Features vs. Benefits: How to Get Your Marketing to Produce Results

Features vs. Benefits: How to Get Your Marketing to Produce Results

fruits and vegetablesThe $64,000 question is: Do your customers want to buy what you’re selling?

If you’ve done your marketing homework (i.e., market research), and you know without a doubt that your product or service is something people need and/or want, yet you still fail to generate sales, then there’s something missing in your marketing messages. You may be talking about features and not benefits.

In short, you’re not “speaking” your customer’s language (either online or in person).

So how do you do that?  How do you get on the same page and make that important connection?

You stop talking about your product or service’s features (usually the things you think are brilliant) and start explaining the benefits (what’s in it for your customer).

Here’s what I mean:  if you’re unlucky enough to still have a hard copy of the yellow pages around, go get it. (It’s okay, I’ll wait.)

Now open it up to any page and take a look at the display ads. Notice the words they use to describe their various offerings.  Turn some pages and keep reading. Notice anything?

If you said that most of the ads used very similar words and text — bingo! You’d be right.

Here’s are some typical examples you might find on just about any ad:

  • Satisfaction Guaranteed
  • Open 7 days
  • Se habla español
  • Free estimates (consultations, etc.)
  • No appointment necessary

You’ll also see various bullet lists of features that are specific to that type of business.  Take a peak at the beauty salons and you’ll see a list of things like: Haircuts, Highlights, Perms, Waxing, Nails…Ad infinitum.

The problem here is two fold:

1. These businesses aren’t differentiating themselves from the other businesses in their niche (they are using the same marketing messages as everyone else); and

2. They’re using a list of features instead of benefits.

Your customer really wants to know this one thing: How do you solve my problem? They may not consciously know that that’s what they want to know. But it is. Trust me.

You need to paint a picture for them of the benefit(s) they’ll get if they buy from you!

When you explain the benefits to a prospective customer, they are much more likely to make the connection in their brain that they need/want what you have to sell.

AND, if you take it a step further and explain the emotional benefit they’ll receive and couple it with a call to action (something like, how would you like to pay for this? Credit card or check?), you’ll have a sale for sure.

Here’s a very simple example of what I mean:

Let’s say you’re selling pencils. And one of the features of these pencils is that their shape is hexagonal. Cool right? (Yes, but that’s just a feature.)

The benefit they get from this feature is that the pencil won’t roll off the desk. It stays put. That’s the cool part, right? (Almost, but not quite.)

The emotional benefit is what’s truly important. Why? Because all sales decisions are ultimately based on our emotions. Even when we try to be objective and logical, we only buy when we feel that it’s right.

In this case, it could be that having a pencil that stays put saves you time and energy (eliminates the need to bend down and pick it up, or eliminates the time wasted in trying to find where it went); thus, keeping your work day running smoothly. In other words, it keeps you feeling calm and collected.

The emotional benefit is something that should be extremely important to our target customer: the stressed out accountant. The guy who’s already working 60 hours a week and doesn’t have time for little annoyances like pencils rolling away to nowhere.

And when you use that little scenario to paint the picture for the customer, they will “see” it and “hear” it and it will all make perfect sense to them.  And then they will say, “Yes!”, and pull out their wallet.

Try this with your own product or service:  take out a sheet of paper and draw two lines down the center so that you have 3 columns to work with.

1. In column 1, list every possible feature of your product/service.

2. Next to it in column 2, ask yourself the question “So what?” and write down the answer.

3. In Column 3, ask yourself again, “So What? (or “what positive emotion does this create in my customer?”) and write down your answer.

Keep repeating until you’ve exhausted every possibility.

Now check the emotional benefits against your market research and see where they line up with what your target customer wants and/or needs. These are the stories you need to be telling. This is the language you need to be using to connect with your prospects.

Need some help figuring out the true benefits of your product or service? Leave a comment or question below about your product and a link to your website (if you’ve got one), and I’ll take a look and respond with some specific advice.


  • http://www.robinhardman.com Robin Hardman

    Hi, Tea. I’m trying to work my way through “Rock Your Web Copy” and am already stuck on lesson one. I linked to this article (and then to the article on emotional branding) and tried to do the “Feature/So what/So What” exercise but don’t feel I have a clear handle on the true benefits of my services. The problem is I am a writer-for-hire, focusing mostly (but not exclusively) on corporate internal communications–just like 10 million other writers as well as many large and well-reputed agencies. I do have an area of content expertise (work-life balance; “great employer” awards) but some things I’m hired for (and greatly enjoy doing) are not in this area. “Great employer” award applications are seasonable and I’d like to be doing other kinds of writing during the down times. Which brings me to problem 2: I don’t have one single target audience, I have many–surely a problem most businesses have but I can’t figure out how to market my various services.

    Thanks in advance for any help you can give me.

    • http://www.thewordchef.com Tea Silvestre

      Robin – what you’re talking about is NOT uncommon. In fact, it’s one of THE most common stumbling blocks for the small biz. My recommendation is to tackle your ideal clients one at a time. Most of us DO have multiple target markets. But start with the one that currently brings you the most money. What is HER biggest problem? If you don’t know that yet, it’s time to dig in and do some market research. Once you’ve figured that out, you’ll then be able to do the so what/so what exercise. If you find yourself struggling to answer any questions, it’s usually because you don’t have enough information about your prospects (yet). Great question, Robin! I’m going to address this more fully in a future blog post. (I’ll be sure to ping you with the link when it goes live.) Until then – if you want to chat, I offer free 20 min. consults. Just shoot me an email.

  • Pingback: Case Study: How to Conquer the Blank Page and Write Better Sales Copy - Word Chef | Tea Silvestre - Marketing Consultant, Writer()

  • http://wwwJanDeelstra.com/ Jan Deelstra

    This is one of those “one step forward…two steps…” you know the cliche. I too am struggling with the “Features/SoWhat/SoWhat” columns. My ideal client/target niche is business women who are feeling a disconnect, and asking the age-old question of “is this all there is?” I help business women bridge the gap between where they are and where they desire to be. That’s the business, but it needs a lot of frosting because it just doesn’t sound all that appetizing. Realizing this blog post is ancient in technology years, I’m wondering if you’ll even see this. Nonetheless, here I am: http://www.JanDeelsta.com

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