Long gone are the days when rhyming off a whole list of features for your product or service is enough to make a sale.
Customers are much more savvy than ever before and usually by the time they get to you – they’ve already done quite a bit of research on what they want and why they want it.
Your job is to help bring them along their customer journey by providing the right information for them at the right time.
Getting your features and benefits right is absolutely key to this process – especially if you intend to instruct a copywriter at some point to pull all the information together into product listings, sales brochure, landing page or other marketing materials.
So what are features & benefits and how do they differ?
Put simply, features are things a product or service has, does or is while the benefits are the results the customer will experience if they use your product or service.
Hubspot.com describes the difference as: “Features describe what the product does, setting it apart from the competition. Benefits describe how the product can help the audience.”
Wordstream.com explains it as: “Think about what gets you excited about your product that makes it different from your competitors’ products. Those are features. Now, think about what those things do for your customer. Those are benefits.”
Productboard.com says: “Features represent outputs. They are things your team delivers in order to help your customers or stakeholders realize a specific outcome. Benefits are the outcomes or results that users experience by using your product or service.
Take Excalibur Press as an example (blatant shameless plug!) one of the features of our social media service is that we can create a fully populated content calendar for our customers. The benefit of that is that the customer doesn’t need to worry about what they are going to post and when on their social media over an agreed period of time.
But that’s not all. The benefit extends to things such as the customer not having to worry about keeping their social media up to date, having to come up with creative ideas or creating photos, videos or graphics to go with the content. We take all that hassle away from them – definitely a great benefit to that very simple feature of our service.
Now, let’s see that work in a product setting.
One of our clients in recent years was a well known global tyre brand. For one of their products a feature was listed as “excellent rating for braking performance on wet roads”. Of course the benefit to the customer with that one is easy to spot.
The benefit is that the customer has peace of mind knowing they are travelling in a much safer vehicle due to the braking performance on wet roads. But let’s take that a little further. Imagine the target customer was parents, and additional benefit is the fact that this particular tyre would be helping keep their little ones safe.
Another client sells baths. One of the products we were writing descriptions for had a specific feature that it was made from lucite. Interesting, I suppose – if you care about the various manufacturing names for plastic and understood yourself what the benefits were of having a bath made from lucite.
The benefits of the bath being made out of lucite is that not only was it durable and hard wearing but it also was easy to clean and it came in a range of colours meaning customers could choose something that fitted with their own tastes and style.
Identifying your features
In order to put together a robust features list for your product you need to really think about what exactly your customers are wanting from your brand, product or service.
Ask yourself things like:
- What makes this product or service different from competitors?
- What are the components of your product or service?
- What are the tangibles that you can list?
- What are the things about your product that the geeks will love?
- What gets you excited about your product?
If you have to, start reading product descriptions on Amazon – don’t forget to scroll down to find the full product description.
Take this ring light I was looking at as an example. It lists 4 main features on the graphic as:
- Tripod stand
- 360 degree rotatable
- 3 colour modes
- 10 brightness levels
As you can see, these are obvious indicators of what the product is, what it does and what it has. Essentially this is just simply describing what characteristics a product has.
Spending the time creating good product features lists can help with not just your sales team but also your marketing department when differentiating between your product offerings.
According to Productboard.com: “If you provide different versions of your product, you can use lists of product features to differentiate them. You can use varying lists of features for different versions to explain what each version does and does not have.”
Identifying your benefits
When creating the benefits list for your product it’s absolutely essential that at this point you stop thinking like the service provider or manufacturer and start thinking like your customer.
You need to get into the mindset of your customer and even spend time talking to them and find out what problems and challenges your product helps them to overcome.
Think about your benefits in these three ways:
Let’s look at those a bit closer.
The functional benefits refer to what your product or service will do for your customers. It’s important for customers to know what’s in it for them. Unfortunately, functional benefits are the easiest to compete on and many other businesses like yours will offer the same ones, so you may wish to dig deeper to find something that really captures their business.
That digging deeper could lead you to the economic benefits which, as you might expect, refer to what your product or service might do for them in terms of time or money. Does it save them time? Does it save them money (or make them money)? Economic benefits appeal to the rational part of the customer. The more value you can give them for their money (without damaging your own interests), the better.
The emotional benefits are the most powerful type of benefit. They’re all about how the product or service will make the customer feel. If you’re offering can appeal to their heart, you’re really onto something. Take Harley Davidson. Customers feel a powerful emotional connection to the brand because of the feeling of rebellion and freedom they experience when they associate with it.
Back to our ring light example.
