Stop Offering Solutions!


The whole “solutions” bandwagon really took off during the tech explosion of the 90’s and 00’s. I guess it was hard to explain what such-and-software would actually do, so companies starting labeling what they did as “solutions.”

Like all bad diseases, “solution-ism” began to morph and spread. Soon everyone was a “solutions provider.”

It’s time to put that fog-filled word back in its box.


This indistinct but important-sounding term is now the key offering for millions of companies who don’t know how to define what they do.

“What does your company do?” “We provide technology solutions.” Thanks for nothing. Because that’s what you just said. Nothing.

old dominionEven trucking companies have jumped on the bandwagon. You drive past an Old Dominion Freight Lines truck, and you see that they are now “delivering new solutions.” What does this mean to the average person?

Nothing. This vague term has all meaning drained out of it, waiting for anyone anywhere to pour some kind of meaning into it.

If you’re offering “solutions” as a tech provider, a software programmer, a consultant, a trucking company, or an exterminator, you’re offering…nothing. It’s a wasted word. It’s biz-speak filler. Market positioning is all about being definitive, not vague.

This past week I came across an ad for a company with the name, Strategic Products and Services. I didn’t happen to be in the market for a vague “strategic service” (or product!); and, my usually acute mind-reading abilities failed to detect how this company could help me.

Look – we each get only a few seconds and a tiny slice of our audience’s mental bandwidth to get our message across. Leaning too heavily on words like “solutions,” “products,” and “services” is like tipping your arrow with a bowling ball. Even if you somehow manage to hit the target, you’re certainly not going to stick.

What, exactly, ARE you solving? And HOW are you solving it? And for WHOM? Now we can have a sensible conversation.* But as long as you’re a “solutions provider,” you’re one more metamorph out fishing for…well, something. Nobody’s sure what.

Are you clear about your offering? If you had a truck on which to put one brief phrase describing what you do, what would you paint on the side?

*(I provide a clearly-defined solution for such foggy market positioning. It’s called Clarity Therapy. And it involves a rapid, consultative process to move small businesses from indistinct positioning and messaging, to clear and memorable branding. Helping you discover your fit in the marketplace.)


Related guest post on the Marketing Profs blog: Three Reasons to Ditch the Elevator Pitch

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  1. Hi

    Sometimes we get what I call SWAPs – Solution without a problem

  2. Bernie Weiss says

    A marketer that substitutes “solutions” for the hoary yet well understood “products and “services” displays hopefulness and arrogance, but not competence. A vendor can hope what it sells will solve its customer’s problem. But only the customer can decide whether a problem in fact may be solved by what’s being promoted. Preemptively characterizing what is sold as a solution thus insults the very person the marketer seeks to impress.

  3. I once followed a van owned by a company that made solvents. The slogan on the van was ‘solutions solutions,


  1. […] Unsurprisingly, I loved a recent blog post by Steve Woodruff which expanded on this. In Stop Offering Solutions!, Steve says: “What does your company do? ‘We provide technology solutions.’ […]

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