Something that’s often overlooked during the selection process of an outside web developer, marketing agency, or business consultant is the prioritization of solutions over services. While it might seem like an argument over semantics, working with a solutions-focused provider can be the difference between realizing your company’s goal(s), and simply receiving a stack of deliverables.
Reaching an acceptable solution to a defined problem should always be the goal of any consulting engagement, with services being the means of working towards solutions. It’s a much better idea to hire a consultant to help you solve a specific business problem or achieve a desired goal (e.g. earning more web traffic), and work backwards from there, rather than try to pre-determine the services you think your company needs, find a provider, and hope that will help you solve your problem or reach your business objective.
Why Solutions > Services
For better or worse, Services like web development, content creation, SEO, graphic design, etc. have become commodities. They are deliverables that can be secured for lower and lower costs, creating a race to the bottom. While this certainly doesn’t mean that all service providers are equal in terms of skill or quality, it does present a problem of perceived value when trying to choose one service provider over another.
Solutions, on the other hand, get to the root of a company’s pain points to remedy real, long-standing issues or achieve fundamental change within an organization. And because they go beyond the surface level of deliverables, solutions can only be secured through a deep understanding of a company’s history, needs, goals, market, customer base, culture, etc.
Take a standard website, for example. As a service, a website is nothing more than a collection of words, images, code, and other digital content delivered to a client for an agreed upon price. As a solution, a website reflects the best aspects of a company in order to establish rapport, communicate a brand’s identity, and hopefully convince visitors to make a buying decision.
So, do you want a website (service), or a better way to attract, nurture, and convert new customers online (solution).
The Strategy Gap
The gap between Services and Solutions is Strategy. As we’ve discussed, the commoditization of many digital services means it’s easier than ever for non-developers to build their own website, cheap SEO services & online marketing “gurus” are a dime a dozen, and free web-based tools like Canva and Piktochart can turn anyone into a decent graphic designer.
The key to ensuring that services evolve into solutions depends on a sound strategy that outlines why certain services are necessary, when they should be implemented, and how they should be executed.
Going back to our standard website example, this means having a complete understanding of who a company’s ideal customers are, how they interact with content on the web, what path(s) they are likely to take as they navigate a website, and ultimately, what user experience needs to be created in order for visitors to become customers.
Thankfully, there are a lot of folks in consulting (particularly in the digital space) who understand the value of prioritizing solutions over services. In a post from last November, SEO Consultant John Locke beautifully outlines the benefits of selling solutions, not services, and why the distinction is so critical:
“Bottom line, is your client’s problem going to go away if they hire you? Just like the accountant makes the auditor go away, the lawyer makes jail time go away, and the doctor makes health problems go away — your value lies in how consistently and efficiently you make business problems go away.