Communicating benefits (not features) to identity customers (Part 3 of 3)

[Link to part 1] | [Link to part 2] | [Link to part 4]

(Updated 4/16/2022 with additional benefits information.)

NOTE: After publishing the second post in this series, but before publishing this third post, I ran across other people in the identity industry who were asking the “So what?” question, but from a strategic perspective rather than a sales enablement perspective. I discuss this in my personal JEBredCal blog, in this post.

This is a continuation of two previous posts. In the first and second posts in this series, I initially explained the difference between benefits and features, and why you sometimes have to act like an irritating two-year old to convert a feature into a benefit (the “so what?” test). I also explained how benefit statements need to be tailored to particular stakeholders, and how there can be many stakeholders even for a simple procurement.

I promised in the second post that I planned to dive into issues more specific to identity customers, such as when a two hour response time matters, when a one minute response time matters, and when a one second response time matters. Unfortunately, I spent so much time talking about all the stakeholders that I never got around to that particular question.

I promise that I’ll get into it right now.

Two hours vs. one minute vs. one second

You may remember that in the first post, I listed several things that some people thought were benefits, but were actually features. The final three items in that list were the following:

  • This product can complete its processing in less than two hours.
  • This product can complete its processing in less than a minute.
  • This product can complete its processing in less than a second.

These feature statements are very similar, yet at the same time very different. As you might have guessed, these feature statements are associated with three different products that are targeted to different markets.

Two hours: rapid DNA

I already alluded to the first of the three feature statements, two hour response time, in an earlier post in this series. Although I didn’t say so that the time, this is an important feature for the “rapid DNA” systems sold by Thermo Fisher Scientific and ANDE. These systems are used for multiple purposes, including

  • examining crime scene DNA evidence,
  • identifying deceased disaster victims, and
  • checking to see if arrested individuals are wanted for more serious crimes.

The two hour rapid DNA processing time offers different benefits for these different use cases.

  • As I previously stated in my first example of a “so what?” test, the ability to run rapid DNA at booking keeps dangerous criminals from being released by identifying those who are wanted for serious crimes.
  • A two hour processing time for crime scene evidence solves crimes more quickly, and again potentially puts dangerous criminals in jail more quickly.
  • A two hour response for disaster victim identification brings peace of mind to family members whose relatives may have perished in a disaster.

(4/16/2022: For additional information on benefits, click here.)

Depending upon the target audience, a rapid DNA vendor must tailor its benefit statements accordingly.

One minute: real time AFIS

Next, I want to look at the one minute response time, which is something that I used to talk about over twenty-five years ago when “real time AFIS” became a reality.

Because of the limitations of early computers, it used to take hours or days to compare the features from a latent fingerprint against the features of fingerprints in a database of known criminals. The old computers, even when souped up with special processing equipment such as hardware matchers and hardware fingerprint processors, took a long time to perform all of the calculations needed to compare a fingerprint’s features against hundreds of thousands of other fingerprint features.

Around the time that I joined Printrak, real time AFIS became a reality, where it became cost-effective and technologically feasible to size systems to deliver those fingerprint matching results in a minute. Today, the FBI’s Repository for Individuals of Special Concern (RISC) advertises that it can identify high-priority criminals within seconds.

At the time (1994), real time AFIS was a big deal, and the proposals that I helped to write emphasized that crimes could be solved more quickly (for latent/crime scene fingerprint searches), and individuals could be identified more quickly (for tenprint/booking searches).

One second: computer aided dispatch

To explain the third feature statement about one second response times, I have to fast forward three years to 1997, when the company then known as Printrak acquired the computer aided dispatch (CAD) and records management systems (RMS) unit of SCC Communications Corp. Printrak acquired other companies that year, but the SCC acquisition ended up being the most important, since it led to Printrak’s acquisition by Motorola.

(Allow me to go off on a tangent for a minute. When Motorola sold the biometric part of the business to Safran, it chose to retain the CAD and RMS portions, which remain part of Motorola Solutions’ portfolio today. One other tidbit: one of the key SCC people who joined Printrak at the time eventually left Motorola, and now works for rapid DNA vendor ANDE. As we Californians would say, it’s a small world after all.)

Now while there are some parallels between CAD and the systems then known as automated FINGERPRINT identification systems (AFIS), there are some key differences in the markets that the two products address. We on the AFIS side learned this the hard way when we introduced ourselves to our new colleagues.

“Hi, SCC folks, welcome to Printrak. You’re joining a company that sells REAL TIME AFIS that delivers results within one minute! Aren’t you impressed?”

A screenshot of computer-aided dispatch as being used by Toronto Fire Services. By Hillelfrei – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

The ex-SCC people responded, gently disabusing us of our pretensions to speed.

“Hello, new corporate overlords. We provide computer aided dispatch systems that send police, fire, and medical personnel to crime scenes and emergency sites as soon as possible. If our CAD systems took AN ENTIRE MINUTE to dispatch personnel, PEOPLE WOULD DIE. We use really powerful computers to get personnel dispatched in a second. Enjoy your real time AFIS…amateurs.”

So the company Printrak learned that it needed separate benefit statements, depending upon the product line the company was promoting at any given time. The CAD customers received one set of benefit statements, while the AFIS customers received a separate set.

Conclusion (finally)

In short, you have to know your customer so that you can describe benefits that are important to your customer.

And if you’re an identity product/service provider that needs help in communicating customer benefits in proposals, case studies, white papers, blog posts, and similar written output, Bredemarket can help. Contact me.


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