Like many who have been sheltering in place for the last five months, I have been entertaining myself with podcasts. Recently I discovered a series featuring the stories of how entrepreneurs developed outlandish concepts into some of the world’s most well-known brands – and multi-billion dollar companies. While binging these episodes, I discovered a common thread. Most of these businesses started as a solution to a common problem.
Traditionally products are marketed by focusing on the characteristics, features and benefits telling the consumer why they should buy the product. For example, the widget has the best features, newest capabilities or is the latest and greatest available. This approach tells consumers why they should buy the product without addressing the need that may be driving the consumer to shop in the first place.
A Harvard Business School professor shared the concept of “buying a hole.” This concept realizes consumers don’t intend to buy a drill – they need a hole and a drill is the means to that end. This thought process is the foundation of solution selling. To put it in credit union terms, a member doesn’t want to borrow money, they need a means of transportation and the credit union can offer a solution to that problem with an auto loan.
By definition a solution is a complete offering that will address and resolve a problem. The solution isn’t one part of the whole, it is the whole. It includes every product, service, part, training – the whole package the consumer needs to resolve the problem.
Consider a situation where a member visited the credit union for a loan. Rather than just issuing the loan, most likely the member was asked a series of questions to determine the need. After a brief conversation it was determined the member is looking for a way to alleviate debt. By helping the member understand how they accrued the debt in the first place, and providing them the information and training to avoid this situation again, the loan officer has provided a solution to the problem rather than simply providing a product. In these terms, the member is more likely to come to the credit union first in future transactions, deepening their relationship with the institution.
The value of solution selling is understanding the consumer point of view, the problems they are trying to solve and the value they can gain from the products or services you offer. Messaging for solution marketing puts an emphasis on what the consumer needs and explains what it will enhance or replace in the current environment.
Whether you’re creating a credit rebuilding program or inventing the next Google, solution selling creates opportunities for value based transactions. Think of this as the difference between “do you want fries with that” and “may I serve you anything else?” Solutions create extra value and are integrated and customized to meet the consumer’s needs. It is all about creating consumer-centric messages to resolve a common problem.