Ed McLaughlin and I had a great conversation about the word “solutions” last Friday during dinner after the BTA Midwest event. Ed used to forbid the use of the word “solution” in his presence since it had become so devoid of meaning.
I couldn’t agree more. This may sound strange coming from someone who led “Document Solution Specialist Boot Camps” and trained thousands of solution specialists across the country. However, I always made this critical point clear:
“You are an empty shirt in the solutions business until you understand your clients’ business problems.”
Solutions are not software. Solutions are the application of knowledge and technology to solve a business problem, creating a positive return on investment.
Focusing on the prospect’s business problem is critical to solution selling. Today, it is also critical to online marketing.
What Do Your Prospects Care About?
Let’s face it: very few people care about office technology, document solutions, or network services. What prospects care about is their business. What they want are ideas to help them solve problems. They need answers to their questions.
In the same way we trained solution specialists to begin by understanding the prospect’s business problems, we now need to do the same with online marketing. From website content and blog posts to email and social media content, the beginning point should always be the prospect and their business problem.
How Can You Learn About Your Prospects Needs?
1. Do Field Rides
Last week at the BTA Marketing Workshop, it was great to have both sales managers and marketing managers in the room. One of the biggest aha moments for all of us was the realization that marketing leaders need to get in the field with sales reps. Unfortunately, this rarely happens. (We started doing quarterly field rides with sales reps recently in our Dealer Marketing team and it’s making a big difference.) This face-to-face time with prospects at various stages of the sales process will help inform marketing people of the challenges, aspirations, and questions that prospects face. This translates into focussed content and effective campaigns.
2. Write Case Studies
Interviewing current clients for a case study can give your tremendous insight into the challenges they face and why they buy. One of my favorite things to do is write case studies for our dealer clients. I typically start by interviewing the rep. One of the key questions is, “Why did they buy?” The typical answer from the rep is, “They bought because they saved money.” However, when I interview the client I discover all kinds of reasons why they bought and many benefits they enjoy that the rep didn’t even talk about. Marketing managers and sales managers can benefit tremendously from writing case studies. These can be shared with the sales team, expanding their knowledge and providing powerful sales tools. (For a helpful article on how to write case studies, click here.)
3. Interview Them
When I started Dealer Marketing in 2004 I was frustrated at the lack of quality vertical market research. In my experience, most of the research provided to sales reps started with a product and worked backward to figure out a way to fit it into the vertical. Instead, I thought it would be more effective to understand the vertical market’s unique business challenges and processes. From there, we could determine real-world ways that hardware, software, and services could benefit the verticals.
To pull off this vertical market project I did a lot of interviews. For example, when I was researching the mortgage market, I took my mortgage broker to lunch and asked him to tell me what happened from the time I applied for a mortgage until the mortgage closed. I also asked him about the unique challenges in his industry and what government regulations they had to deal with. At the end of each of these interviews, I had pages of notes. In every case, I found at least half a dozen problems that could be solved with document technologies.
If you want to capture the attention of your prospects you need to understand their problems. If you are responsible for creating marketing content, take the time to discover what your prospects care about. Doing this hard work earns you the right to communicate, creating the launching point for a sale and long-term relationship.
Originally published on LinkedIn Pulse.