B-to-B Insights: Decades of Progress
One of the worst things about growing older is that you risk becoming obsolete. I'm in that quandary right now.
You would think the older you get, the more experience you have and, therefore, the more you know. It's true you do know more about and get better at the things you already do—in my case, copywriting. But at the same time, there are an increasing number of things you don't do—and therefore don't know much about—in my case, mobile marketing and social networking.
I can see this, and perhaps you can too, when you trace the evolution of B-to-B selling and marketing during, say, the past five decades.
Stage 1: Features Selling
In the early days of advertising, ads concentrated on the features, the physical facts, about a product. The belief was that the buyer already knew the benefit. To take a contemporary example, if your printer has a small footprint, then obviously it takes up less space in your office.
Feature selling has gotten a bad rap, but sometimes it can work, mostly when the competition is limited and your product has a narrow market. For instance, an ad for Borsig has the headline, "Transfer Line Exchangers for Ethylene Cracking Furnaces." If you have an ethylene cracking furnace and need an exchanger for the transfer line, I don't think you need a headline more creative than that.
Feature selling is used primarily for selling products rather than services. To do it effectively, you should visually inspect the product. If you see a feature that the engineers haven't told you about, ask why it's there. Also, request a demonstration of the product.
Feature selling works best when your prospects are experts or professionals in the application for which the product is designed. A builder, for instance, doesn't need to be told that the benefit of insulation is keeping the house warmer and lowering the electric bill; he just wants to know the R value and other features. For instance, does the design make it easier to install?
Bob Bly is a freelance copywriter who has written copy for more than 100 clients including IBM, AT&T, Praxair, Intuit, Forbes, and Ingersoll-Rand. McGraw-Hill calls Bob “America’s top copywriter” and he is the author of 90 books, including “The Copywriter's Handbook.” Find him online at www.bly.com or call (973) 263-0562.