HELP! Solution Design

HELP! Solution Design
Photo by Ian Schneider / Unsplash

The SC/SA is a solution designer and an advocate for the client - there are two functions: Pre-sales and Post-sales. Typcially the Pre-sales roles are the Solutions Consultants and the Post-sales are Solution Architects. However, the architecture spans the entire customer lifecycle.  The two roles can create some conflict of interest. For example SA's at AWS are not commissioned - AWS does not have Pre-sales SC's.  The SA is more altruistic for the client and they create designs that can reduce costs for the client or advocate for a client to update to a new data pipeline without it being an upsell.  I am not saying all software companies follow this approach.  It's not realistic. 

A high-level approach used by is used by all teams in sales through the customer success of your platform. The idea is DISCOVERY and CURIOSITY of your client.

The goal of this article is to show how an SC and SA team work with sales and CSMs to meet the goals set for ARR(Annual Recurring Revenue) and NRR(Net Retention Revenue). I hope this is a playbook per se to help any SaaS Martech company create a roadmap to sell better and to create repeatable systems and processes over time in a proactive approach. Note that it is very high-level and the key to all of this is the content you create that can be re-used over and over with your prospects and existing customers.

I will start at the top and work my way down to the more granular aspects. I refined much of the tables you see with GPT, but I have used and built on the tools and concepts you see below throughout my career, over many years at Omniture/Adobe, and a few in between. With the teams I worked with, we generated over $1B in ARR, and I am not sure how much more in NRR over my career, but I suspect it's in the multi-billions of dollars. It is a team effort - no one is an island.

Obviously, this is high-level, but the idea is to give your sales, Implementation, and CSM teams some ideas to ask your client probing-curiosity questions. Think about your own company -- does your management team communicate all these things to you? How does what you're doing mirror your client? Putting yourself into their shoes and their minds on a daily task basis will accelerate your relationship.

Crafting strategies and devising tactics for Solution Architects (SAs) within a Marketing SaaS company involves the SC/SA teams to deeply understand the platform capabilities and the diverse needs of the client users so they can design a roadmap from Sales solution selection to solution usage.

Given the dual goals of supporting sales for new customer acquisition and aiding customer success for retention and net revenue retention (NRR) improvement, the approach must be holistic, versatile, and highly customer-centric. These are the core manifestos of many of the Solution Architecture standards bodies today. I wrote about them in my previous article.

To encompass a broader strategic vision for a customer's organization, especially in integrating a small Martech SaaS company's capabilities, it's crucial first to outline how marketing technologies fit within and enhance the overarching business, marketing, and IT strategies. The alignment of these strategies ensures that marketing efforts are not isolated but integral to achieving broader business objectives and optimizing IT resources.

Let's start with the strategies and planning needed for all companies. For CDP companies, especially if you do not have tools to help your clients with data planning or marketing strategy, I would highly consider adding these value-added tools to your toolsets. I illustrate some examples at the bottom of the article. Implementation and deployment success is predicated on these steps before using your tools. What you see below assists the AE and CSM teams in the sales and renewal processes guided and coached by the SC/SA teams. The tools help with probing questions and value mapping. Before selling your platform tools, your teams must become domain experts in these areas.

Hierarchical Strategy Framework

Here's a table that illustrates how each layer of strategy interconnects, from the broader business strategy down to the specific IT and marketing strategies that support utilizing a Martech SaaS platform. Some businesses neglect these but the good ones that endure focus on these to build repeatable systems that automate productivity for their teams.

SC/SA teams can use these layers to probe clients' preparedness to use the platform being sold to them. Your platform provides the system modernization and automation - or at least I hope that's what you are trying to sell. There are many areas you can build on below this table to create enablement tools for your AEs and CSM to leverage during their processes.  These will create standardization systems and expose what doesn't work to speed up the sales cycle or renewals.

Understand your Customer's Strategy

Bridging Strategy with Tactical Execution

To effectively bridge the strategic layers above with the specific marketing strategies and the tactical use of your product, consider the following steps and tools below.  Most of them can be used in Pre-sales or Post-sales but the content will change per stage as the customer progresses.