Broadly speaking the benefits of this product are:
- It’s easy to set up in a way that it’s steady and you don’t need to hold it yourself
- You can move it around to accommodate the angle you want to illuminate at
- 3 colour modes typically give you warmer or colder light meaning it can give warmer or cooler looking hues and ambience
- Having a variety of brightness levels means you can use it in a variety of settings
- The customer will “look” better in videos and photos or their product will look better
- It gives them more confidence as they shoot their YouTube videos
Obviously if you were going to work on a sales pitch for this product you would embellish these benefits with much more colourful language and make them much more succinct – you would also pinpoint your functional, economic and emotional benefits in there.
Know your product
It seems obvious but it’s staggering the number of clients we come across over the years who genuinely don’t know their product very well. There can be many reasons for this such as:
- They’re disconnected from the manufacturing or production
- They simply don’t care enough to understand or learn the finer details
- They have inherited the company or purchased it
- They are new to the job and are still learning themselves
- The product has changed so many times they can’t keep up with their developers
Without understanding what your product is and what it really, truly does you can never identify the features that your customers are likely to resonate with.
Try to remember that customers will tend to fall into the following categories:
- Those who just want a problem solved and don’t necessarily care how your product or service will do that as long as it does
- Those who are geekily invested in understanding every single last detail about your product or service including methods, processes, technical data and more
- Those who have a broad understanding but are looking more at the benefits – they want to be sold to
- Those who are purchasing solely on price and likely just one or two specific things they need the product or service to do
You need to make sure you are capturing each of these customers and ensuring you have the right information in the right place at the right time for them.
Know your customer
The number of times I hear a client tell me “everybody” is their target audience my soul dies a little inside. I’m fairly sure a marketing fairy dies too!
It’s good to have a handle on who your broad audience is, being able to identify a mass audience or customer base is very often one of the things that can help a business grow and scale.
However, when thinking about your features and benefits you really want to consider closely who the majority of your customers actually are.
You may have to create different marketing campaigns with different features and benefits lists for different customer avatars.
No matter how you do it you MUST know your target market well.
- Who do you want to buy from you?
- What are their aims
- What are their biggest problem
- What is their main frustration
- What is the thing (or things) they want the most
- How do they want your product or service to make them feel
Learning and understanding these things will help you to see where your offering can fit into the picture and why your ideal customer might come to you. It will also make it easier to sell to them.
Understanding exactly how your business helps your customers is vital. You have to make sure the customers themselves know how you can help them. A product or service may have interesting or attractive features, but ultimately, if customers don’t see how buying from you will solve their problem or make their lives easier or better in some way, they’ll hold onto their cash.
Taking it one step further than features & benefits: What about the reason to believe?
It’s all well and good getting your features and benefits ducks in a row but maybe you want to push your campaign or product listing that one step further.
How about giving your customers a “reason to believe” (RTB).
To put it bluntly when developing your RTB you’re simply asking yourself “why should this prospective customer believe me?”.
According to marketer and author Felicia C. Sullivan: “The reason to believe (RTB) is why your customer should believe you. What makes your claims and promises credible and trustworthy? Your RTB could be anything from your experience in the field, to proven results and testimonials, to products backed by extensive research or science. Your customer is skeptical because they’ve heard the promises before. Their clarion call is: Prove it to me.”
How do you demonstrate this?
Consider the following:
- Case studies
- Industry statistics
- Surveys and polls
- Research and studies
- Press articles/coverage
Do what you can to back everything you say up. It doesn’t have to always be in the main product listing as this should always be a succinct version, but if you have the time and ability it’s worth putting together more information on your website for people who have further questions about your product or service.
Every time you develop a new product or service for your company or brand take the time to:
- Understand your product/service inside out
- Understand all your audience or customer segments
- Develop your list of main features and then reduce that to the main 3 or 5
- Develop your list of main benefits to the customer and reduce to 3 or 5
- Create your reason to believe content
No matter whether you’re creating a landing page, sales page, product description or anything else make sure you go through all these steps every time you want to communicate your product or service to prospective customers.
And, if you’ve already got this stuff in place, you might want to think about how you can rejuvenate the marketing assets you’re already putting in front of your new customers.
Do you need help creating content for your business or reaching out to the press and media?
At Excalibur Press we have a team of over 12 publicists, content creators, copywriters, journalists and bloggers in a variety of specialisms writing blogs, website content, video, photography and more for clients on a daily basis.
If you would like to speak to a content creator or publicist or would like more information about our rates and process just call 07305354209 or email [email protected].
Find out more about Excalibur Press at excaliburpress.co.