The power of focusing on the benefit of the benefit

As I have shared many times in previous blogs around messaging and creating compelling value propositions if you assess the essence of the messaging of many software vendors, it’s often cluttered, unclear, generic and as such doesn’t do anything with potential buyers. It falls flat. It’s like talking to deaf-man’s ears. The result? It impacts your ability to attract enough high-quality leads, it affects your ability to have high enough win-rates, and it impacts your ability to win on value, rather than discount.

So, the question is: What can you do to turn the tide?

Understand features and benefits are inherently different things. Yes, really

Value PropositionThere are many tips and tricks to share, but it often merely starts with just understanding the difference between a feature and a benefit. This might sound very weird, but get me going on this. I can’t count the amount of time where benefits are confused for features. Let me give you some real examples that I picked up from various websites in March 2019:

  1. Key reasons to choose vendor 1: built-in flexibility, commerce ready ERP, native business intelligence.
  2. Key reasons to choose vendor 2: One single integrated enterprise system, consistent look, and feel, it adapts and evolves, incredibly easy and simple to use.

Also, let me add one in the category ‘Generic.’

  1. Key reasons to choose vendor 3: increase productivity, lower costs, and improve controls

The question I immediately raise with all of these examples is: So what? What does that mean? What value will I get from this? How does this help my company or me?

As you can see, the first two examples are 100% feature driven, it’s about what you get, not about why you should desire it. The third example is one of those examples of 13 in a dozen – it’s what you’d expect, extremely generic – i.e., mentioning it equals forgetting about it instantly. If you replace the logo of the vendor with any other, you won’t recognize it.

Embrace the viewpoint of your ideal customer

How is it possible that respected vendors (I’ve removed their names, but believe me, they all are), make basic mistakes like this? My first reason would be: they’re looking at this with a vendor viewpoint, not a customer viewpoint.

It can very well be that the built-in flexibility of the first vendor provides clear differentiation. However, it’s only when that differentiation resonates with their ideal customer where you get action.

It can very well be the ease of use of vendor two is what sets them apart, but it will only result in a transaction if the buyer understands its impact clearly. Moreover, that’s what messaging should be all about.

Let me give you an example from my previous job. I have corrected many slides of colleagues that communicated a poor user interface as a critical pain point in the market segment that we addressed. Although I understand the thinking, it can’t be. The user interface can never be the pain point; it can only result in a pain point. A poor user interface can indeed result in making unnecessary errors that impact the customer experience. It can result in an inability to deal with demand peaks, which can lead to missing deadlines or inferior quality. It can result in poor user adoption, which could then result into delays in data entry – and if that’s the foundation of your service invoicing this could result in cash flow challenges, revenue leakage, and eventually profitability crisis.

This is what keeps people awake at night; here’s where things start to resonate. So the trick is to embrace the viewpoint of your ideal customer and then aim to reveal how the cause (the user interface, the poor flexibility, the lack of embedded intelligence) negatively impacts their business. It’s that impact that’s recognizable at the customer end. This is what they are fighting every single day. So you can be the guide that helps them stop the bleeding, and make them the hero.

Embrace the benefit of the benefit

However, I’d go even one level deeper: Aim to focus on the benefit of the benefit. Here’s why:

Too often we narrow our communication on solving one specific problem. Although that’s fantastic, it’s usually so narrow that resolving it in isolation isn’t high on the customer’s priority list.

It goes back to another blog I wrote a couple of weeks ago ‘how to stay relevant in your category’ [

]in which I addressed the importance of ‘urgency.’ Urgency drives action – and that’s what you are aiming for. A very effective way to increase the urgency perception of your solution with your ideal customers is to focus on ‘the benefit of the benefit.’ Here’s why:

By focusing on the ‘benefit of the benefit,’ you connect your solution to higher-level goals, and ideally to the vision of your ideal customer. Every well-respected business has a north-star, a direction they eagerly want to go. What stands in between achieving that and where they are today is a series of roadblocks. It’s the task of every software vendor to help remove those roadblocks – whether small or big. It can very well be that by removing a minor roadblock, you unlock the route to accelerate progress. Making your customer aware of that will increase their desire, give more urgency to fixing it, and as such put your project higher on the priority list.

Let’s assume your ideal customers are particularly focused on growing their brand value. One aspect they’ll have high on their priority list is ‘excellence.’ This is how they position themselves. This is what drives them. This is what they want to be known for, and as such, this is what they invest in. You offer a solution for field service maintenance. The obvious route would be to communicate ‘increased efficiency and resource utilization as key benefits of your solution. However, why not translate that forward and focus on the benefit of the benefit, i.e., the impact your solution has on the brand perception of your clients. With your solution they will be able to fix every issue at first attempt, it will allow them to get an engineer to the location faster, within the hour. To go beyond that, they will be able to remove potential issues pro-actively. Guess what this does with the brand value of your customers. That’s gold. So why limit yourself?

Embrace the benefit for your customers’ customers

Another way of looking at this is by brainstorming what value your solution will give your ‘customers’ customers.’ Every organization serves customers – whether in the commercial world, in the public sector (citizens), in education (students), in health (patients), etcetera. For each organization customers are the life-blood. This is what drives all decisions – from the back-end to the front-end. So, by linking your solution to the impact they can make on their customers is smart. You’re not just delivering ‘a digital banking platform to increase the efficiency of managing omnichannel communication processes,’ no, you enable your customers to ‘help their customers to be one step ahead in life and business.’ Guess what that does with their perception. Just imagine how this will raise the urgency and priority of their project, i.e. your chances to win the deal.

The five reasons why this will help set you apart.

    1.    It will open your customer’s eyes

    2.    It will increase your relevance to your ideal customer, and as such your credibility

    3.    It will provide extreme clarity because you connect the dots in a meaningful way

    4.    It will help to reveal the friction and the real impact of that. This is something they can feel. And that drives urgency

    5.    It will allow you to surprise – by providing a fresh perspective. That’s unusual. And being unusual sticks.

Need some more guidance?

  1. Get some fresh ideas on how to differentiate yourself in a commodity market
  2. Join the Be Remarkable tribe for business software professionals and get inspiration from industry peers.

Keep reading

  1. How to stay relevant in your category
  2. Do You Struggle To Stand Out With Your Software Company?
  3. What business are you in? No, what business are you really in?

About the author

Sales Pitch

Ton Dobbe is a former B2B software product marketer who's on a mission to save mission-driven SaaS CEOs from the stress of 'not enough' traction. He's the author of The Remarkable Effect, the host of the Tech-Entrepreneur on a Mission podcast, and writes a daily newsletter on the secrets to mastering predictable traction.