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

Using benefits and features in your B2B marketing: when and how?

By Chris Wirthwein

Most B2B marketers “get” features. But many stumble on benefits. How do I know? Because I got tripped up by them for years. I used derived benefits when I should have been using direct benefits along with features that support them. Let’s break this down.

In horse and buggy days, a unique feature of the first automobiles was speed. Travelers could arrive in less time – a benefit. Today, with speed limits that every car can exceed, no auto can claim a unique “arrive sooner” benefit. The benefit has become generic. Time for definitions…

Feature – a tangible, measurable characteristic of an object’s nature. Examples include weight, length, color, how it’s made, specific gravity, tensile strength and myriad others.

Benefit – a positive result. Expresses what can be done or accomplished. Benefits describe outcomes, what an object does. Now here’s a new way to think about benefits. There are actually two types:

Direct benefit – For example, a diamond-coated steel cutting bit lasts longer than an uncoated one. Longer life – durability – is a positive outcome (benefit) resulting directly from the diamond-coated feature, hence the term direct benefit.

Derived benefit – A direct benefit can deliver other, extrapolated, or derived benefits. A more durable bit cuts more material before needing replacement. This saves money on parts and labor and increases uptime and manufacturing throughput. All this delivers greater profit to the business. ROI-related benefits can be further extrapolated into psychologically-related, derived benefits: peace of mind, pride, job satisfaction and many more. Derived benefits stem from direct benefits. As marketers, where do we stop with deriving benefits? Here’s my advice. For economic- or emotion-based, derived benefits, don’t say it yourself. Instead, have someone else say it – a respected third party or a customer. Something like this: One plant manager of a 24/7/365 operation recently told us, “I’m saving 30 minutes per shift changeover.” Stick to direct benefits resulting from features and when it comes to derived benefits, let them say it, not you.

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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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