Great! You’re a Solution Provider. Aren’t You Leaving Something Out?


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In his closing remarks for a panel discussion I attended today, Social Media and the Press: How to Build Lasting Relationships, Steven Overly, reporter for The Washington Post’s Capital Business, plaintively asked people to stop using the term solution provider.

Clearly, he has seen the words in email subject lines more often than he’d like. Solution provider is trampled and worn out—you only have to look. The term yielded 16.1 million results on Google. It’s hokey and meaningless. I’ll go even further. It might not be totally . . . honest. Why? Well, name any solution—whether technology innovation, mechanical invention, political initiative, or education policy—that didn’t create new problems. I couldn’t either. The marketing speil, solution provider, only tells half the story.

The difficulty for vendors is that the equally-lopsided term problem provider sends prospects screaming in the opposite direction, and the more honest solution-and-problem provider, sounds risky, and is too clunky to work online, let alone anywhere. At best, by touting their companies as solution providers, marketers fail to differentiate. Think soft tofu, if you eat it, and go blander than that. At worst, the description invites skepticism and distrust, because there’s no such thing as a company or product that provides solutions without providing problems.

Salespeople, of course, aren’t encouraged to complete the solution-problem circuit, at least in front of prospects. Can you imagine opening a sales presentation with “here’s what you’ll solve, and here are some new challenges you’ll have to contend with . . .”? Or including a slide in your PowerPoint deck titled, “New Problems Our Solution Creates”? It’s not in our blood. Besides, you would get tired if you had to wink, or cross your fingers under the table every time you said “we’re a solution provider.”

“What’s the point?” you ask. “We still provide a solution. Give me a better term.” Fair enough. I don’t have one—at least one that doesn’t add five or so more words, and a comma or two? Tweets can’t exceed 140 characters. Who needs the complexity?

So for now, Steven, I’m afraid we’re stuck. Unless marketers and salespeople can come up with an equally powerful, next-generation term that matches solution provider for its all-encompassing, warm-fuzzy, profound vagueness, buyers will continue to wonder what’s down the road once a solution-provider’s solution is purchased, installed, and used.

And we’ll have to save the second half of the story—problems—for post-purchase product ratings, blogs, and other social media.

Republished with author's permission from original post.


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