The Commoditization of Solutions Commoditization of Solutions

One night, my wife and I were trying out a new recipe from Jamie Oliver’s book, “Cook with Jamie” that required us to first pan fry the fish, and then bake in the oven, pan and all. This was the first time we ever cooked something using this technique. When the fish was finally done baking, I reached in to take the pan out of the oven, but forgot to wear an oven mitt; for some reason, I forgot that the handle would be hot!

It took a few seconds for the pain to register, but when it did, man did it hurt! Fortunately for me, it was only a 1st degree burn. It didn’t require me to go to the hospital, and we had everything in our home first aid kit to treat it. I found this out because I looked it up on the Internet, as well as, how to treat such a burn.

This got me to thinking about the commoditization of solutions. It used to be that only a select few people knew the right solutions for specific problems; in my case, a doctor. With the Internet, however, any person with a computer or mobile device can easily find a solution to any problem virtually (and literally) for free. Need a recipe? Look it up on the Internet? Looking into recaulking your bath tub? Look it up on the Internet. Whether it be parenting tips or learning CSS, you can find it all on the Internet now.

This presents a conundrum: why would customers ever need talk to a consultant, or pay for training, or buy a book with so much free information available on the Internet? One could argue that you get what you pay for when you seek out free advice, but one could also argue that is okay with most people.

With the commoditization of solutions, businesses, consultants and specialized trainers will need to shift their focus from selling solutions and more toward identifying problems if they are to compete. People are really good at finding their own solutions. But many people are not very good at identifying or even recognizing their own problems

Let’s take email marketing as an examples. Most email marketing campaigns are designed with some basic analytics baked into them. Marketers look at their analytics thinking it will tell them all they will ever need to know about their email marketing campaigns.

However, there are things that your analytics may not tell you. For example, how do you know that you could have gotten better click through rates if you changed the color of a call-to-action button from blue to red? How do you know that a form on your website would have higher conversion rates than a video after a customer clicks through an email? How do you know that your email marketing campaigns are actually optimized to their full potential? In other words, do you even know you have an conversion optimization problem?

Hubspot, and companies liked it, recognized this problem, and came up with a solution: A/B split testing. Marketers used to see their bounce rates go up and down but not know exactly why. Their instincts were to think that the offer in the email wasn’t good enough, or maybe the title needed tweaking. They’d have to send out another email just to see if their instincts were correct. With A/B split testing, marketers could rely on hard data rather than instincts to make their decision.

A/B split testing is pretty much standard practice in most companies, but it was not always the case. The tools available today didn’t exist 10 years ago because no one knew that the problem existed. Although Hubspot is selling email marketing tools, what they are really good at is identifying and selling the problem: conversion optimization.

The point of this post is not to convince you to start A/B split testing everything (although you should). The point is that there used to be a time when no one split tested anything. Marketers didn’t even know they had an conversion optimization problem.

Going back to my misadventures in cooking, none of the existing pans we had were made for baking in the oven. Before trying out the recipe, we never knew that we even needed to take that into consideration when purchasing a pan. It wasn’t until we tried this recipe that we started looking around for pans that would be good for both frying and baking. In other words, we didn’t know we had this problem until it was presented to us in the recipe.

Finding a solution to a problem is the easy part, especially with the Internet. The commoditization of solutions means one solution no longer fits all. The days of pedaling a single solution to all customers are over. The new specialists will be those that are good at identifying problems, especially problems people didn’t know they had. The focus will be less on on selling solutions, and more on identifying and selling problems.

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