You will also need to customize these for your platform, but incorporating these as options and tasks that you can use to collaborate with the client will be invaluable for credibility and success later:

  1. Strategic Workshops: Conduct workshops that involve key stakeholders from business strategy, IT, and marketing to discuss how your products can help meet the client's strategic goals. These sessions should focus on aligning your platforms capabilities with the organization’s competitive strengths and market opportunities. Use AI to help you develop content for workshops more quickly and customized to each client. These can be both sales and post-sales, but the content will differ. Sales will be value-focused, and Post-sales will be implementation-focused.
  2. Cross-Functional Teams: Help the client establish cross-functional teams that include members from IT, marketing, and business strategy departments. These teams can ensure that the Selection decision, deployment, and use of the platform align with the company's standards and business objectives, fostering collaboration and shared ownership of results. I wrote a previous article on CoEs and best practices in this area.  You can use this as a Pre-sales value feature in the overall design of the platform; it can then help accelerate the implementation and success of the platform. There are many external resources on how to do this.  I have seen that every time a CoE-type approach is deployed in a client org around not only your product but the Enterprise products, the success is 10x.  SA's can work with the client's EAs to design in your platform into their overall ecosystem. This is TOGAF 101.
  3. Technology Roadmaps: Develop technology roadmaps that clearly show how your platform will evolve within the client organization's ecosystem. These roadmaps should detail when and how new features and integrations are planned, aligned with strategic business initiatives and IT upgrades. SAs can work closely with your product teams to create a deck that shows quarterly and annual pillars of future value and get client feedback on their needs. It does not need to be pitched as vaporware but as tangible processes and capability themes —not tactical features.
  4. Performance Metrics: Help the client set up clear metrics and KPIs that reflect the impact of your platform on achieving business objectives. This could include metrics like customer engagement rates, Revenue, cost reduction, cost-per-metrics, product inventory velocity, campaign ROI, and customer retention rates, all linked back to broader business goals. This is critical for every business, and if your product does not have any observability-type metrics, then you need to consider prioritizing it on your roadmap.  Without clear visibility of success, it will be hard to justify sales or renewal. These are your proof and credibility points when selling.
  5. Continuous Feedback and Adaptation: Help them implement a continuous feedback loop from their sales and marketing teams to their IT /Data teams, ensuring that the use of your platform remains agile and responsive to changing business needs and market conditions. For most Martech solutions, there is also a lack of planning and observation insight.  So, another area SaaS companies must deploy is embedded client feedback mechanisms at a feature or component level within their tools that integrate back to the product team.  In some circles, we call this PLG(product-led growth), where the analytics are embedded invisibly across the platform.  I think both together are needed.  There are a million tools today out there that can do this for you. 

By aligning your Sales and CS teams deployment and utilization with these broader strategic frameworks, SC/SA teams can ensure that the client investment in your marketing technology platform is not only justified but is a critical component of their competitive strategy and operational excellence.

Strategy toolkits for SC/SA Teams

The tools and resources provided for and by SC/SA teams can be pivotal in both educating prospective customers about the value and utility of the platform and in helping existing customers optimize their use of the platform to achieve better outcomes. Below, the table illustrates tools you can use to interweave as you process through the sale, implementation, or renewals.

Here’s a list of tools your entire company can leverage with the client and achieve your revenue goals. The SC/SA teams can become the stewards and coaches of the other teams who need guidance and teamwork partnering with the client.

Goals 1 and 2 could be modified to add another goal that separates them with: implementation or deployment. I kept it simple because the Implementation process is often a short time scale, whereas Revenue generation is a constant lifecycle.

Implementation Considerations

  • Growth Global Strategy: Tailor tools and resources to accommodate the linguistic, cultural, and business environment differences across the markets you operate in.
  • Cross-Functional Collaboration: Ensure that SC/SA's work closely with sales, marketing, product development, and customer success teams to maintain alignment and leverage diverse insights.
  • Continuous Learning and Adaptation: Keep the tools and resources updated with the latest product updates, industry trends, and customer feedback. Encourage the SA team to continuously learn and adapt their approaches. Early collaboration and teamwork with a dedicated enablement team are critical to maintaining these tools.  Perhaps having a Corp. SC/SA that is not assigned to the client roster if the budget is available to work alongside the Enablement team or if there is not Enablement team. My very first role in corporate America was as a Corporate Solutions Consultant at a CRM company called Onyx software, this role supported the field SC/SA teams.

