Solutions Must Be Differentiated Too!

I am always surprised that the concept of articulating clear, compelling differentiation somehow seems to get lost when Product Marketing starts developing the messaging to support a solution-centric sales process.

Feature comparisons and competitive matrices are the core ingredients of effective product-centric marketing and selling messages. But unfortunately, when most marketing organizations try to make the transition from product-centric to solution-centric messaging, the focus seems to change from communicating differentiation to just describing how their products and services solve the customer’s problems.

Solution messaging is all about clearly communicating value from the Customer’s perspective in the context of the problem that they are trying to solve. To be truly effective, however, solution-centric messaging needs to clearly articulate two kinds of value:

  1. Generic Value: How your solution solves a particular business problem in a similar fashion to your competitors, along with the value that the customer will realize by solving that particular problem.
  2. Differentiated Value: How your solution solves a particular customer problem better, faster, or cheaper than your competition, along with the metrics and proof to substantiate that claim.

The combination of Generic and Differentiated Value represents the “Value DNA” of an organization. It’s the reason people buy from you, and your best sales and marketing people intuitively understand and can clearly articulate it.

Unfortunately, most marketing organizations haven’t figured out how to capture and institutionalize this knowledge throughout the rest of the Marketing and Sales organization. The failure to address this issue is the root cause of the Marketing & Sales disconnect, and it’s why many marketing organizations are losing their strategic relevance to the business as a whole.

This is why it’s critical for Marketing Organizations to develop their solution-centric messaging around a clearly defined Problem-Solution Map. As shown in the following diagram, these maps are nothing more than feature benefit lists that are defined from the customer’s perspective and in the context of specific customer problems.

This is what drug companies have been doing for years, and I know it sounds like Marketing 101, but our experience shows that most companies never create a Problem-Solution Map.

As the diagram shows, the key to defining your company’s Value DNA and creating an effective Problem-Solution Map is the process of breaking down the customer’s problems and needs into a couple of key causes, so that you can then define your Generic and Differentiated Value in the context of those causes. Unfortunately, most Product Managers and Product Marketers struggle with this fundamental aspect of solution-centric messaging.

This is why training the Product Marketing team on the differences between product and solution marketing is so important. And, it’s why implementing a formal problem solution mapping process should be the first step in any solution marketing initiative. In fact, these two transformation initiatives are arguably the most important actions that a Marketing Executive can take, in order to increase their organization’s relevance to Sales and its strategic impact on the enterprise.


How You Sell Is the Last Advantage