So many companies across countless industries continue to use ambiguous phrases such as “solutions provider” to describe the core benefit provided to clients/customers. The problem with this phrase is that while everyone understands immediately what the word solutions means, ironically it has almost no worth or significance because of its complete overindulgence in today’s business world.
Think about it. What company doesn’t provide solutions to its customers? I’ll go out on a limb here and contend that those companies that really can’t provide solutions won’t be in business very long. So, if a company has been in business for say a year or even two, it’s probably safe to say it is providing at least a solution to customers.
I believe the bottom line effect of using a phrase like this in one’s positioning statement, or at least as a core message in how a company tries to set itself apart, will have the opposite of the desired result. Most business people hear or read “solutions provider” and their eyes glaze over because they’ve heard that from thousands of other companies. Now, this company (which is trying to set itself apart) has actually become that much more commoditized in the mind of the target audience.
Try using this phrase on a phone call with a reporter while communicating why your client has the greatest company since sliced bread. Oh boy. You’ll never experience someone try to end a conversation quicker. For them, it’s a matter of building credibility about why your client deserves to be interviewed or featured versus the other thousand companies that are pitched to him/her each day. You say solutions provider and the reporter hears blah, blah, blah… It’s an instant turn off and the credibility you were attempting to build is gone.
Over the years, we’ve seen many buzz words come and go. Most don’t have lasting power (which is good) because they become meaningless because everyone tries to own them. A few phrases that come to mind (mostly from technology companies) include: cutting edge, bleeding edge and scalable. While there is certainly nothing wrong with communicating these phrases internally, we’ve always tried our best to steer clients away from putting them in press releases, on their Web sites and in articles/speeches. Sometimes it worked and many times it didn’t.
For whatever reason, “solutions provider” continues to live long and prosper. (Sorry, I’m a Star Trek fan.) I hope just a few of those companies that continue to cherish this phrase wake up and take notice of what I’m writing. Trust me. You won’t be putting your best foot forward in communicating what your company’s unique story is if “solutions provider” is in the mix.