BASIC MARKETING CONCEPTS – Features versus Benefits by: Alan Carson – Carson, Dunlop & Associates Ltd.
Client’s Perspective Is Key
The distinction between a feature and a benefit is a key marketing concept. “Feature” is a quality of your service from your perspective, whereas a “benefit” expresses a quality of your service from your customer’s perspective. Put another way: a feature is an element of your service; a benefit is what this element does for the prospect or the customer. For example, “Open 24 hours!” is a feature that the company offers. Convenience is the benefit that the customer enjoys.
The success of any professional service depends to a large extent on its ability to put itself in the customer’s position. All the customer cares about is how one service will help them more than another. Everything in marketing, advertising, public relations, and sales should focus on what aspects of the service are going to benefit customers (see Figure 1.1). To successfully market your business, you need to adopt the credo, “It’s all about the customer.”
Features Describe; Benefits Sell
Features are easier for us to promote because they are the parts of our business we think are desirable. It’s always easy to speak from our own perspective. Benefits, on the other hand, are a little more difficult to identify. They require us to justify the value of the features to someone else. In other words, a benefit is what your customer finds desirable about your features.
For example; you book a flight to Europe for an important business meeting. The airline is advertising business class seating. You are trying to decide if you should fly business class or coach. The advertisement states that business class has larger seats and more leg room. You immediately book the coach tickets. Your rationale: You aren’t going to pay twice as much just for a little extra leg room and a larger seat. You will tough it out in coach. The airline failed to sell you the more expensive seats because it only provided you the features of a business class seat, rather than showing the benefits of these features.
A more compelling airline ad would have demonstrated that the larger seats in business class provide ample space for you to set up a workstation. And the extra leg room, which makes it possible for you to comfortably stretch out, means you can sleep during the flight, if you choose. With proper room to work and a comfortable place to sleep, you will arrive for your meeting prepared and refreshed. You will excel at the important meeting; you will get a promotion and a big bonus at the end of the year.
Show Benefits of Your Service
Although benefits are the obvious and logical conclusion of features, it’s a mistake to assume your ›4prospective customers will make the connection between the two. Most people don’t have the time or inclination to fill in the blanks. Furthermore, it’s your job to make the benefits of your services immediately apparent. You can demonstrate benefits without discussing features, but not vice versa. You must focus on selling the benefits.
Let’s look at another example. Let’s say you are in the market for a new flashlight and you walk into a store and see a display with this headline: “The world’s first steel flashlight!” The fact that the flashlight is steel is clearly a physical feature of the product that the manufacturer is very proud of. What is important, however, is what that feature will do for you. The value of that feature lies in describing what that product actually does. The fact that the flashlight is steel will help justify the added cost, but the manufacturer should be telling you that the added weight of the steel means that if you drop it, it won’t break. The manufacturer should tell you that you will never have to buy another flashlight again–guaranteed! So the feature is steel construction, but the benefit is durability and reliability. The functional aspect of this particular product (not the physical feature) intensifies your desire for it.
Benefits Are Explanations
If you are giving a presentation to a real estate office, or speaking to a client or agent, you have all the time in the world to describe the benefits of your features in detail. But in written marketing materials you need to be concise or you will lose your reader’s attention.
Features are easy to come up with, and to position in a brochure, because they amount to basic descriptions. Benefits are harder to express because they are explanations of the descriptions.
Inexperienced marketers make the mistake of filling a brochure with features, resulting in an unconvincing and weak piece. Have a look at your competitor’s brochure. It will likely be filled with a list of features only. Any marketing piece that you put together should list the benefits. Marketing materials that would benefit from this philosophy include a
• business card,
• Yellow Pages ad,
• mailer to agents, and
• Web site.
Good Layout Helps
Here is an example of a successful marketing piece. A web site ad for a software company features a simple two-column fact sheet. The left-hand column lists features and the right-hand column lists benefits. Each feature lines up with its associated benefit, clearly demonstrating the added value inherent in the feature. After seeing this ad, we decided to try it out in some marketing pieces for home inspection services. It has been a very successful layout. It’s simple yet effective. Try it in your brochure.
Show Features and Benefits
Here is an example of how to think about the benefits associated with the features of your services.
We are available seven days a week. The benefits to your clients are convenience and accessibility. They can reach you when they need to.
We have been licensed builders You have the experience to detect
for 20 years. problem areas. What is the benefit
to the client? You can potentially save
them headaches and money down
What’s the benefit to the real estate
agent? Because you have years of
experience in problem solving, you
may be able to suggest a simple solution
to a problem. Your suggestion
could help the client avoid an expensive
fix. This could make the difference
between the deal going through
and the deal falling apart.
Writing a concise benefit is not as easy as describing a feature. Writing about benefits requires more time and finesse, but if you hope to make an impact, you have to show the benefits of your service. Benefits are an essential part of all your marketing material.
A benefit often sounds like a promise. It is frequently followed with a description of the feature that shows how you can make good on the promise.