Definition: A product or service's customer-oriented strengths; statements of a valuable product or service feature, with an emphasis on what the customer gets from the products .
Many small-business marketers assume that prospects will understand why they should buy their product or service just because they've been told about it. Thus, business owners only communicate the features of their product or service to prospective customers and neglect to mention the benefits.
Take a look at the list of features below, taken directly from current advertising and marketing materials:
- Self-setting clock on a DVD player
- 50-number speed dial
- Open 24 hours
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?" meaning the feature provides the customer with something of value to them. So--and this is where most businesses go wrong--that must mean:
- The benefit of a self-setting clock is convenience.
- The benefit of 50-number speed dial is fewer keystrokes.
- The benefit of a store open 24 hours is you can shop there whenever you want.
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 service--or to answer the "What's in it for me?" question--is to focus instead on results. A customer's perception of each feature's results is what attracts him or her to a particular product or service. When someone chooses a VCR with a self-setting clock, the assumption is that the benefit is convenience, but the actual results are that they don't have to read the instructions, watch a blinking 12:00, and, most important, feel stupid. Those results are the true benefits.
When you try to sell the features of your product or service, you're making the customer do all the work to figure out why they want the feature. It's in a seller's best interest to draw the connection for them. But to do that, you have to know the results yourself. Let's take another look at that features list to see the possible benefits from the customer's point of view:
- Self-setting clock: I won't feel dumb!
- 50-number speed dial: I can keep in touch with my best customers without effort, and I won't get frustrated misdialing.
- Open 24 hours: When my pregnant wife craves pickles and ice cream at 4 a.m., I won't have to disappoint her.
By this time, you should be mentally going over every sales pitch or marketing message you've been using with great trepidation and rightly so. If you look carefully and honestly, you'll most likely find that your benefits are really just more features.