control it everywhere it lives. Now the market owns your message. They can say whatever they want about your solutions. Your mission: to engage with them to talk about their business issues (not your products), build relationships – and guide the message together.
- Speak customer-ese. Hey, would you speak Chinese to a French prospect and expect a sale? No. Well, don’t expect to speak tech to a business user either. To succeed, you need to speak your customer’s language – on their terms and about their problems.
- It’s just like dating… If you want to nab one, you need to go where the prospects are. If they’re on Twitter (oh no!), Facebook (gasp!) or other social media, well, you need to get your arse over there. You could avoid chasing your prospects but it might be a lonely Saturday night. Or a lonely end of quarter.
- Psst… check out my demo. A demo is NEVER JUST A DEMO. A demo is a demo of course – BUT it’s also your chance to lock in your audience by showing them how your solution will help them solve their problems. Show the goods – but be sure to tell ’em why they should care, as I posted in the solution demo series.
Same Problem, New Tech
- Twitter customer service. Like any good tech-enthusiast, it’s all too easy to believe that your technology is the only technology that can solve a specific business problem. Bad move. As it turns out, the pace of technological change is relentless (you knew that) and new technologies will indeed come along to solve the problems you solve – and (gasp!) they might even do a better job at a lower cost. Traditional CRM call center vendors have watched themselves become almost irrelevant as more and more customer support moved from the phone to email to Twitter… Thank you @ComcastCares and Salesforce.com.
- E1.1? But new technology isn’t always so new… I know that Web 2.0’s enterprise cousin, Enterprise 2.0 is “changing the world” [of enterprises]. But those hot E2.0 companies would do well to heed the lessons of preceding technologies that met many of the same needs as E2.0: Collaboration, Enterprise Content Management, Knowledge Management, Groupware, blah blah blah. With all their real innovation, it’s amazing how similar the E2.0 value props are to those of their predecessors. That’s why, to some observers, E2.0 looks a lot like E1.1.
- Old media? The Great Recession has accelerated the downfall of traditional print newspapers and broadcast. When it comes to news, people just want, well, the news. Sure, they like reading the news at the kitchen table. But paper’s not the only option (sorry to break it to you). And so newspapers are starting to innovate their delivery models – some by moving entirely online, others through hybrid online/offline subscriptions (Boston Globe), and still others through eBook/Apple iPad versions like the NY Times and NY Post. Yes, it’s not clear what people will be willing to pay for the news we love to read (same business problem), but it’s very clear that paper (old technology) is on its way out.