Long title, but it deserves it.
When go to market strategy conversations come up, I inevitably find myself mentioning the importance of first creating actionable solutions that can then be taken to the market. This is especially important in the enterprise market, where the prevailing route to market is through the channel. But why do I place so much weight on something that product management should be doing or partners should be able to come up with them by themselves? First, let me explain what do I mean with “actionable” solutions. Above all, we need to have a solution. so it is not about the product and what it does, or how it does it. Definitely not about speeds and feeds. A “solution” should distill down to the specific way it solves a specific customer problem. How specific? Well, this is where the “actionable” piece comes in. The dictionary definition of actionable is: “able to be done or acted on; having practical value”, and a solution to be actionable, must have the following characteristics:
It must be specific. You should be able to describe, without any ambiguity, the problem that you aim to solve. If your problem definition elicits any exploring questions such as “of what type?”, or “for whom?”, you may want to revisit your problem definition. Note that it is OK if your definition is broader in some of these, if it is true, but make sure it defines the smallest possible set.
It must be current. It should be based on a trend that is happening at the moment. Things that happened in the past, or that may happen way out in the future are definitely not actionable.
It must be of interest. Alright, it is actionable, but will someone actually take action? Is it attractive enough with your existing customer base? Is the problem you are aiming to fix big enough for customers to make any effort? Can partners make money out of it?
It must be in the realm of possibilities of your value chain. Finally, this is sometimes overlooked. Can you deliver? Are your partners capable of delivering?
Creating actionable solutions is even more important when your business approaches the market through a channel. In these scenarios there is generally less control on the message and the target market, there is less engagement with the customer from your expert salespeople, and there are several solutions competing for partner mindshare. In these cases, having actionable solutions offers the following benefits for the partner:
Low solution-development cost. Partners are used to sell and implement solutions for their customers. This requires considerable effort to find the right message for the market, and even more to put together the solution. Anything that is pre-packaged saves time and money for the partner.
Quicker time to market. Having a prepackaged solution that fits the partner’s delivery model, allows them to hit the pavement and start pitching immediately. I can’t overstate the benefit of this, as it regularly translate into early success stories, the holly grail in partner enablement.
Easier customer targeting. Having a stencil type approach for solutions, allows partners to quickly contrast their current customer base to the proposed solution, and very quickly disqualify customers that don’t face the particular need, focusing their efforts on more viable prospects.
But how would this work? Let’s go to our quite useful hand drill example. You probably have heard the analogy for solutions selling where we are urged to stop selling drills, and focus on holes on the wall. Well, an actionable solution takes this one step further. Let’s say now that it’s the holidays, and your customer base lives mostly in starkly furnished lofts. So an actionable solution would be something like this: “Shelf installation to hold holiday decorations in otherwise devoid-of-furniture urban apartments with concrete walls”.
So, in this example, it is specific. It is a service for putting up shelfs, at downtown lofts. It is current. Its for holiday decorations, during the holidays. It could be of interest, owners of lofts may want to warm up the space a bit, and shelf installers certainly can and have to attach lots of other products and services around our hand drill. And finally, it is doable.
As far as the benefits for the shelf installer, they don’t have to come up with the service and a marketing strategy; and hopefully, if we have partnered with some shelf manufacturers, etc. they can just roll it out. They can do it right away, and they know that there is not much use in selling this service at places that have a high probability of having victorian built-in bookcases.
This is the reason why, if you operate in the Enterprise market, and you do business through partners, developing a few good actionable solutions must be one of the first things you tackle in the execution of your GTM plan.