While the term solution is becoming more popular, many solutions today are actually bundles of products. The problem with product bundles is that they may not offer a complete end-to-end solution to a business problem. A true solution offering completely solves that business problem.
After reading this lesson, you will learn how to:
- Define what a solution offering is and is not
- Understand the challenges to creating a solution
- Create an effective marketing strategy for your solution offering
What is a B2B Solution?
To better understand how to market a solution, let’s break down what qualifies as a B2B solution.
For the purposes of this lesson, we will define a solution as a complete, end-to-end offering that provides the client with everything required to reach a business objective.
Realize that the B2B buyer cares more about return on investment (ROI) than upfront pricing and costs, and identifying this ROI will be at the center of successfully selling your solution offering.
For most businesses, a successful return on investment can include any combination of the following business objectives:
- Increase revenues
- Grow market share
- Lower operating costs
- Increase operating efficiency
- Improve brand perception
Examples of successful B2B solutions providers include Dell, Amazon Web Services, and Microsoft. Each of their clients, SMB or enterprise, receives a complete solution that solves their specific business problem. The client does not have to look elsewhere to complement the solution or improve upon it.
A solution offering, therefore, encompasses all hardware and software installation, staff training, deployment strategy, and technical support.
And yet, most solutions marketed today are actually products bundled together, with a service offer attached. This is because there is still little investment into understanding how to create and market complete, end-to-end solution offerings.
Let’s understand three common reasons why creating and marketing a solution is difficult.
Challenges to Solution Marketing
1. Market Research is an After-Thought
The most common reason why marketing solutions is a challenge is a lack of marketing that clearly explains the solution’s ROI to prospects. In many organizations, solutions are created independently of the marketing department. After a company bundles together its products and services in a way that maximizes its profits, it hands the “solution” to the marketing team to create the go-to-market strategy.
The company misses the crucial step of market research, wherein the marketing team speaks with potential buyers about what solution offerings can best address their needs. The result is a bundle of products that may improve certain aspects of a business problem, but fail to offer a complete solution.
2. Selling Products Instead of Solutions
In many cases, the word “solutions” is used to describe product bundles. For example, a product provider may add services or component parts to a product, and call it a solution. However, the solution is limited to the product capabilities.
To create a complete solution offering, you must start a step before you consider which products to bundle together. In doing so, you place your potential buyer’s pain points first and open the door to discovering new products you may not have thought of had you only considered existing product offerings.
3. Lack of Investment Into Solution Offerings
Many organizations are just now recognizing the approach needed to run a solutions department. The result is most investments have been made into expanding product offerings. A company may hire a product person as opposed to an industry expert.
To be a successful solutions provider, you must invest in hiring industry experts who bring a deep pool of knowledge of the challenges your target market faces, the existing solutions, and opportunities for innovation.
5-Step Guide to Marketing Your Solution
Successful solution marketing must extend beyond highlighting product features. It must communicate the return on investment of your complete solution offering.
To do so, you must identify key prospects within your target market, educate those prospects, and involve them in the development of their solution. We’ve broken down this process into five parts:
- Identify your target buyer
- Identify ROI being sought by target buyer
- Create relevant content for target buyer
- Connect with target decision makers
- Directly sell your solution
1. Identify Your Target Buyer
Although you may have an idea of the kind of buyer that can benefit from your solution offering, you must validate who is willing to pay. This is called finding the solution-to-market fit, and it is the best way to ensure a buyer actually wants your solution.
If one buyer will pay for your solution without a deep discount, it’s likely others will as well. Once you find early paying buyers, identify their key characteristics and create your ideal customer profile (ICP) in order to better understand your target buyer.
2. Identify the ROI being Sought by Target Buyer
Once you’ve identified what your target buyer looks like, and created an ideal customer profile, your next step is to identify the value, or return on investment that is most important to them.
Once you understand what’s most important to the organization, you will then educate each key decision maker within the organization on the value your solution offers.
The B2B buying cycle can involve numerous decision makers, each with their own departmental objectives and processes. You must understand these individual objectives, respective pain points, and existing processes in order to identify which aspects of your solution are important.
3. Create Relevant Content for Target Buyer
Your next step is to create relevant content to educate each decision maker on the benefits of your solution.
Remember that content marketing is the practice of providing valuable information at little or no cost to existing and prospective buyers. Unlike advertising, content marketing does not need to convert each reader or viewer into a buyer.
Instead, it adds value in order to help the prospect make the best decision. Although it may sound altruistic, buyers seem to reward valuable content providers with their business.
Valuable content for B2B buyers is information key decision makers need but may not have. For example, if you are offering an IT security solution, your content may include:
- A white paper detailing the importance of IT security
- A SlideShare presentation featuring the best IT security products
- A video series featuring organizations with successful IT frameworks
- A podcast featuring helpful tips and strategies
Each of these may be valuable to a key decision maker responsible for IT security.
Although your content may not directly sell your solution offering, it is communicating the value of a tangible benefit your solution may offer. Your next step is to engage with prospects who find your content valuable.
4. Connect with Target Decision Makers
Once you have a library of content built up, engage with those prospects that respond favorably to your content on social media.
Follow up with anyone who engages with your SlideShare deck or downloads your white paper. To further increase the number of decision makers that see your content, use social media advertising on platforms like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter.
Connecting with key buyers can also happen off-screen. Attending key events and trade shows can be an effective way to connect with new prospects.
5. Sell Your Solution Directly
When finally meeting with a prospective buyer, remember to communicate the value your solution offers. Use before and after scenarios that illustrate what kind of ROI the buyer can expect to see.
Key points to communicate during a sales meeting should include:
- The ROI of your solution
- New product deployment process
- Staff training requirements
- Software requirements
- Equipment purchase or removal
- Ongoing technical support
Unlike product marketing, which most often includes fixed pricing and limited offerings, solution marketing operates on a value-based pricing model. When selling your solution, the prospect must be involved to help customize the solution and determine its potential value.
Working closely with the prospective buyer will allow you to better understand their budget, the best channels for solution deployment, staff training requirements, new software requirements, and the disposal of old hardware.
Once the prospect has made the decision to purchase your solution, you must provide ongoing support to ensure the buyer feels confident during the deployment of your solution and beyond. Most importantly, you must continue to show and remind the buyer about the ROI your solution is bringing to the organization. In a way, marketing your solution to your buyer never truly ends.