Hire for Success

– By Steve Robins

Building a Successful Solution Marketing Function

The last post described how to start an industry and solutions marketing function, based on my own experience.  Today’s post will cover staffing for solution marketing in an enterprise (B2B) software company.  Many of these same concepts apply to B2B marketing in general.  I’ve even included a link to a sample job description (see below).  

Industry and functional solutions. As I mentioned in the last post, Getting Started in-Industry and Solutions Marketing in 7 Steps, solution marketing is divided into (1) functional solutions that are oriented around business functions – marketing, sales, accounting, manufacturing, etc; and
(2) industry solutions oriented around specific vertical industries (yes, that is redundant) such as banking, insurance, pharmaceutical, energy, public sector etc.

Solution marketing is not product marketing. As you might expect, industry and solutions marketing is related but different from product marketing.  And that’s important since Sirius Decisions estimates that some 55% of B2B marketers are focusing on solution marketing today.  Sirius goes on to say that solution marketing requires greater cross-functional leadership, solution messaging, as well as broad and deep domain expertise.

That’s my life! As I read the Sirius post, I thought I was reading a description of my recent role at an enterprise software company.  I didn’t expect it when I started, but in many ways, my role leading the industry and solutions marketing function had more reach, scope, solution messaging and broad and deep domain expertise than just about any other function in the larger marketing department.  Come on – tell I’m not modest!

At one time or another, I touched any of 10+ industries; understood and could represent 50-75+ use cases to fellow marketers, sales folks, and prospective customers; understood the intricacies of about 10 product lines (and countless products); and strategized, positioned and developed tactical plans for numerous solutions.  I was able to rely upon a few in-house industry and functional experts but in the end, a lot of the work rested on my shoulders.  Based on my own experience, following are a few recommendations for staffing the solution marketing function:

  • First and foremost, hire people with a solution marketing mentality – people who can go beyond products alone to consider (and evangelize and market!) complete solutions to business problems encompassing your company’s products and services, partner products and services, domain expertise, best practices and more.

Not everyone needs to be a subject matter expert

  • Hire (or contract) domain experts for the most important industries and functions you plan to serve. You’re going to pay more for this expertise but for your most strategic industries, the payoff is worth the higher salaries.  That said, not everyone needs to be an industry or functional expert: I recommend hiring experts for the top solution areas because the others are likely to change over time.

Hire a savvy generalist for VP of solution marketing

  • Starting with the VP/director of solution marketing, hire savvy generalist solution marketers – people who understand business problems and technologies, and who can assemble, message and market compelling solutions to those problems.  This is the hardest role to fill because so few people really understand both technology and business problems. Unless your company focuses only on one industry, the VP or director of solution marketing should be a savvy generalist (no, this is not an oxymoron) since they’ll need to understand multiple industries, business functions, use cases and technologies.
  • Hire learners – It’s unlikely that you’ll be able to hire people with both domain and solution marketing expertise.  So plan to hire people who are willing to learn on the jobsubject matter experts who are willing to learn software and solution marketing while they continue to learn from customers; and savvy generalists who are willing to work with sales, customers and experts to gain a deep understanding of business problems, industry/function issues and solution use cases.
  • Hire cross-functional leaders – I could not agree more with Sirius: you need leaders that can marshal resources from around your company – people who can gain support and execute on a vision – both inside and outside of the company.  Hire team players with solid communication skills.

I hope you can see that solution marketing requires a balance of different skills.  See below to download a sample job description for a solution marketing department head.  So what do you think?  What’s worked (or not) in your organization?

Additional Resources


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Filed under Industry Marketing, Product Marketing, SIVA - Elements of Solution Marketing, Solution, Solution Marketing

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