January 25, 2021

How to communicate a solution offering

Imagine your company is transitioning from offering products to solutions. You and your core team may understand the value of this transition, but do your employees and customers? We'll share how to devise an internal and external communication plan to get employee buy-in and maintain customer trust.

This article is part of a series to help companies transition from a product to solution offering. If you’re new to solution offerings, we recommend reading the first article of our series.

Sharing the solution offering internally

Evolving from a product to a solution company is a significant change for any organisation. Developing an internal communication plan can help you share the value of this change and its impact on the company.

We believe one of the best ways to communicate the solution offering is to do it alongside the pilot project. Using a pilot project to develop your solution offering is beneficial for two reasons:

  1. It allows you to test your offering before it hits the market
  2. It gives you time to share the value of your offering with employees

How to build an internal communication plan

Employees should know about a pilot project before it launches. Sharing the pilot project is a great way to introduce the solution offering and gain first reactions from employees. When you understand general employee sentiment, you can then create a communication plan that addresses fears and provides support. 

During the pilot project, you and your core team can provide employees with periodic updates about how the project’s progressing. As you share project updates, try to think about the information employees need the most. These updates can be knowledge sharing moments but also a chance to explain how the offering will impact employees.

You should continue to monitor the company sentiment throughout the pilot project and adjust the internal communication plan accordingly.

Open the door for ideas & input

Each phase of the pilot project requires input from the right experts. At some point, you'll need to invite R&D, customer researchers or other stakeholders to support your work. Your internal communication can also help you define:

  1. Who needs to be involved
  2. What are their responsibilities
  3. How you plan to keep them updated about the project.

We also recommend inviting employees not affiliated with the project to contribute their ideas or opinions. Employees will appreciate the inclusivity, and it may even increase the likelihood that they'll support the project.

This image shows how solution offerings need employee buy-in and input.

Plan for additional tools & training

Working with solutions requires different skills than working with products. During the pilot project, you should monitor employees’ current skills and look for any knowledge gaps.

Based on this insight, the company may need to invest in new tools and training, reorganise teams or recruit people. It’s essential to be transparent about this process with your current employees and discuss how they see their future roles.

Sharing the solution offering externally

Devising an external communication plan ensures all internal stakeholders, no matter the department, are clear about:

  1. What’s the solution offering
  2. How to communicate the solution offering

Determine what to communicate about the solution

Before the team starts advertising and selling the solution offering, it’s important to reexamine the value proposition. The value proposition explains the value your company and the offering will bring to customers.

There are different ways you can refine the value proposition: 

  • Create a separate value proposition for the solution offering
  • Add on to the existing product value proposition 
  • Develop a brand-new value proposition for both the product and solution offering

How you approach the value proposition also depends on how your company defines a solution offering currently. We recommend using a product vs solution spectrum to see where your company lies. After determining where your company is starting from, you can then create a realistic value proposition to support communication materials.

This graph shows how companies evolve from a product to solution offering.
This spectrum shows how companies evolve from a product to true solution offering.

How to communicate the solution offering to customers

When you know what you're going to say, then it’s time to organise how you’re going to reach your audience. Use these steps to develop communication materials for current and potential customers.

  1. Know your audience

Researching your audience is a foundational best practice. How your customers make decisions, who influences them and how open your customers are to a new solution are some aspects you should look into.

2. Update the website

Your research will also help you understand the buyer journey and how to communicate the solution on your website. The solution could appear next to your product offer or on a separate webpage depending on your value proposition.

3. Create campaigns & content

Advertising for a solution offering focuses less on selling a product and more on building long-term relationships with customers. Developing personalised content tailored to customers' needs and interests can increase interest and trust in your company's solution offering.

Data-driven content can also help you communicate with prospective customers based on their needs or the stage they're currently in the decision-making process. This content can then generate valuable leads to start a new long-term solution for a customer.


Gain a competitive lead with Springbok

Whether your company is looking to learn more about solution offerings or make a gradual transition from products to solutions, our experts are here to help. From building a pilot project to refining a value proposition to offering strategic advice — let us know how we can support you.