The structured framework of tools and resources not only addresses the immediate goals of supporting sales and ensuring customer retention but also builds a foundation for long-term customer success and product advocacy. Next steps can involve deep dives into the creation, implementation, and continuous improvement of each tool.

Examples of Martech Strategy Design Scaffolding

Finally, some examples. I wanted to illustrate some ideas to accelerate or help buyers of these Martech stacks with their strategies. e.g Data, Makreting, and Channel specific strategies. Many of the platforms out there today are missing a huge opportunity in this area which would give them some differentiation and accelerate their clients deployments. they would also support many of the areas I just wrote about above.

These tools can also be used as scaffolding for the Solution Architecture Designs at each phase of the customer lifecycle to show value and for implementation. A comprehensive suite of strategies can further elevate the value delivered to your clients, especially in the Customer Data Platform (CDP), Customer Engagement Platform (CEP), and Marketing Data App niches.

These strategy scaffoldings center around end-to-end data management, Persona development for personalized marketing, content optimization, and can offer a multifaceted approach to achieving enhanced customer engagement and improved ROI for your clients. I believe these are tools that could be deployed inside martech platforms by using LLM/GPT to help guide users in their processes - they can be tied to data inside and outside the enterprise via a Datasource UI - the data doesn't even need to be cleaned up to leverage output. 

Here are some screenshots of Planning tool ideas for just about any type of martech platform. I have these in Figma. If you want them, let me know. One Idea I have had is to create an APP within a solutions marketplace like Adobe or Salesforce and provide these screens using the API provided. That integration could only happen with most tools after data has been loaded so it would always be Post-sale in most cases. I am still thinking through how this might work. I got the ideas from some other tools out there for SMBs like - but their idea could be scaled for the larger enterprise in many enterprise level martech platforms.

The key is to interlink these strategies with your platform's other tools—a client user may only use these tools Quarterly or Annually. This shows transparency to the other users and employees across the organization and forces alignment with executive leadership's business objectives.

Marketing Strategy Frameworks

Here is a set of more granular tools the SC/SA can use for more discovery across the Pre-sales and Post-sales processes. If you are selling martech platforms, all of these strategies are critical to the customer. Ask them what they are doing in these areas and whether your platform accommodates what they want to do to deliver on them.

Ideas for Post-Sale Services Monetization

  • Consultation Services: Offer bespoke consultation services that help clients implement these strategies effectively, using the tools and resources available through your SA or CSM team. I would even build a request mechanism within your platform that can help build an SOW and send it as a request to the CSM team.
  • Custom Development: Develop custom integrations, campaigns, and reports that cater specifically to the unique needs of clients, enhancing their marketing efforts.
  • Premium Training Programs: Beyond the standard certification, offer premium training programs focusing on advanced strategies and tactics, including personalization, content optimization, and lifecycle marketing.
  • Subscription Services: Provide ongoing support, optimization, and innovation services on a subscription basis, ensuring clients continuously receive value from their investment in your platform. Adobe does this often especially on the AEM and Campaign products. Salesforce does this as well.  It does not matter how big you are to provide this to clients. Many of the will ask for it.  If you do not want to provide this then create a GTM plan with a partner consulting org. you trust that can take this on for you.

By aligning the proposed strategies with your platform’s capabilities, Solution Architect teams can deliver exceptional value to clients, fostering both immediate successes and long-term partnerships.

These approaches enhance the client experience and open up new revenue streams for you, ensuring your platform's position as a leader in the martech platform space.

I hope you enjoyed this article and got some value from it to sharpen the knife or tools in your company's toolbox. If you think I can help you with what I have shown here and help you execute on these ideas please reach out to me. I am open to all sorts of roles across these domain areas. Pre-sales, Post-sales, Customer Success, Supporting the Field SC/SA teams, and even managing those teams.

Please forward and share my article and other articles if you find them interesting and thought-provoking – They are meant as ideas and ways to improve. They are also meant to educate younger teammates about processes, tech history, and new ways to think to help them in their careers.

Thank you for taking the time to read.

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