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Expertise

Solution Marketing within Omnia Nutriology®

Koos Bornman, General Manager: Solution Marketing, August 2018

More and more companies are using the term “solutions” in their marketing campaigns. Refer to a recent online publication (Ian Mann in Fin24.com of 19 July 2018); Give them the ride, not the car: The evolution of companies that learnt to survive.

“Today, however, you will hear very little talk of GE’s refrigerators and washing machines, or IBM’s mainframes. Instead they talk about "providing digital solutions". Their focus is on achieving outcomes for their clients, not selling them equipment. And they are not alone: Xerox has moved from equipment to information services. McGraw-Hill now offers financial services and adaptive learning systems. "They don’t really sell stuff anymore".”

Mann continues with more examples and elaborates on the age-old concept of customer focus but with the emphasis on what the customer really wants as a “solution”. “With a focus on the lifetime value of customers, suppliers must do everything to know them, their interests, aspirations, and more. "You need a mind-set that treats your customers like subscribers – partners in an ongoing, mutually beneficial relationship," To achieve this requires a change to your entire way of thinking.

The author of this article wrote an item for the Omnia News in 2011, titled “Omnia means everything”. In this article the urgent necessity of matching solutions within the Nutriology® model to customer requirements was alluded to: “The challenge remains, to select the right offer for a specific person to make sense or ‘add value’ in his or her particular sphere. John Kay, a well-known Financial Times columnist has recently written the following; “Commercial and economic success, even in technological industries, depend not on the ability and quality of technology, but on the match between technology and the needs of its customers”.”

The author also quoted in context from an article in an Omnia book which is titled, Fifty and Forward, 2003; “Our business concept is clearly defined and at the heart of it, is our commitment to growing profitable customers, responding to their needs with customized solutions and unrivalled agronomic advice”.

Undoubtedly, the difference between product selling and product marketing is well understood, especially within the mature fertilizer industry of South Africa. The often-used example introduced by Theodore Levitt, the well-known American economist and professor at Harvard Business School during the eighties, is that the objective should be to sell a hole and not a drill bit. However, not many companies in the said industry understand the real value the agricultural producer links to the solutions that a company could offer to solve his or her specific problems or requirements. Offering a total solution and not just a product or range of products makes a huge difference in the perceived value of an offer.

There are three major differences between product marketing and solution marketing which are stated below, as adapted from Kopec, 2010;

  1. Solution marketing requires greater cross-functional leadership and interaction to bring a solution to market. It requires a high degree of organizational calibration and collaboration across multiple teams.
  2. Developing solution messaging and positioning is more complex than for a point product or service. Solutions require more sophisticated messaging and positioning and deeper subject matter expertise because they need to describe the value in terms of how a customer can leverage a company’s strengths and knowledge to solve a business problem. Product level messaging is focused more on the features of functionality while solution level messaging has to fully understand the customer segment or industry.
  3. Solution marketing demands broader and deeper domain expertise. While the product marketing leader is a product expert and has intimate knowledge of the point product’s capabilities, the solution marketing professional needs to have broader domain expertise around a larger set of knowledge, including more products and services to have a deep understanding of the solution market, as well as staying current on key industry trends and hot topics.

Taking the Nutriology® model and adding the Omnia Group of Companies’ slogan of the last decade: “Creating customer wealth by leveraging knowledge”, it is quite clear, if gauged against the above, that Omnia Fertilizer is a company that over time has focused on solution marketing, without necessarily using the term. However, today more than ever, there is the additional challenge to add intelligence to knowledge. The primary value does not lie in understanding the problem. It lies in anticipating the problem or question and solving it efficiently. For this reason, appropriate data access, and management is crucial.

What is the definition of a solution or solution marketing? According to Steve Robins, in the Solution Marketing Blog, 2016, solution marketing is “a complete and integrated offering that includes everything required to solve a customer’s problem and provide value to said customer”.

Over the last five years much emphasis had been placed on developing concepts within Omnia Nutriology® for the very purpose of addressing customer requirements in an intensely changing environment. Various unique resources within Omnia Fertilizer were utilized to put together such comprehensive concepts. Figure 1 illustrates how these concepts and elements thereof find application over the growth season of a crop such as maize.


Figure 1: An illustration of how the unique Omnia Nutriology® concepts or offers may be applied over a crop growth season to identify any required plant nutrition solution. Does Omnia need to mean “everything” to all customers?

To convey the principle of solution marketing within an Omnia context, two concepts will be discussed briefly.

