Do you know what the difference is between the features and benefits of your product? Are you sure? A lot of marketers think they are talking about benefits, when in fact they are talking about features. If you make this very common mistake, you will be leaving many of your prospective customers asking: “So what?” Here is why understanding the difference between features and benefits is so important.
What is a Feature?
A feature is a factual statement about a product. It could be the specs of a product, the dimensions, or an aspect of functionality. A feature of a vacuum cleaner, for example, would be that it is cordless. A feature of a car would be its fuel efficiency rating.
What is an Advantage?
To further confuse things, there are also the advantages of a product. These sit somewhere between the features and benefits. The advantage of a cordless vacuum cleaner is that you don’t need to plug it into an electrical outlet. The advantage of a fuel-efficient car is that it will cost less to run, and it will be better for the environment.
What is a Benefit?
A benefit is something that users will gain if they buy the product. It’s an outcome of using the product or service. Benefits are usually much more personal and emotional than features or advantages. A benefit of a cordless vacuum cleaner is that you are not hindered by the cord. The practical benefit of a fuel-efficient car is the extra money you will have in your pocket to spend. There is also an emotional benefit of knowing that you are helping to slow global warming.
Why Do People Confuse Features and Benefits?
When you read the definitions above, the differences seem obvious. When you are writing a description of your own product, though, it is easy to get them confused.
One of the reasons that people get features and benefits mixed up is that marketers are too close to their own products. Because they understand what a feature means to a user of a product, they assume that everyone else does. They forget to ask that important question; “So what?”
Marketers and advertisers also tend to place too much value on features. A car manufacturer might be proud that their new car does one mile per gallon more than the competitor’s car. The consumer, though, is interested in how much that 1MPG is worth in cash to them.
Features State Facts, Benefits Tell a Story
With some types of products, the features are very important. The consumer electronics market is a good example of this. In markets where the consumer is well-informed, the specs are as indispensable as any other facts. To an experienced gamer, for example, the RAM on a computer will mean something.
In most markets, though, it is the benefits that sell products. This is because the benefits can tell a story that the user can relate to. A marketer can describe a problem that people will understand. Then they can demonstrate how the product solves that problem.
The benefits of a product don’t always have to be practical. Benefits can be emotional as well. A feature of a one-off piece of art is that it is unique. The uniqueness has no practical use. The emotional benefit is the knowledge that no one else owns a piece of art like it.
To avoid getting too heavily focused on features, you need to answer the questions of “So what?” and “What does that mean to me?” If you are selling superfast broadband, you could mention the 55 Mbps download speed. To which most consumers would ask “So What?” You could then explain that 55 Mbps means that you can download files faster. That’s an advantage, but it will still leave the question of “What does that mean to me?” Tell someone that they can download a movie in minutes instead of hours, though, and you have a benefit. A benefit that has a real value that people will be willing to pay for.