Imagine that you’re in the market for a new furnace to heat your home. You call in an HVAC salesman, and he tells you that he has the perfect system for you. Here’s why:
“It has a 96% AFUE, 16 SEER, and a variable-speed motor. In other words, it’s very energy-efficient.”
You call another HVAC guy for a second estimate. Again, he’s sure he has the perfect system for you. Here’s what he says:
“This system will keep your house much warmer in the wintertime than you do now, without shelling out any extra cash.”
Which pitch is more enticing?
The first pitch focuses purely on features. The second one emphasizes the furnace’s benefits to you, the consumer.
Take a look at these two ads. The one on the left focuses on features; the one on the right speaks directly to benefits.
Which one do you think does a better job?
Features vs. Benefits
What’s the difference between features and benefits?
A feature is something that your product has or does. For example, the vending machine you’re selling has a credit card reader as a feature, or your plumbing company might offers 24-hour service as an added feature.
These features are important, and were often developed intentionally after a lot of market research into what your clients or consumers want. But they are still not the most effective way to market your business.
Why You Need Benefits
A successful marketing campaign focuses on benefits, the results that your clients will see. After all, people don’t usually buy things because they have cool features. They buy things to fill a need or solve a problem. Just because you know that your product will benefit a prospect doesn’t mean that they know it. That’s why it’s important to explicitly state the benefits that your client will obtain.
Take mouthwash. Mouthwash can fight tartar, freshen breath, and decrease cavities. But those are all features. Consumers buy a specific mouthwash because it makes their mouth feel clean and healthy, tastes good, doesn’t give off a burning sensation (or does, depending on their preference), and will make them feel better at their next dental checkup. Oral-B latches onto these benefits in this ad, highlighting each of the potential results that their mouthwash (and their toothpaste) has to offer:
Moving From Features to Benefits
Moving from features to benefits sounds simple, but this rule is violated constantly because it’s hard for business owners to stop thinking about the features — which is what they know best — and start thinking like a customer.
Here’s the key: your customers don’t care about you, your business, or even your product. They care about what’s in it for them.
So what can you do to determine the benefits of your product or service? Try this:
- Know Your Customer Base. Collect demographic or psychographic data so your really understand your audience. If you’re selling a consumer product, focus on your customer’s age, gender, family size, and values and interests. If you sell a business service, laser in on your client’s business size and type, budget, and professional goals.
- Know Your Product. Why did your company develop each feature? Were the old options lacking? Did existing customers ask for more choices? Understanding why your product has these features can lead you to the benefits to focus on.
- Think Like Your Consumer. Look at your product or service as if it’s the first time you’ve encountered it. Why would you use it? What do you want from it? How do you expect to benefit from it?
Let’s make this practical by looking at examples of how features can be reconfigured as benefits:
|Computer||1 TB hard drive||Store all of your movies, software, and music on a single computer, and never run out of space.|
|Law firm||Small size||We provide you with one-on-one attention, taking the time to tailor our legal advice specifically to your needs.|
|Bakery||Home delivery||Don’t waste your time going to the store. We bring our products right to your door.|
|E-reader||Large storage space||Keep a whole library right in your pocket.|
|Batteries||Rechargeable||You won’t have to drag yourself to the store in the middle of the night to replace the batteries in your child’s favorite toy.|
|Trail mix||Healthy||Have the energy to make it through the day. Feel satisfied with no guilt.|
|Car||Heated seats||Even in frigid weather, stay toasty and enjoy your ride.|
|Job matching site||Large database of prospective employees||Find the perfect match for your job posting quickly and easily.|
|Garage opener||Voice-activated||You’ll never have to worry about losing your keys again.|
|Freelance writer||Expert in search engine optimization||More prospective customers will find your website – without any increase in your advertising budget.|
|Computer debugger||Catches programming glitches||No more all-nighters due to programming glitches hidden in your code.|
|Baby white noise machine||Choice of several different soothing sounds||Sleep through the night by finding the perfect sound to soothe your baby to sleep.|
|Video workout program||Can be done at home||No need to drag yourself to the gym – exercise in the comfort of your own home.|
|Detergent||Whitening and color-safe||Keep your whites from turning gray and your colored clothes as bright as the day you got them.|
|Drill||Magnetic tip||No need to hold screws in place.|
|Cold medication||Non-drowsy||Stay productive instead of wasting the day in bed.|
The “So What?” Question
Still having a hard time moving from features to benefits? Use the “so what?” technique.
Here’s an example of how this technique works:
Feature: Our detergent is 20% more effective at fighting stains than other leading brands.
So stains come out more easily.
So you won’t need to waste time and energy scrubbing stains and soaking clothing. And you won’t have to throw out clothing with stains that you just can’t get out.
Let’s try that again with a service business:
Feature: We can help you prequalify for a mortgage online.
You can receive a prequalification letter more quickly, without having to see us in person.
Prospective homebuyers are already under a lot of stress and time pressures, and prequalifying online can simplify their mortgage experience, leaving them more time and energy to find the perfect home.
Here’s a creative way that Grammarly asked the “so what?” question. Grammarly’s helps you to edit your writing, and it contains many features enable it to do so. But its benefits are much broader. It can help increase your competence, your confidence, and your success at work – all of which are perfectly illustrated in this video:
So no matter what products or services you’re offering, make sure to put yourself in your customer’s shoes. Focus on benefits, rather than features, and show your customers what’s in it for them. Identify how your product or service will make their lives easier, more pleasant, or more successful, and watch your marketing attempts take off.
This article is part of the series, So You Think You Know Marketing? These article shed new light on marketing fundamentals, with examples and tips to help you apply these concepts to your own business. See all the articles in the series here.