Let's chat

September 30, 2020

Tips to become a solution company

More personalised customer experiences, increased brand loyalty and a strategic competitive edge are what a company could gain by switching from a product to solution offering. But where does a company even begin? We've rounded up a few useful tips to help your company start its journey.

This article is part of a series to help companies transition from a product to solution offering. If you’re new to solution offerings, we recommend reading the first article of our series.

First, define your solution offering

Before you start, it’s essential to know where your company stands now. In reality, most companies today aren’t exclusively product or solution — but fall on a spectrum between the two. Start by defining a realistic offering that aligns with your business, customers, staff and the bottom line.

This image shows the spectrum between a pure product vs solution company.
Try using a product vs solution offering spectrum to see where your company resides.

After defining your company's positioning, you then need to find the right combination of products and solutions to enhance the current offering.

For example, your company could choose to remain product-based and advertise products and services together to avoid too much organisational change. Or you could choose to develop solutions per customer industry and make a full organisational transformation toward integrated solutions.

If your company is leaning more toward a solution offering, but wants to avoid too much disruption, then a pilot project may be the way to go.

TIP 1
Start with a pilot project
Organising a pilot project alongside a product offering allows you to find what works best for your company without affecting its current structure or operations.

How to create a successful pilot project

All great solution companies started from somewhere, and a pilot project is a great way to test your potential offering before launching it in the market. Follow these four steps to get your pilot project off the ground.

  1. Develop the solution 
    Gather information and expectations of the solution offering from employees in the company and current/potential customers. Based on this information, R&D can start developing a solution. Make sure to plan in moments for customer input and feedback during the development phase.
  1. Inform and create a demand for the solution 
    After developing the pilot solution, it's time to inform and convince existing and new customers about the new offering through marketing and sales.
  1. Sell the solution
    Rely on your finance and legal teams to help you translate your offering's value into tangible contracts and profit. The goal is to create a long-term contract and pricing plan based on the value your solution offering will bring to customers.
  1. Deliver the solution
    After selling the solution, your team must then measure whether the offering was successful. Your company should check with customers to understand if the solution meets their needs and gather any feedback for improvement.
This image shows how a solution company may approach a pilot project.
The phases of a pilot solution project.

Compared to a product approach, the pilot process doesn’t stop after the sale and delivery of a solution. Instead, your company should see moment as the beginning of a long-term relationship with the customer. Ideally, your company should continue to work with your customers to refine and enhance the solution.

Having the right team on board can make a world of difference to ensure this partnership gets the attention it deserves. 

TIP 2
Create a core team

We recommend organising a dedicated team to work on the pilot project that’s separate from the current product team. The core team will start up the project, monitor its progress and call in experts when necessary. Keep in mind, selecting the right profiles is crucial. Try to choose people who can think beyond product boundaries and attract new people with a solution experience.

Become a solution-minded company

Transitioning to product to solution offerings can have a significant impact on your company and employees. 

But how much of an impact can it have?

  • Sales will no longer sell one clearly defined product, but a whole solution that includes multiple integrated products and services.
  • R&D no longer develops products and services on its own, but co-creates the solution with customers.
  • Finance and legal teams need to shift their thinking to long-term contracts and value-based pricing. 
  • Marketing can no longer make a promotional advertisement for a product; the team needs to build and maintain relationships with customers.

Some companies that switch from product to solution offerings make the mistake of trying to change everything at once or impose a top-down change in their organisation. Both approaches are doomed to fail. 

The most successful transitions happen incrementally. With a pilot project and dedicated core team, the entire organisation doesn't have to change overnight. But the core team must also think carefully about how to get the rest of the company’s buy-in from the start. 

TIP 3
Create an internal communication plan
The most successful communication plans ensure employees are well informed and are aware of the impact the solution may have on their daily work.

A great way to get employee buy-in is by asking them for consistent feedback or input. These conversations are crucial to ensure employees feels part of the project and that their opinions matter.


Gain a competitive lead with Springbok  

Whether your company is looking to learn more about solution offerings or make a gradual transition from products to solutions, our experts are here to help. From building a pilot project to refining a value proposition to offering strategic advice — let us know how we can support you.

Let’s chat 

June 11, 2019

Influencer Marketing, is the hype over?

