For some entrepreneurs, it’s hard to see the difference between a feature and a benefit. They mistakenly present their product’s features as the solution to their customer’s problem, when what the customer really wants to know is how the product or service will benefit him or her. Since the difference between a feature and a benefit is not always clear, how can you make sure you are speaking to the benefits?
Simply put, a feature is what your product or service has or does. It is a characteristic that is a quantifiable, indisputable fact. Some examples include: a digital camera that shoots up to 10 megapixels; software with free online support; or a dog grooming service that comes right to your door. While they may be factual and convey an advantage, they don’t communicate why they are important or how they will help your customer. Measurements, colors, weight and capabilities are all features and do not sell a product.
That’s not to say that features aren’t important. It’s good for your customer to know the basics. Lists of features can help a potential user quickly compare your product or service to another. For example, if someone is shopping for a lightweight vacuum, they may look to the features list to determine the unit’s physical weight and compare it to others. But a feature alone won’t necessarily make or break a sale. When marketing to a customer, it’s the benefits of those features that come into play. And presenting them in the right light can mean the difference between gaining and losing a customer.
By definition, a benefit is something of value or usefulness. In marketing, a benefit explains what the features mean and why they are important. It can answer the question of “What keeps your customer up at night?” We often refer to that as the customer’s “pain.” Customers are looking for solutions and a benefit shows the customer how your features will solve their problems or ease their pain.
Let’s use one of the features above to illustrate what the benefit could be. What is the value to a customer of a digital camera that shoots up to 10 megapixels? It could mean a more professional photo that will be sharper and have true-to-life color. The benefit stated to a potential buyer could be that more megapixels will produce a better photo and a better way to capture important memories; this will mean more to the customer than a technical description.
A benefit can also bring to light solutions to problems that a customer didn’t even know she or he had. Perhaps this 10 megapixel camera also features a blur reduction component. The benefit is that pictures will look sharp, even when taking an action shot. Suddenly, blurry pictures of the past may begin to flash in the customer’s head. S/he wasn’t looking for a blur reduction feature, but after seeing its benefits, it might just be what compels her or him to make a purchase.
How to Determine the Benefit
In general, nearly every feature has a benefit, but they aren’t always obvious. How can you help your customer see the benefits? Start with a list of a product or service’s features. What does it do? What unique characteristics does it have? What technical information is important?
Once you have all of your features listed, think about what each feature means. Why does it matter? What problem does it solve? Your benefits should dig deep and be as specific as possible. Show, don’t tell. For example, don’t just tell your customer that your payroll software can keep track of employee records. Show the benefit of this by expanding on how the software can help keep their payroll information as organized and accurate as possible. Finally, keep in mind that some features are simply that—features. If the dimensions of the product are standard, or your software is compatible with standard operating systems, you may not need to include them as a benefit when selling to a customer.
The difference between a feature and a benefit can be tricky to spot. For example:
“Product X is long-lasting, made from quality, durable materials.”
Is this a feature or a benefit? Does this show the customer why it’s important? It may seem trite. What customer wouldn’t want any product to be long-lasting, right? It must be a benefit. Wrong—this is a feature. It tells the customer about the product, but doesn’t tell them why it should matter to them. Perhaps those quality, long-lasting, durable materials will save them money or time, or help them preserve something important.
Remember, customers are really looking for benefits. Even if they are claiming to look for a certain feature, the benefit of that feature actually solves their pain. As Theodore Levitt, former Harvard marketing professor and editor of the Harvard Business Review once said, “People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole.” Keep this in mind as you determine what it is you’re really selling.
Still have questions about the difference between a feature and a benefit? Let us know! Leave a comment or tweet us at @IdeaXing!