Decoding the DNA of a Successful Solutions Marketer
As companies have adopted a more customer-centric business model, the role of Solutions Marketing is rapidly gaining momentum as a critical position within the Marketing department of many B2B companies.
A First-Ever Survey of Solutions Marketers
Solutions Insights, in collaboration with ITSMA and with additional support from three universities and industry associations, recently conducted a web-based survey of professionals with direct solutions marketing experience. We gathered responses from 133 qualified Solutions Marketers who represented over 125 companies in over a dozen different industry sectors. These companies were in the B2B market, and 75% of them reported revenues exceeding $1 billion. Nearly 60% of the respondents indicated that their companies were in the computer systems and solutions, software solutions, professional services, and telecommunications and networking industries.
The Importance of Solutions
Understanding Solutions Marketing is important simply because solutions offerings are getting a bigger and bigger share of companies’ portfolios. Eighty-five percent of the respondents said were extremely or very important to the future of their companies.
Real-world results bear out this importance, as over two-thirds of the respondents stated that more than 40% of their total revenues came from solutions sales. With a growing revenue base generated by solutions, companies are staffing up in response. Well over two-thirds of the respondents indicated that their companies have increased the size of their Solutions Marketing staffs over the past two years.
Solutions and Solutions Marketing – Understanding the Context
In order to appreciate the recent surge in interest in Solutions Marketing, it’s important to understand how we define the word “solution” in the context of B2B activities:
“A combination of products and/or services with intellectual capital, focused on a particular customer problem and driving measurable business value for customers.”
We define Solutions Marketing as:
“The process of understanding, creating, communicating and delivering value through the development and support of offerings that dynamically combine core capabilities of the company and its partners to address customers’ key business problems.”
The Profile of a Solutions Marketer
The primary objective of this survey was to understand the type of person who was able to successfully market solutions, and his or her key challenges. The survey unearthed three characteristics make solutions marketers stand out from most other marketers:
- Number of years spent as marketers – On average, solutions marketers noted at least 16 years of marketing experience. This indicated that companies were giving solutions marketing responsibility to their more senior, more proven marketing professionals.
- Type of marketing experience – Nearly 2/3 of solutions marketers working for product-based companies reported that they had experience in marketing both products and services. This confirms the need to understand both types of marketing approaches in order to effectively market solutions. What surprised us was that 50% of the marketers from the non-product based companies – professional services companies and systems integrators – also indicated that they had experience in both areas.
- Reporting relationships – The overwhelming majority of the solutions marketers who took our survey appeared to have direct-line reporting responsibilities up to VPs, SVPs, and C-level executives.
The Solutions Marketers also responded that they have hard jobs: nearly two-thirds of survey respondents viewed solutions marketing as more challenging than product marketing.
Solutions Marketing Challenges
Since most Solutions Marketers felt their jobs were harder than Product or Services Marketers, we followed up to find out what made it so challenging.
The survey participants felt that their biggest challenges were people related rather than process- or technology-based. They spent a considerable amount of time on internal communications, getting the sales and delivery teams to understand how they need to operate differently, and getting the business units and channel partners to collaborate more. Given that these challenges were chosen as the most difficult and important, it wasn’t surprising that 67% of the respondents felt that strong interpersonal skills was the most important competency for a Solutions Marketer.
Understanding the Role of a Solutions Marketer
Despite the importance of solutions to the future of the organizations represented in the survey and the significant increase in the numbers of Solutions Marketers within these companies, the role of a Solutions Marketer was still not well understood. Over 50% felt that it was only their peers in the Marketing Department who understood and appreciated their role and what they contributed to their company’s success.
While we didn’t have an opportunity to dig very deeply into this issue, one potential factor might be that the role of Solutions Marketing was, on average, only first introduced into the companies six years ago. This is a relatively new marketing function, and it appears that in many companies there is still a strong need to articulate the role, responsibilities and core activities of these professionals.
The Keys to Successful Solutions Marketing
Based upon our survey, it appears that Solutions Marketing is a critical but very difficult function within Marketing. To be able to successfully create, market and sell solutions, Solutions Marketers in the future will be required to:
- Build up both product and services marketing experience before taking on solutions.
- Be an evangelist: market internally to help others both inside and outside of Marketing understand the role of a Solutions Marketer.
- Learn specialized skills and training in order to take on the unique tasks and responsibilities associated with Solutions Marketing.
Interested in Learning More about the Future Role of Solutions Marketers?
A more in-depth analysis can be found in the executive summary report that we posted on our website. If you are interested in downloading the report, click here..