More on messaging: Talk benefits vs. features

In my last post I wrote about preparing a message guide to help you think through how to best describe your business and its products or services to customers, prospects and other key audiences, such as the media, who can influence your success. Today I want to talk about a very common mistake small business owners make when they communicate about their products or services. That is talking about features instead of focusing on benefits.

Talking about features instead of benefits is the difference between talking from your point of view and talking from your customers’ point of view. Before they plop down hard-earned money for a product or service, people first and foremost want to know how it will help them. What problem will it solve? How will it make their life better or easier? What value will it provide to them?

Yet all too often, companies push features, features, features, assuming that it will be crystal clear to customers how those features translate into benefits that will help them in their daily lives. But, in fact, feature-based messages often are not crystal clear at all. They are only clear to you because you’re thoroughly immersed in the product’s development. Also, you’re probably constantly comparing your product’s features to those of competitors. They add a new feature and you feel compelled to add not only that feature but also one more. There’s even a term for this; it’s called feature creep, in which extra features that go beyond the basic function of the product are added and often results in over-complication. This frequently happens with software, for example; has anyone on earth ever used all the features of Microsoft Word?

Even if you don’t get caught up in feature creep, if your product messaging focuses on features instead of providing clear, compelling benefit statements, you run the risk of people not understanding why they need your product. By viewing things from the customer’s side and understanding their needs and then crafting statements about how your product or service meets those needs, you’ll significantly improve your ability to attract customer attention and close sales.

The first product of many small businesses is often created based on the owner’s technical expertise. It is often hard to shift from talking about features to benefits if you are in love with the technology behind your product. You may be fascinated with how it works and assume everyone else will be equally enthralled when this is not necessarily the case at all.

I’ve recently become a fan of the program “Shark Tank” on ABC, and have definitely seen more than one entrepreneur fail to get funding from the sharks because they were unable to clearly explain why anyone needed their product. They were extremely enthusiastic about how they’d come up with the idea and how great the product works, but they couldn’t answer questions about whether anyone actually needed it and would be willing to pay enough for it to make the product profitable.

What grabs people’s attention is information about how a product will improve their lives. Many people – perhaps even most people – don’t especially care how or why something works as long as it solves a problem or meets a need.

I’m not saying there isn’t a place to tout features. Many people want to compare features across competing brands before making a purchase, so you certainly want to make it simple for them to do that. But an all-features/all-the-time approach to your customer communications will not get the job done. Keep that in mind as you write your messaging guide.

Here are a couple more viewpoints on this topic that reinforce my message. Enjoy!

Stop Selling Products!

Features vs. Benefits: How to Properly Sell Your Products or Content

1 comment

  1. Trish says:

    This is very helpful. It's easy to get caught up in the features and forget the WIIFM (What's In It For Me) point-of-view.

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