A selection from the new book: Different Rules – the B2B Marketer’s Guidebook to Product Differentiation

Tips for using features and benefits in your B2B marketing

By Chris Wirthwein

In mature categories, features can make the difference

Benefit claims often become generic when a category gets crowded. How many brands in your market claim better ROI and increased efficiency? What’s a marketer to do? Emphasize features. We see it all the time with pharmaceutical products: “The only once-daily treatment…” Later, we shouldn’t be surprised to someone claim, “The only once-weekly treatment…” In crowded, highly mature categories, features are often among the very few differentiators available to a marketer.

Technically oriented buyers find comfort in features

Experiments have shown that people with a rational, concrete mindset are persuaded by features more so than benefits. Does your experience bear this out? Mine does. Technical buyers tend to be skeptical about benefits and find reassurance in concrete, verifiable features.

Features can speak to direct operational benefits

Imagine you market a dry ingredient that takes up half the space of other products. This feature means less inventory to store, fewer bins, fewer shipments received, etc. These direct benefits, derived from a single feature, tell a compelling story to a plant manager.

Benefits derived from a specific feature depend on the audience

The high concentration feature I just mentioned can also benefit others. For a sustainability director, it could mean a greener supply chain: fewer deliveries, less trucks into the plant and less fuel for transport. Finance could see less investment and floor space tied up in ingredient storage capacity. You get the idea. Be ready to explain distinct benefits resulting from your difference to multiple audiences.

Credibility of benefits comes down to “says who?”

Features: size, weight, strength and color can be proven. The same cannot be said for benefits, especially derived economic benefits: profit, savings, ROI. Derived benefits rely on assumptions: cost of energy, labor rate, interest rate, etc. Businesspeople, as they should, look skeptically on seller-provided assumptions. When you can, find others outside your organization to vouch for your case: a well-known customer, industry consultant, university professor, etc.

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Chris Wirthwein is Senior Director for 5MetaCom, a marketing agency that develops strategies and campaigns to differentiate B2B technical and scientific products. He has authored three marketing books, including his latest, Different Rules: The B2B Marketer’s Guidebook to Product Differentiation. You can reach Chris on LinkedIn or at cwirthwein@5metacom.com.

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