What have you done for me lately? Marketing short-term benefits

Across a diverse range of b2b and consumer product categories studied by Isurus in the last six months, the messaging strategies that best resonate are ones that speak to short-term benefits.  Messages that speak only to long-term benefits failed to motivate buyers, even when the eventual benefit is very meaningful (a life-saving therapy, a significant ROI, etc.).  The research showed  that people purchase for a mix of short and long term benefits (especially for large investments) but the benefits that spark interest and get them to investigate the category tend to be more short term in nature.

The challenge for many of our clients is two-fold:

  • First, the major benefit the purchase provides is long term and will take 3, 5 or 10 years to realize.  If you buy this technology, over time your IT organization will save 20% in infrastructure costs.  This medical procedure may help cure cancer in your family in the next 10-20 years.  These are the real benefits these offerings were ultimately designed to deliver.  The offerings weren’t developed with a short-term benefit in mind.
  • Second, these offerings compete for budget with many other options that do offer a short-term benefit.  That short-term benefit is not on the same scale as a double-digit ROI or life-saving treatment, but it is real and quickly realized by the buyer.

This focus on short-term benefits may reflect the increasing prevalence of immediacy in our culture.  We are constantly connected, with access to information, feedback, and social relationships in seconds; the idea of waiting years to see results may be increasingly unreasonable to many of us.   It may also reflect uncertainty about the economy, where consumers and businesses prefer to focus on benefits today because the future is too unpredictable.

Regardless of the cause, Isurus’ recent work suggests that marketers will be well-served to understand to what extent their target market is motivated by short-term or longer term benefits.  If the target market does require a short-term benefit and the offering is not well-suited to deliver it, be prepared to re-think the value proposition.  For some offerings, the best strategy will be to balance minor, short-term benefits with the more significant but longer term value.  Another strategy may be to focus on the emotional benefits provided in the short term.