Example 1: OmniRiskIQ™

In Figure 2, the aspects involved in the compilation of this concept are graphically illustrated. OmniRiskIQ™ is a concept that integrates various precision farming and other concepts to identify and quantify risk at zone level within fields on a farm. Although the graph primarily utilizes yield monitor or remotely sensed data over seasons, the interpretation of the cumulative distribution curves of yield can be significantly enhanced, if other measurements, existing additional data and knowledge are added.

Figure 2: The OmniRiskIQ™ concept and some of its many possible components.

Some examples of such measurements, data and knowledge are;

  • Pre-season water measurement can enhance yield prediction significantly, as would plant sap analysis within season.
  • Wide-ranging datasets within an Omnia GIS system applicable to a particular zone may be queried and further used to define risk for a particular season.
  • Detailed drainage models may help to explain some of the variance in yield and quality within a zone.
  • The chlorophyll meter and the methods that Omnia employs to define nutrient use efficiency may also add to defining eventual expected yield and utilization of resources.
  • In-season remote sensing (satellite or low level) also refines yield estimates.
  • Measuring nutrient use efficiency will also lead to correct product selection and a scientifically justified level of application within a particular defined risk scenario.
  • Site-specific production functions from Omnia’s agronomic R&D and correctly applied financial data can transform such yield graphs into a net expected margin graph, giving it a completely new dimension.

Depending on a particular client’s problems or requirements, the multiple facets within a concept such as OmniRiskIQ™ are available to address the issue at hand and provide the necessary solution.

Example 2: Omnia Fertigation Optimization System (OFOS™)

The OFOS™ concept or system supports the optimized feeding of plants when fertigated. It covers all forms of fertigation from hydroponics to pivot fertigation. OFOS™ is based on the Michaelis Menten principle (nutrient concentration management) and is customized per crop, growth stage and locality. It uses customized water soluble and liquid products. The OFOS™ system is actually much more than just a sophisticated fertigation program. It is a comprehensive monitoring system, which adjusts, customizes and optimizes the program on the go. The program utilizes a range of unique Omnia offers as graphically depicted in Figure 3

Figure 3: The OFOS™ system or concept with some of its multiple offerings and related monitoring systems.

Again, according to the specific requirement of a producer, a combination of offers within the OFOS™ concept may be selected in a service level agreement to offer a tailor-made solution.

New developments

Since the establishment of a formal Solution Marketing unit within Omnia Fertilizer last year, more focus has been placed on the development of new customized solutions for our clients. Several projects are ongoing on the farm, in close partnership with the farmer. Several “solutions” have been identified by these clients. They regard these solutions as having a monetary value which is not necessarily associated with a product offer. The first of these solutions will indeed soon be commercialized. One example is a total solution to improve nitrogen use efficiency on several crops with remote sensing playing a pivotal role. Another is the roll-out of new sensor monitoring systems imbedded in geographic information systems or databases (GIS) to add to service level agreements being implemented under OFOS™. This will be applicable from aeroponics to pivot fertigation.

Summary

From the above, and many more examples that may be offered, it is obvious that Omnia has long since moved away from a product marketing approach which entails the classic P’s namely product, promotion, price and place to a solution marketing style which replaces the four P’s with real solutions, close customer engagement, offering real value and the assurance of continuous accessibility – i.e. the comprehensive SEVA offer (Miller, 2018) within Nutriology®.

Solution marketing is a holistic approach, as Sher Miller stated in the Marketing Means Blogspot, 2012;

“Solution marketing, on the other hand, takes features from a concept or offer and explains how they are going to benefit the customer and offers an entire suite of options available to them in order to answer whatever needs the customer has – in their entirety. In other words, the solution marketer not only needs to understand the product but also the segment or industry landscape, the partner products, industry trends and how they all fit together.”

In conclusion, it may be stated with confidence that Omnia Nutriology® serves as a firm base for the solution marketing approach and is continually developing features and concepts to offer the best possible solutions in the fertilizer, and soon agricultural market. Omnia certainly strives to leverage customized knowledge to the benefit of our clients.

References

Mann, I. 2018. https://www.fin24.com/Opinion/give-them-the-ride-not-the-car-the-evolution-of-companies-that-learnt-to-survive-20180719-2

Kopec, M. 2010. The difference between product marketing and solution marketing. https://www.siriusdecisions.com/Blog/2010/Aug/The-Difference-Between-Product-Marketing-and-Solution-Marketing/

Miller, S. 2012. Product vs solution marketing. http://marketingmeans.blogspot.co.za/2012/02/product-vs-solution-marketing.html/

Robins, S. Accessed August 2018. Definition of a “solution”. https://solutionmarketingblog.com/category/overviews/solution-framework/