Category Archives: Value

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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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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The Value of Value

By Steve Robins

Value is Key to Solution Marketing

You might think that the most important aspect of marketing a solution would be what goes into it.  What goes into a solution are just a bunch of pieces, products, or components.  But value is about the benefit and cost of those components to the user or buyer.

Value is equal to the difference between perceived benefit and total cost

More specifically, value is equal to the difference between (1) the benefit as perceived by the user and (2) the total cost of the solution.  By perception I mean that the user or buyer must appreciate and want the resulting benefit.  In fact, if they don’t perceive it as a benefit to them, it’s not a benefit but is instead just a useless feature.

Value is interesting in many ways, some of which are counterintuitive and not so obvious.  Following are a few important examples – both obvious and not so obvious. Continue reading

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Netflix: It’s About the Customer Strategy, Stupid – Part II

By Steve Robins

Six Solution Marketing Lessons from Netflix

As I mentioned at the end of the last post, Netflix: It’s the Customer, Stupid, Netflix’s recent misadventure is a cautionary tale for solution marketers.  Following are a six key lessons:

#1: As a vendor or service provider, technology upgrades are good.

So, if you rent DVDs and know the market will eventually transition to video on demand, you need to offer video on demand as well – just as Netflx does today.  Streaming is proven and consumers will demand it.  It’s not a matter of if, but when.  However…

#2: Consumers and customers do not share your company’s timetable

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HP TouchPad @ $99 – Value?

By Steve Robins

No, this is not a good thing

Confession: I enjoy talking about “value” because sometimes, it’s counter-intuitive.  For example: how can an expensive solution or product be a better value than an inexpensive solution or product?

Value has been making big news lately, especially in the turbulent world of tablet devices.  Take a look at six months of HP TouchPad headlines:   Continue reading

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