If you are part of an engineer-led company, one of your biggest headaches is apt to be identifying product benefits. People who are very close to a product think that “everybody knows” what the benefits are and just describing the features is enough. Copywriters need to ask tough questions to find out what the customers gain from using a product.
Features and Benefits: What’s in It for Me?
When you see a section in a sales guide called “Features and Benefits,” the specific features and benefits may be mixed together and/or buried in mountains of dull marketing-speak. It is your job to ask questions and dig through this marketing mess to locate the valuable nuggets within. And because features and benefits are not often mapped out one-to-one, they are easily confused. The difference between a feature and a benefit is very simple, but unfortunately not intuitive.
Let’s look at some examples:
Feature: Comprehensive set of features and functions in a single product
Benefit: Eliminates the need to run incompatible products from different vendors
Explanation: If you are selling a system in which everything the customer needs is integrated in a single product that has been created by one set of engineers with a common plan, you have a huge selling point. Products from different vendors are never 100% compatible (regardless of what anyone tells you) and getting disparate product technologies to work together is an enormous headache, leading to frequent breakdowns and problems that cannot be easily debugged.
Feature: Reports emergencies immediately
Benefit: Allows quick action in unpredictable situations
Explanation: If something goes seriously wrong, the person on call gets a message via cell phone or pager within seconds so quick action can be taken. The customer looks like they are on top of the situation.
Feature: Tracks historical data and creates a maintenance schedule
Benefit: Anticipates common problems so that they can be corrected quickly, before expensive emergency repairs are required
Explanation: This is another strong selling point. If you neglect maintenance, the device or system will eventually breakdown (for example, if a car develops a slow but significant fluid leak or deleted email messages aren’t removed and are allowed to build up).
Feature: Includes free expert installation
Benefit: Saves staff time and assures that the system will be installed correctly as quickly as possible
Explanation: For expensive complex products, the seller usually sends installers onsite or has a technician get on the phone with the buyer’s staff to install the product. This is another strong selling poing, especially if the service is free. The seller’s experts can also provide hands-on training and a chance for the customer’s staff to ask questions and get answers that they would otherwise have to spend time searching manuals or web pages to find.
Keeping Features and Benefits Separate in Your Head
Just remember – a feature is what the product actually does while a benefit is what the customer gains by using that feature: spends less money, losses less time, has a happy boss, becomes promotable, is respected by fellow employees, etc. These are all benefits, and you need to ferret them out and find a way to make them clear.