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Do You Understand The Difference Between Features and Benefits?

This helps you sell better face to face and helps you write better content for the products.

If you study marketing gurus, they are always telling you to focus on benefits, not features, when you write sales copy or create ads. Most business owners struggle with the features vs. benefits dilemma. Most business owners do not understand the difference. And because of this, most small-business marketing efforts don’t work!

Most small-business marketers assume that prospects will understand why they should buy the product just because they’ve been told about it. Therefore, business owners only communicate the features of their products to prospective customers and neglect to mention the benefits.

What Are Features?

Take a look at the list of features below related to our products.

  •  Only 2 inches wide
  • Only 4 inches high
  • Locking Actuator
  • Maintenance free
  • Batteries included

Each is a feature — a factual statement about the product or service being promoted. But features aren’t what entice customers to buy. That’s where benefits come in. A benefit answers the question “What’s in it for me; how does this solve my problem?” meaning the feature provides the customer with something of value to them. This is where most businesses go wrong:

  •  The benefit of only 2 inches wide is that the stun gun is easy to hold.
  • The benefit of only 4 inches high is the stun gun is easily concealable.
  • The benefit of the locking actuator is the pepper spray has a safety switch.
  • The benefit of maintenance free is customer will not have to fix anything.
  • The benefit of batteries included is the product is ready to use out of the box.

While these may seem like true benefits, they’re really just elaborations on the features. So what is truly a benefit?

The best way to understand the true benefit of your product, or to answer the “What’s in it for me; how does this solve my problem?” question, is to focus instead on the real reasons the customer thinks the features are important. A customer’s perception of each feature’s real reasons is what attracts him or her to a particular product. 

When someone chooses a stun gun that’s only 2 inches wide, the assumption is that the benefit is it’s easy to hold, but the actual real reasons are that it’s easier to grab in an emergency situation, making it quicker to use, making the user feel more confident in her ability to get it out of her purse and defend herself quickly — she feels safer. Those real reasons are the true benefits.

When you try to sell the features of your products, you’re making the customer do all the work to figure out why they want the feature. It’s in your best interest to draw the connection for them. But to do that, you have to know the real reasons yourself. Let’s take another look at that features list to see the possible real reasons the customers likes the features:

Only 4 inches high: If I’m going to carry a stun gun in my hand, I don’t want everyone to see it. I don’t want people to think I’m paranoid and afraid. Or, the bad guy won’t know I have it in my hand because it so small and I’ll be able to shock him before he even knows I’m carrying the stun gun. I won’t have to worry about him taking it away from me and using it on me because he doesn’t see it!

Locking Actuator: I don’t want this going off in my purse or when I’m showing it to friends. I’m afraid I might spray myself. I don’t want to look stupid.

Maintenance free: I suck at fixing things. I want something that won’t break. I don’t want to feel dumb!

Batteries included: After I buy the product, I won’t have to worry about scrounging around the house looking for batteries or getting in the car and driving to Wal-Mart to buy some.

Even if you are using features and benefits in your sales copy and web pages, if you look again, you’ll probably see that your benefits are really just more features.

So now that you understand the difference between features and benefits, how do you apply this to your own business so you can start marketing your benefits? I have 3 suggestions below.

1. Know your customer. To know your customer, you must gather as much information as you can about your customer. Try to gather demographic data (age, sex, household income, family size, marital status, media preferences and so on) and psychographic data (attributes relating to personality, values, attitudes, interests, opinions, lifestyles and so on).

If you are selling from a store or at a flea market and can talk to your customer face to face, you can start asking certain questions to begin developing a profile of your customers. Just starting having conversations with your customers.

If you are selling online, the easiest way to get an accurate profile of your customers is to do a survey. You can offer a free gift for their participation. The easiest to use is www.surveymonkey.com. Of course, this assumes you have a list of customers.

If you are just getting started, you will have to make some assumptions about who your customer is. Try to define that customer as precisely as you can. Even name him or her. They when you write emails or sales copy for your website or ads, you write just to that person.

As your business grows, you will get a better feel for who your customer is and the problems they are trying to solve with your products.

2. Change your point-of-view. Whenever you write from your own point of view, you naturally fill in the blanks with assumptions. No matter the type of business you’re in, you think it’s great because you fully understand what you’re offering. But a prospect knows little or nothing about your products. They can’t make the same connections about it that you can.

Your demographic and psychographic information will allow you to discover what patterns exist among your customers. Using that information, you must learn to put yourself in their shoes as the buyer. Approach your own product as if you’d never seen it (which won’t be too hard for some of my distributors because they haven’t since we drop ship for them). Then ask yourself, and anyone else who will help you, “What are the real reasons these features will benefit me?” and “Why would I want to consider buying or switching?

3. Think in terms of real reasons. There’s nothing wrong with the term “benefits,” but if you refocus the problem to think in terms of “real reasons,” the situation becomes clearer. Your dilemma isn’t features vs. benefits, but rather features vs. real reasons. Start with your current features, and then take each one into the real reasons phase. Try out what you get on friends or family to see which ones spark their interest.

When you use this “real reasons” approach to discovering your business’ benefits, you can be sure the marketing messages you use to reach your prospects will be right on target. And that’s the surest way to get business!