We recently had the opportunity to attend a conference about Influencer Marketing and its effect on the Flemish media landscape. The conference was hosted by Arteveldehogeschool Ghent who did extensive research around this subject. Interested in what our main takeaways were?

Is there too much hype around influencers?

The digital marketing world today is a chaotic free-for-all of commercial messages through a wide range of channels. The effectiveness of digital marketing is changing at a rapid pace (raise your hand if you have an adblocker installed – ✋) and as a result, many brands are choosing to work with influencers to break through the clutter and gain more trust and credibility. A good thing you might think, however, there are a few downfalls when working with influencers. 

There are three main questions to keep in mind while selecting an influencer, which could have a negative impact if not considered critically:

  1. Is the influencer authentic?
  2. Is he or she professional enough to get the message across?
  3. Is there a match with your brand? 

If one of these boxes are not checked off, the influencer and potentially your brand itself will lose credibility and authenticity. Brands need to be extra careful when linking themselves to “ambassadors”.

If we look at the data of Flanders, Belgium we see that 50% of young adolescents follow influencers and only 16% show resistance towards it. This means it’s working right? Well, it only works when you have a waterproof campaign plan. Here’s what you need to think about: 

Transparency

More than 53% of the adolescents interviewed by the Arteveldehogeschool say it’s important to show commercial transparency. You may have already seen these tags on Instagram: #sponsored #ad. This means that users appreciate and expect an honest and transparent approach when influencers tell commercial stories.

Quality over quantity

One global shift we’ve noticed is that the interaction you have with your community is becoming more important than the number of likes a post gains or the number of followers your account has (vanity metrics). So keep quantity as part of your criteria but aim for qualitative content that your followers can relate to and that sparks a conversation.

Influencers and the social media industry have had a mutually-beneficial relationship thus far, which is evident in the fact that feature changes on social networks reveal the future of Influencer Marketing. 

For instance…

  • Instagram tested hiding “Like” counts in a leaked prototype (source), this means that our statement around the focus of content quality is something the platforms are also thinking about. 
  • Facebook wants to focus more on communities rather than broadcasting (source), this means the “real and authentic” connection between influencers and our audience will become a priority and should result in a community strategy being included when building the campaign.

Are influencers toxic attention-seekers?

There many different definitions of influencers, the most extreme ones say they are attention-seekers without expertise. One of the reasons why brands nowadays still have doubts about collaborating with them is the risk that an influencer will harm a brand’s reputation.

What must be understood in this argument is the thin line between influencers and content creators. Influencers have the ability to tell a story and convince their audience to take action, whereas content creators have the creative ability but not necessarily the power of ‘influence’ so to say.

“You often see conflicting things appearing on an influencer’s account. Once they do something for Mac, the next day there’s another makeup brand. They just grab it. We believe more in ambassadorship or longer campaigns, with more exposure. They cost more, but the impact is greater.”

– Simon Smetryns, Tagmag

In our opinion, the key to identifying the right influencers for your brand is to pay attention to their level of expertise in a certain niche. In recent times, ‘Micro Influencers’ are becoming experts in travel, sports, and fashion to name but a few. Their audiences are built around that niche and brands need to be certain that the connection is real.

“If you pull an influencer out of the influencer zone, and you bring it in a brand from which a certain confidence is expected, and which does not comply with that expert role, it’s gonna be punctured.”

– Eva Van Driessche, Flair

It’s really easy to expose non-authentic influencers straight away because of their lack of expertise– the proof is in the pudding. We can conclude that there is a big gap in effectiveness between influencers who would take any collaboration request and more professional influencers who are experts in their niche.

One golden rule: find your expert in the mass flock of influencers.

Experts who can convince their audience and encourage fans in taking action aren’t attention seekers but one-man businesses.

An influencer policy without rules?

From the cases that were presented to us, it was obvious that the majority of brands create a briefing and set general rules that influencers should take into account. We agree on the fact that you should brief influencers, however, teaming up with them also means that you trust them to create content in their own style/tone of voice and therefore you need to create the space for them to do so. A place for creative freedom is needed to create authentic content.

