Tuesday, April 26, 2005

You Are What You ARE
(and not just what you SAY you are)

This article was just emailed to me by a colleague and I have no way of helping you link back to the original that was written by Steve Hurley. The credit is his, and his message is so important that I felt obliged to post it here.

It falls into the focus of this blog … contextual marketing. How can you possibly be in context with your customers when all you are doing is trying to fake them out?

Thanks, Steve.

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In 1996, Bill Parcells, then coach of the New England Patriots, was asked if his 0-3 football team was in fact better than the record indicated. "You are what you are," Parcells shot back, a simple but surprisingly perceptive response. "We may look like a Super Bowl team on paper, but we're playing like a 0-3 team. And that's just not good enough."

The more we learn about solutions, the more we're convinced that you can't become a solutions company by simple declaration or by looking like one on paper. It is not something you announce; it's something you are. You can't simply tell your client base that you are committed to delivering solutions that have a tangible impact on their business operations, and then run a business-as-usual operation. As the old Nike ad campaign pointed out, you have to "just do it."

Many companies are working hard at placing a solutions veneer on their old, traditional business model. Their marketing collateral and Websites prattle on about solutions, but the sales forces still hawk products and discrete services. They create new offerings but fail to consult with clients during the process. They claim solutions to be a corporate priority but have no mechanisms in place to measure them. And they hound account executives to sell larger, big-ticket items from the solutions cupboard but maintain a commission structure that still favors services or products.

How do you know if you have truly begun to operate as a solutions company, or at least started to turn the corner? Focus on how your employees behave—not on what they say or which solutions titles or positions exist on paper.

Nikki Fisher, an ITSMA senior advisor who works extensively on solutions, has identified some telltale signs that demonstrate you are making progress on your solutions journey:

• A lone-ranger sales rep who has made President's Club every year by being an aggressive "closer" now leads a cross-functional team that collaborates with customers to craft customized solutions.

• A subject matter expert who is an ace on features and benefits emphasizes the ways in which the company's integrated solution will create ROI for a specific client.

• A marketing collateral wizard creates industry-specific sales tools that help account teams understand customer needs and then connect the dots with company offerings.

• A project manager renowned for on-time implementations ensures that delivery teams focus first on quantifiable business results.

• Partnerships previously developed for technological and financial synergies are now based equally on cultural fit and the ability to create unified customer teams.

Companies truly committed to mastering solutions focus much more on changing reality than reorienting rhetoric. Marketing has a central role to play in the solutions transformation, but ultimately your customers and prospects will judge you by what you do and how you do it, not what you say. No matter what your marketing messages, at the end of the day "you are what you are."

—Steve Hurley,


At 10:56 AM, Anonymous Steve Hurley said...

I appreciate your comments on my article. I write a regular column on Solutions Marketing in ITSMA's E-Zine, which is our on-line newsletter for our high tech members. This was my latest entry. Now that I'm aware of your postings, I'll keep an eye out for them...


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