Features vs. Benefits — and the power of benefit-led messaging

It sounds like an easy distinction to make, feature or benefit. And it is simple. However, when it comes to describing products or services, features are regularly talked up as if they are benefits. Admittedly, they are often linked — a feature can create a benefit.

For example: 6-gears on a bicycle is a feature, but the gears create the benefit of making cycling up hill easier.

Benefit-led messaging is a great way of talking about products or services, however it is often poorly executed. Including a ‘benefits’ title above a bullet point list of dimensions, weight, colour, or material of a product doesn’t make them a benefit.

People often list features rather than benefits because although the benefit is the ‘why’, the feature is the ‘how’, and people in business tend to get focussed on the ‘how’. After all, creating the ‘how’ is the purpose of their work. In addition, familiarity with the technical specifications can cloud explanation and sight of the ‘why’. Tech specs, i.e. features, are of the upmost importance to the people creating the ‘how’, but customer doesn’t really care. The customer cares why it will deliver a positive impact and meet their needs.

Dimensions, weight, colour, and material can be used in benefit-led messaging, if they offer something of value to the customer. The value must be conveyed in the message: “…the [feature] delivers this [benefit].” Whether that’s reduced costs, increased customer or employee engagement, or even meeting industry regulations.

Benefits should be tied to known problems customers have, and how the product or service can solve them. Focus on the positive impact the customer can expect the product or service to deliver. Success in this will show an understanding of customer needs and demonstrate expertise — both crucial in winning, and keeping, customers.

There are a number of reasons why benefit-led messaging should be the go-to approach:

It can help differentiation in a crowded market, particularly if competing products have the same, or very similar, features.
Demonstrates a keen understanding of customers’ needs — and how the product or service can solve them.
Talk to customers at all stages of the buying journey — all will be interested in the positive impacts a product or service can deliver. Not all will be interested in, or understand, a list of technical features.
Shifting to benefit-led messaging can help customers to understand how the product or service will solve their problems. Reducing the level of work customers need to do to understand that their needs will be met will improve the chances of a sale.

When crafting messaging, consider the customer — do they really care about the tech specs, or are they more likely to be interested in how said product or service will make their life easier?


Rick Harrison

Strategist


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