So the answer to whether your influencer policy should include rules is both yes and no… 

No, because the main strength of an influencer is their credibility and authenticity. Whatever content they create, needs to fit their own style and tone of voice. If that doesn’t fit your brand, then that influencer isn’t for you. 

Yes, because Influencer Marketing is still in its infancy where sometimes rules are needed, however, there are no general guidelines defined about it (yet). Every brand needs to set their own objectives, guidelines and agreements. It needs to be clear why you choose to work with an influencer and how you’re going to. 

If you do or don’t, just know that some general guidance is often appreciated by the influencer itself, like some dos and don’ts. The main thing to keep in mind here is not limiting the influencer in telling their story in an authentic way. Let them be who they are and let them tell your story in their own way. It will only benefit your brand!

“Pick an influencer who would buy your products on their own, without a collab.”

– Ludovic Lenaerts, Medialaan

Stats show us that the hype of working with Influencers is there, and we’re convinced that doing Influencer Marketing in the right way works if you do the following:

  • Do extensive research about the potential influencers you want to work with. 
  • Check the credibility, professionality and link with your brand as main criteria.
  • Don’t narrow influencers down to just people that are experts in their field of expertise.

So back to the main question: is the hype over? We think it’s just the beginning of Influencer Marketing and that it’s going to be harder and harder for brands to create an honest perception towards their audience. However, done correctly, it will create extra value for your audience and your brand.

April 25, 2019

What does it mean to humanise a brand?

If you do a quick Google search for “humanising brands,” you’re likely to find a variety of articles with topics ranging from how to build a brand persona to the importance of creating an engaging tone of voice. At Springbok, we believe humanising a brand goes beyond making it more appealing, and using it as an opportunity to develop authentic connections with people to become part of their daily lives. 

From broadcasting to listening 

The average person today is continuously bombarded with all types of messages and content, and it can be hard for brands to find a way to break through. If a brand is going to succeed, they need to evolve from merely disseminating corporate messaging to understanding who their audience is and what makes them tick.

One of the best ways a brand can create a genuine connection with its audience is through brand experiences. The term “brand experiences” is one of those terms that seems to get thrown around a lot in the marketing industry, with many different meanings depending on the context. From our point of view, we see them as an opportunity for brands to build an emotional connection with their audience, but strategically, so that relationship stays relevant, memorable and seamless. 

The impact of AI 

Brand experiences aren’t new, but they’re evolving. Thanks to advancement in AI and data science, the brand experience we described above is possible because of data. Marketers that have insightful data gain a better understanding of their audience and use it to support creative storytelling or delivering highly personalised customer journeys. 

But in the pursuit to create a brand experience that’s “data-driven,” it’s essential marketers don’t lose sight of one crucial element: to stay human. When we talk about “staying human,” we don’t mean making a brand sound like a person with a great personality. It’s more about creating a seamless experience for the user. This ideal brand experience is human when there is no barrier between the person and technology, and the user believes the brand is answering their needs and expectations. 

How to bring the humanised brand experience to life 

We believe creating a humanised brand experience can happen today, and we’re making it possible by combining data, brand design and service design. 

The whole process starts with data. While some people may see incorporating data science as counterintuitive to making a brand experience more human, we view it as essential. It’s through using the latest technologies, like Conversational UI or content optimisations, brands can show they really know the people behind their target audience, and how to address their needs to spark more meaningful connections. 

Understanding an audience also means brands can unlock a human truth to see how, when and where they speak to people. And this is where data feeds into the next layer of the humanised brand experience: service design and brand design. Whether the experience plays out as a chatbot, website or app or multiple interfaces, the experience should occur so naturally that people don’t have time to think about the technology behind it, or realise they are part of a customer journey. 

When all of these elements come together —data, design and creativity— we have a “humanised” brand experience. In that moment, the person does not question why a brand is popping up in the middle of their lives. Instead, they’re experiencing it as a natural part of their daily life.. 

Why being human matters 

Humanised brand experiences is not another word for the average marketer’s lexicon. It’s a future-proof way of looking at how brands today can create more meaningful connections with their audience to build long-term loyalty and trust. 

Got a project?

We’re more walk than talk. But we look forward to discussing your customer experience project. Need a sounding board?

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