Solutions marketing is a relatively new function in marketing organizations. According to the study, which was based on an online survey of 133 solutions marketers conducted in February, the mean year in which a solutions marketing role was established at the companies surveyed was 2004. And while 85% of marketers surveyed said solutions marketing is extremely important or very important to the future of their business, 58% said people outside of marketing do not understand what solutions marketing is.
“A lot of companies panic because they see their competitors all talking about solutions, so they go out with solutions messaging way ahead of their ability to understand what it means and deliver against it,” Hurley said. “If you're really a solutions company, it is transformational to how you do business, not just marketing.”
IBM Corp. is a company that has made solutions marketing an integral part of its business model—not just in marketing but throughout the organization.
“We see solutions marketing as an extension of our brand,” said John Kennedy, VP-corporate marketing at IBM. “IBM has been doing solutions marketing for a very long time—defining a solution as when we're able to bring many parts of our portfolio together, including hardware, software and some element of services.
“What's happened recently is that "Smarter Planet' has provided a platform to express how IBM applies solutions not only to technology problems or business problems but to global problems.”
IBM introduced “Smarter Planet” in 2008 to show how it is helping the world work better through intelligent, connected systems.
“ "Smarter Planet' is a solutions platform,” Kennedy said, noting that it touches not just marketing but product development and the company's entire business strategy. “We have built our entire 2015 roadmap around solutions,” he said. Those solutions include cloud computing, business analytics and “Smarter Commerce.”
“Solutions are built around business outcomes,” Kennedy said, discussing how solutions marketing is different from product marketing. “There are solutions that are sold into an IT market; but, increasingly, technology solutions are being marketed into line-of-business. So you have solutions marketers who need to not only be aware of and knowledgeable about the technology aspects but really be conversant about line-of-business operational success metrics.”
Kennedy said that while IBM has embraced solutions marketing, it has not made any organizational changes around the concept.
“We are integrating [solutions marketing] by design—determining the right way that the elements can come together to form solutions, provide clarity of architecture and determine which teams need to work together to deliver solutions. For us, we think the magic is to do it without creating new organizational models.”
Other companies have reorganized around solutions marketing. Motorola Solutions, which was created as a separate entity last year when Motorola Inc. split into two companies—Motorola Mobility for consumer products and Motorola Solutions for b-to-b—is one of those.
“When we looked at the segments we serve—government and enterprise—part of the activation of our brand purpose and promise is through solutions, not specific products. We thought it was important to include "Solutions' as part of our name,” said Eduardo Conrado, senior VP-CMO at Motorola Solutions.
Even before the split, Motorola began making changes to its marketing organization to reflect that focus. “We began migrating from traditional marketing roles to creating a team that is more focused on how to weave products and services together to create solutions for a segment,” Conrado said.
Motorola Solutions has created a team of solutions marketers across the organization who work with product developers and field marketers in each vertical segment, such as fire, police and retail, to create specific solutions for customers based on needs. “Solutions marketers are a hybrid of vertical experts and technologists who can articulate a specific offering into each segment,” Conrado said.
Motorola is taking the traditional marketing model of the Four Ps—product, price, promotion and place—and evolving it for solutions marketing, Conrado said. “Product evolves into solutions; promotion evolves into education; price evolves into value—what is the ROI and ultimate value; and place evolves from the store to the Web,” he said.
Conrado said that when looked at through the lens of solutions marketing, each element of the marketing mix changes to reflect a focus on providing unique value for the customer. “For example, when you look at promotion and start thinking about education, the way you package information changes,” Conrado said. “You are not creating just a website, or a banner ad or a print ad, but you're spending a lot more time on thought-leadership pieces that express a [point of view].”
Other companies are addressing solutions marketing in their advertising.
Last month, Dow Chemical Co. rolled out a new ad campaign called “Solutionism. The New Optimism,” created by Draftfcb Chicago.
The branding campaign is designed to show how the intersection of science and humanity fosters the discovery of solutions to global challenges such as feeding the planet, creating more efficient energy systems and developing better transportation. The campaign is an evolution of Dow's “The Human Element” campaign, which debuted in 2006 and was also created by Draftfcb.
“Building off its award-winning "Human Element' campaign, Dow was looking for a way to reintroduce the transformed Dow to the public. The company has evolved from a chemical company to a global solutions provider in areas ranging from energy to agriculture,” said Mike Kolleth, director-corporate advertising and branding at Dow Chemical.
The “Solutionism” campaign shows how Dow works with its customers to create solutions such as water filtration systems, wind turbines and gluten-free bread.
“ "The Human Element' was about Dow's role and the role chemistry plays in bringing about global solutions at the broadest possible level. So that in that context, we have been doing solutions marketing since that campaign launched,” Kolleth said.