Developing a Marketing Plan for Your Solutions Business in Five Steps20 Dec, 2005 By: Darrell Amy imageSource
Developing a Marketing Plan for Your Solutions Business in Five Steps
Do you have a marketing plan to
reposition your dealership as a credible source of document solutions? Or are
you spinning your wheels using the old hardware model, wondering why the greatly
heralded document solutions business is just not taking off in your urban or
Marketing plans in the old hardware model were basic. They consisted of deciding
how many copy machines you wanted to sell and then determining the appropriate
number of sales reps, demonstrations, appointments, and cold calls. Besides some
name recognition advertising, maybe a yellow page ad a promotion to move excess
inventory, marketing was not an important part of the hardware model. Everyone
in your market knew what you sold.
Enter the document solutions business. Your dealership now can offer a wide
variety of business enhancing document solutions spanning the entire document
Communicating your new portfolio of capabilities requires some thoughtful
coordination. Right now, your marketplace sees you as an office equipment sales
and service organization. You want them to see you as a value-added integrator
of business-enhancing document solutions.
Effectively communicating this message requires a plan, which can be a vital
part of your dealership’s future. It is the starting point for defining your
competitive advantage. Let’s explore the steps to creating an effective plan.
Step 1: Market Analysis
The first place to start is by understanding your unique market. Think about:
• What competitors are your biggest threats?
• What are the strengths and weaknesses of each of your key competitors?
• Who do you lose to and why?
• Are there emerging threats from competition that you had not thought of before
such as printer companies or forms companies?
• As you consider each of these competitors, can you recognize opportunities for
• Do you see unfilled voids?
• Are there niches you could fill?
• What are your competitive advantages?
There is tremendous value in stepping back and methodically working to
understand the current state of your market. Even more importantly, as you
engage your staff in helping with this analysis, you will glean new insights,
and they will begin the critical process of buying in to the new solutions
Step 2: Vision
The next step is to form a vision of what you want your business to be like in
the future. Picture your business five years down the road.
• What will you sell?
• How will you add value to your clients?
• What parts of your current business would you want to make sure stay intact?
• What parts of your business do you expect to change?
A vision statement captures a picture of where you see the business heading.
Your vision statement is a vivid description of how your see your dealership
serving clients in the future. A solutions-oriented vision statement might
“Understanding the changing needs of our clients, we envision serving our
clients by enhancing their business profitability through optimizing document
workflows. Our team recommends and implements cutting-edge software and reliable
hardware to help our clients manage their critical paper and digital documents.
All of this is done in the context of our reputation for delivering superior
Once articulated, the vision begins to guide the decisions of your organization.
Make sure to take some time to craft your vision as a team. This will continue
the critical process of buy-in.
Also, make sure to write your vision down. Something magical happens when your
thoughts and dreams hit the paper. They begin the process of manifesting
themselves into reality.
Step 3: Unique Selling Proposition
In the context of your analysis and vision, you have the basis to define your
unique selling proposition (USP).
In his book, How to Get Everything You Can Out of All You’ve Got, marketing
expert Jay Abraham explains: “You must identify and understand what it is you or
your company do or can start doing for your clients that provides them with a
result or advantage superior to the competition’s. Your USP is that distinct,
appealing idea that sets your business apart from every other ‘me too’
Developing your USP is challenging work. After all, what local competitor
doesn’t claim to have responsive service from a company that cares? Your USP has
to go beyond that. It must be more specific. It has to be compelling.
Why should someone buy from you? If you can’t find good differentiators, then
you need to create some (Hint: Your unique position in the document solutions
space is a great place to start.). Once again, involve your team and take your
time. The process can be grueling, but the rewards can be outstanding.
Step 4: Strategies and Tactics
Now we have finally arrived where many dealerships start. The temptation is to
skip the analysis, visioning and USP and get right down to the action. The
problem is, if you skip the first three steps, the odds are your strategies and
tactics will be guided by old thinking.
Marketing strategies give definition to the plan of attack for communicating
your message. Tactics are the actual steps you plan to take to accomplish the
A good model to guide your marketing strategies and tactics is the Integrated
Marketing Communications model. This model leverages available communication
channels to send an aligned message in multiple layers. These layers can
• Direct Sales
• Direct Marketing
• Public Relations
• Client Education
The idea is to develop strategies and tactics in each of these areas that
support your vision and USP. Let’s briefly explore each of these areas.
The focus in the sale shifts from asking first about hardware to asking first
about critical documents. Don’t worry, you will still find plenty of hardware
opportunities as your clients begin to open up in new ways to share their
document workflow problems. Current sales skills need to be adapted to the
document solutions marketplace. This will require an investment in training and
development for your staff.
Does your advertising support your new vision? Whether you invest heavily in
advertising or just have a yellow page ad, it is important that the advertising
supports your vision and highlights your USP.
There is an important sub-set of advertising known as direct response marketing.
This is delivering highly targeted messages to decision makers in
document-intensive vertical markets. Direct response marketing is highly cost
effective because it uses low cost media like mail, fax and email.
Very few dealers leverage the benefits of public relations. Your key competency
of document management is relevant to all kinds of industries. Begin to look for
ways to provide informative content for local trade magazines, newsletters and
public speaking forums. This takes some creativity, but the dividends over time
can be huge.
You can gear your promotions to steer your clients and your salespeople toward
document solutions. Think about what is keeping you from closing solutions
sales. Could you design a promotion to knock down those barriers?
Your potential clients find it hard to make investment decisions on things that
they don’t understand. One of your opportunities is to educate your potential
clients on the benefits of implementing a document management strategy.
Traditionally, dealer technology shows and open houses have been centered on
highlighting new products. Consider how you can highlight the benefits of your
new direction at these shows.
Step 5: Take Action and Make a
Success coach Stephen Covey puts it well in his bestseller, The Seven Habits of
Highly Effective People. He tells the story of two lumberjacks that went to the
woods. One worked hard all day long cutting trees. As he listened, he could tell
the other one was taking a break. He just assumed he was lazy. At the end of the
day, the “lazy” lumberjack had cut down twice as many trees. The reason he gave
was that he paused periodically to sharpen his saw.
Taking the steps to make sure your marketing message is aligned is like
sharpening your saw. In the craziness of trying to close out a month, sometimes
it’s easy to forget the importance of stepping back and making a plan. You can
hack away at the trunk with a dull blade and enjoy limited success. Or, you can
take more effective swings and cut down more trees with less effort.