The features vs benefits marketing trap

colourful hands in the airHands up who uses all the features on their mobile phone?  TV?  MS Word? 

Silly question, sorry.  I bet that none of us use all the features of any product and, for most, there so many bells and whistles built in that you’ll probably never get to use them all, even if you tried. 

Most of us find the features we like, that we get benefit from, and ignore the rest. 

And for those product managers and software developers who have laboured long and hard creating these feature – well, you may say that was time wasted.  Sorry, again.

Mary McKenna would say that there are only two reasons why people buy from you. 

  • Your product or service will solve a pain point they have
  • Your product or service will make them look better to others. 

With this in mind it’s therefore critical to sell the benefits of your product or service, not the features. 

But what’s the difference between a feature of a product and the benefit of a product?  And why is it important for a marketing or sales person to know?

Features might create interest and attention, “Ooh, look, they do it in a limited edition blue!” but it’s the benefit that will make someone buy, “I’ll be the only one with a blue one so I’ll be cooler than everyone else.”

So why is it easy enough to list the features but a lot harder to say what the benefits are?

Here are four reasons why I think it can be hard:

  1. You don’t know what your customer wants so don’t know what they’d value
  2. You fear that your product isn’t what your customer wants (similar to point 1)
  3. It’s very hard to articulate benefits in a compelling way (all the world is a copywriter)
  4. Ultimately, you’re thinking too much about you, and not enough about me

Sainsbury’s current Feed your Family for £50 a week campaign is a great example of a benefits driven campaign.  By being thrifty and following their meal plans (and buying their products) you can save money.  Who doesn’t want that?

By focusing on the benefits in your marketing you’re making your product or service relevant to your customer.  They will think you understand them and what they want.  And then they might buy from you.

Why do you think it’s harder to write about benefits than features?  If, indeed, you do?  What benefits have you had from your latest purchases?

2 thoughts on “The features vs benefits marketing trap”

  1. I like your post. Very clear.

    Lots of people get confused between benefits and features. I always describe benefits as:
    1) Customer-centric. From their perspective
    2) Gain. The answer to “what’s in it for me?” or “why should I care?”

    The technical folks who build something have to care about the features to build a better product. But better products don’t mean more sales. Customers don’t care about long feature lists in fact they normally get in the way of them understanding why they should bother considering your product.

    Forget features. Buyers buy benefits.

  2. Hi Giles

    Thanks for your comment and very kind words.

    As you say, long feature lists can often confuse and get in the way. There is some skill, I think, in creating a clear and enticing marketing message – but that’s another post in itself!

    All the best


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