The Total Solution Ecosystem
By Douglas G. Davidoff
Founder & CEO, Imagine Business Development
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People do not want products or services – they want results. One of the biggest challenges businesses face when they go-to-market is how to identify and communicate the meaningful, compelling result they provide. The reasons companies face this problem are numerous and I’ve written about many of them in previous articles, as well as on thefastgrowthblog.com. They range from a total lack of understanding of their customer to not having the confidence to make a compelling promise – and everything in between.
Recently I witnessed another major cause of the problem. This situation is most prevalent in a business-to-business or business-to-government environment, though it comes into play in the business-to-consumer market as well. Frequently an offering only provides a part of the ‘total solution’ that is required to fulfill the promise a company makes to its clients or prospects. In marketing circles, this is called a ‘partial solution.’ It is rare that a company provides a true, ‘total solution’. As a result, it is critical that those companies do an exceptional job of marketing and selling their partial solution.
In this issue of The INTELLIGENT GROWTH Ezine, I will enable you to understand how to identify whether you provide a ‘partial solution’ or ‘total solution’, what that discovery means to your go-to-market efforts, and the actions you must take to accelerate your growth as a result. I call this The Total Solution Ecosystem™. The concept, while strategic in nature, is critical to the successful implementation of any marketing or sales effort. The failure to understand this concept can stunt the growth of an otherwise successful company.
WHAT CLIENTS WANT
In a previous article, I wrote that all clients want the same thing – a remarkable client experience. I define that as giving clients what they want, when they want, how they want; preferably without having to ask for it. Clients want results; they don’t want products, services or even experiences. They don’t want to think. Unfortunately, most company’s messaging and sales strategies force prospects to do exactly that – to think about how an offering can help them and then translate what a seller is telling them into information they can act upon.
This means, that as a seller the more ‘thinking’ you can do for your clients and prospects the simpler you can make your offering. By simplifying your offering and making it easier to understand exactly what you will do for them them, you create more value for your clients. In contrast, when you make clients and prospects think about your offering, you reduce your value and ultimately commoditize yourself.
The challenge with giving, or promising clients the results they want in a simple format, is that solutions are rarely simple and it is not often that one company can provide everything that is necessary to solve a problem. An advertising agency, for example, is in the business of helping a company grow revenues by attracting new clients. The agency, however, does not offer the ‘total solution’. A company’s strategy, sales team, product development team, etc. are all going to have a more direct and dramatic impact on whether a company will grow. The agency, in this sense, provides a ‘partial solution.’
THE SOLUTION LANDSCAPE
The term solution has always bothered me. Too often, solution is merely a synonym for product or service. Remember, if there is not a problem there can be no solution. People want to get rid of problems and they don’t much care how they get rid of them (so long as it is legal, ethical, affordable and preferably not fattening).
That said, solutions come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Strategically you need to make one determination and that is whether you are a ‘total solution provider’ or a ‘partial solution provider’. Simply put:
A perfect example and illustration of ‘total solution’ and ‘partial solution’ is to look at the history of the personal computer business. When the PC industry first became a part of mainstream markets, a ‘total computer solution’ was actually the combination of several ‘partial solutions’ (see figure below).
The ‘computer industry’ was actually the combination of (at least) six different industries. Now think about it. What would the value of any individual component be without the other components? Even if you combine several of the pieces – say the box, the chip and the operating system – the value is still virtually nothing. To become a viable offering, each ‘partial solution’ had to work together, in some fashion, to create a total solution (see figure below).
To succeed, each company (and, in essence, each industry) had to understand how it fit into the ‘total solution’. This is what I mean by The Total Solution Ecosystem. The companies that were the most successful at every step along the way were the ones that worked, both with their client and the other companies involved, to be certain they provided a total solution.
WHICH ARE YOU
Determining whether you are a ‘total solution’ or ‘partial solution’ is a critical distinction that will affect how you formulate your growth strategy and go-to-market tactics. You cannot position your company, your offering or your actions effectively if you are not clear where you stand.
As you make this determination for your company, keep in mind that one choice is not necessarily better than the other. Both have advantages and challenges.
For example, in the financial services industry, ‘financial advisors’ traditionally provided a ‘partial solution’. They offered investment or insurance advice. Accountants provided tax advice. Lawyers provided legal advice. And so on. This led to increased complexity for all of the players (buyers and sellers); and as advisors tried to differentiate themselves from their competition they began to offer coordinated services. They did this in a variety of ways. Some created alliances among the different specialties, while others attempted to create ‘total solutions’ themselves.
ACTIONS YOU MUST TAKE
Once you have determined if you are a ‘partial solution provider’ or ‘total solution provider’, you must choose the appropriate strategic approach. Most companies end up determining that they provide a ‘partial solution’. Let me re-emphasize that there is absolutely nothing wrong with being a ‘partial solution provider’ as long as you understand and embrace what you are., Remember, serving as a ‘partial solution provider’ is always going to be a simpler approach than serving as a ‘total solution provider’.
That said, if you decide that you have a ‘partial solution’, you must choose one of two paths:
A FINAL NOTE
The purpose of this article was to introduce you to the concept of ‘total solutions’ vs. ‘partial solutions’. This determination, and the actions that you take as a result of it, are all critical to the long-term viability of your positioning strategy.
If you’d like some assistance implementing growth strategies based on the ideas presented in this article, we are here to help. Just call or e-mail and we’ll set up a free, no-obligation assessment to determine whether you offer a ‘total solution’ or ‘partial solution’ and how you can leverage that positioning to achieve more profitable growth.