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Solutions Marketing vs Product Marketing: One Big Difference

solutions marketing

The solutions marketing vs product marketing debate has been going on forever! A lot of people think solutions marketing is just a fancy term for product marketing, especially since the term solution has been so overused. But there is one huge difference in real-world practice.

In a product marketing model, products are the star. Problems, features and benefits are co-stars. In a solutions marketing model, the star is the buyer’s vision for success. Products, features and benefits round out the cast, but further down the food chain in supporting roles.

What Is Solutions Marketing?

Think of solutions marketing as the more encompassing, higher-impact version of product marketing. It aims at needs much higher in the customer organization that go far beyond user problems and products, even though both still have a critical role.

Here’s the deal. The end game for both product and solutions marketing is to help sales sell more. But the tactics for getting there are very different.

Here are three scenarios that contrast the two approaches. Determine which one is more conducive to growing revenue for your organization based on your products, buyers and business model.

1.  Positioning

Product positioning in one form or another is problems, features and benefits with a narrative that targets users more than any other audience.

Solution positioning is the buyer’s (decision-maker/influencer) version of a value story, their vision for success. Industry context makes solution positioning even more credible. Products play the role of proof points that speak to HOW you’ll help buyers make their vision a reality.

There’s even better news. Bringing the buyer’s vision to life almost always requires more than one product to form the “solution.” It’s easy money for sales!

Both approaches ultimately focus on convincing buyers you can solve their problems. The difference is the magnitude of the problem addressed with product positioning only, versus solution positioning.

Solutions marketing still requires product positioning, but more in the context of how you’re improving something in the trenches that directly impacts the buyer’s vision.

2.  Sales Enablement

Product marketing focuses on making salespeople knowledgeable about products and the problems they solve.

Solutions marketing focuses on making salespeople knowledgeable about the business dynamics of the buyer in their industry and how they’re going to navigate those dynamics to be successful going forward.

The solutions narrative helps salespeople engage with a more consultative approach. That makes it easier to paint the buyer’s picture of success starting at the top of their organization with strategic priorities and connecting the dots to user value in the trenches, via products.

3.  Demand Generation

Demand generation in a product marketing model usually forces you to be generic in your messaging because your products target buyers across multiple market segments.

That generic messaging can often come across as white noise…streamline workflows, improve efficiency, grow revenue, make smarter business decisions, cut costs, etc.

In a solutions marketing model, you’re speaking to the aspirations of your buyers at a much higher business level – where they need to go strategically, why it’s critical for success or survival, key changes that have to occur, consequences of getting left behind, etc.

The solutions that address these higher-level needs almost always involve more than a single product due to the magnitude of the issues you’re addressing. More products on every sales order! Who doesn’t love that?

Here’s the bottom line. Solutions marketing in B2B gives you two benefits that product marketing doesn’t.

First and foremost, it makes your value story much more powerful because you’re targeting needs much higher in the buyer’s organization where the pain points have a more severe ripple effect. In other words, you’re solving much bigger problems with greater strategic impact.

Second, the average sale amount is higher because more products are required to form the solutions to those bigger problems.

If you’re not sure which approach is better for your organization, put yourself in the shoes of your typical buyer/decision-maker/influencer. What are you more interested in, your own agenda for success or the problems, features and benefits of a product? There’s your answer.

Click here if you want to experience the easiest way to learn product management, product marketing, pre-sales demos and customer success with our unique hands-on learning format. Be sure to check out our Product Management Framework that simplifies everything by making customer outcomes the starting point for building, marketing, selling and delivering strategic value.

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by John Mansour on February 6, 2022.