The Importance of Features and Benefits
When you’re speaking with people about your business be sure to talk about the features and benefits of your product/service.
Benefits are the reasons customers buy the product or service. For example, the benefits of some ovens to buyers include safety, ease of use, affordability, or, in the case of many ovens that feature stainless steel casings, prestige.
Features are characteristics that your product or service does or has. For example, some ovens include features such as self-cleaning, smooth stovetops, warming bins, or convection capabilities.
Every product or service has a purpose. For example, the purpose of an oven is to bake raw food, but not all ovens have the same features and benefits.
Just like products, services differ from one another in having distinctive features and benefits, though these differences may not always be so obvious to potential customers. One building contractor may only use highly experienced painters while a second uses whoever he can find to do the job. Both will tell you they do painting, but one has experienced painters (a feature) and produces a better-looking paint job (a definite benefit).
The uniqueness of a product or service can set it apart from the competition. Features can communicate the capability of a product or service. But features are only valuable if customers see those particular features as valuable. You want products or services with features which customers perceive as valuable benefits. By highlighting benefits in marketing and sales efforts, you’ll increase your sales and profits.
Tip: Make sure to validate that what you are thinking of as features and benefits are genuinely valuable to your customers and are solving problems that your customers actually have.
What’s in It for Me?
It’s important to remember that customers buy products and services because they want to solve a problem or meet a need. Consciously or unconsciously, your customers will always be asking the question, “What’s in it for me?” Your product and service offerings have to deliver solutions and satisfy needs, or they won’t be successful.
Given that benefits are ultimately more important to your customers than features, it is imperative that you understand the benefits your products and services provide, emphasize these benefits in your sales efforts, and update your products and services when new or additional benefits are desired by your customers.
How would your customers answer the question, “What’s in it for me?”
Think about how automotive manufacturers advertise. To sell minivans, they don’t emphasize the layout of the vehicle or its carrying capacity. They show images of happy families loading their kids, sports equipment, and toys into the vehicle. They emphasize the benefits above and beyond the features.
Here are some other examples emphasizing benefits beyond the features:
- A website vendor who offers hosted solutions to medium-sized businesses can emphasize the convenience and time-savings of not having to maintain a website. It’s selling convenience, not software.
- A carpet company might be more successful if it illustrated how its carpets could help create attractively decorated interiors. Pictures of beautiful rooms could be more beneficial than a stack of carpet samples or a list of fabric features. It’s selling beauty, not carpets.
- A consulting company might focus its marketing efforts by highlighting its end product–improved performance and increased profits, not its consulting methods. It’s selling profitability, not consulting.
When Do Features Make the Difference?
Although benefits are generally more important than features, there are some times when features make all the difference.
Features always matter because they provide your customers with hints about how well your product or service will deliver its benefits. When all the products in a category provide the same basic benefits, a unique feature may provide a competitive advantage.
When products or services can be easily compared with competitors’ (think of Amazon or Yelp reviews) consumers can choose products and services with the most features.
Think about cell phones. Beyond being able to make calls and send texts, a person considering which cell phone to buy may not choose a certain model if it is missing a feature not found on a competitor’s phone, such as a great camera.
Tip: Focus on communicating the benefits your product or service provide customers. They will easily see features. Benefits may not be obvious. Distinguishing between features and benefits will help you when communicating with the customers most likely to respond to your marketing messages.
“Features Tell. Benefits Sell.”
Business Plan and Product/Service Plan
Take some time to answer the following questions about the features and benefits of your product or service. If you haven’t yet already spoken to your customers and conducted market research, you’ll want to revisit your thinking after you do that.
Click “Notes” in the bottom left of the screen to answer the following questions. A template is already setup for you.
Even if you haven’t yet conducted market research, still craft your responses. Being able to articulate your responses will help you when you are conducting research with prospective customers.
What are the unique features of the product/service, such as cost, design, quality, and capabilities?
What benefits does the customer receive?
What problem is solved for the customer?
Tip: At the beginning of each module you'll find a Looking Ahead topic like this one that sets up what's to come. And, at the end, you'll find a Looking Back, which gives you a quick summary and wrap-up of what you've learned.