Features and benefits have an enormous impact on both what we buy and what we are willing to pay. Why do some people pay more for organic coffee? It’s not how the beans were grown. As they pay more, people think about living longer. Here’s the problem you face as you write marketing material. When we’re writing about our businesses, we often talk about features. We do this for two reasons. First, we spend a lot of time developing and perfecting features. Second, we’re able to translate the features to benefits in our heads. We leave the step of translating for our potential customers out. If you translate your features into benefits for your customer, you will be able to grow your business faster with less effort.

Let’s start with features.

Features are fantastic, but features just don’t sell products. What are features when it comes to coffee? Think about the caffeine strength, the type of brew, type of bean, how it is brewed & how the beans are grown. Organic is just another feature that coffee might have. Do you find yourself getting interested when you think about stronger coffee? If so – you just translated the benefit of more caffeine to feeling awake and energetic.

Understanding benefits.

Benefits are the why behind your features. They are the reason you develop features in the first place. Again, if you link the purchase to the benefits, you will make more sales more easily.

If you can’t identify the benefits, ask yourself, “What will happen if my customer uses this feature?” Let’s briefly consider the size of a truck’s payload. The benefit of a larger payload might be fewer trips when bringing supplies to a job site. This is a tangible benefit that is exciting to the right people. Let’s return to coffee for our next example. People don’t get excited about how the beans are grown until they translate that to the benefit of a longer life. Consider what SFGate.com has to say about the benefits of organic coffee:

Organic_Food_Healthy_SFGate

How do you feel about drinking regular coffee after reading that ad? Most people would probably feel a bit anxious. So you just need to pay a few more pennies a cup and you reduce your chances of getting cancer.

Let’s look at how this is positioned in modern society today. People are bombarded by negative health messages on a daily basis. Consider what you see on television on a daily basis: prescription drug deaths & lawsuits, stories about a celebrity passing away from cancer & news stories about health problems. If you drink organic coffee, you feel safer for a short while.

In this blog post excerpt, the author minimizes the costs, enhances the sense of risk we already feel and then alleviates the anxiety by highlighting the benefits of drinking organic coffee. Not a bad deal.

Here’s another excerpt of the same blog post:

Environmental_Benefits

Now this is a brilliant marketing message. So, in addition to feeling better (and lower odds of cancer), you get to make the world a better place. If you make the world a better place, you feel better. For the price of a cup of coffee, you help the environment and make life better for farm workers.

Translating features into benefits.

When you are developing marketing messaging, translating the features into benefits is key. If you do this correctly, it will broaden the audience that finds your material appealing.

Take a quick look at this ad:

Plumbing2

I see some potential mistakes in the messaging. For some people, being treated like family may not be a good thing. The author likely wanted to convey a sense of safety; however, some families are not safe. The ad would be a little stronger if the author translated the feature (how the employees will treat you) to the benefit: feeling safe and comfortable with a plumber in your home.

Again, let’s look at how the ad is positioned in the broader world. When people buy plumbing services, it typically involves paying a lot of money for something they would rather avoid thinking about. Plumbing is worse than boring; it’s a little (or very) repulsive. If you want to position yourself as a safe and trustworthy person who can solve these problems, you need to highlight these benefits.

Let’s review the features mentioned in this ad: arrives on time, polite & cleans up. How would you translate these features to benefits? Again, consider the why behind the feature. Here are a few examples based on the plumber scenario:

  • Arrives on time = you don’t sit around waiting.
  • Polite = you feel more comfortable and safe inviting them into your home.
  • Cleans up = less work for you.

Use features to support benefits.

Which is more powerful?

  • Feel safe inviting our plumbers into your home.
  • Feel safe inviting our polite plumbers into your home. (They even take their shoes off!)

Polite plumbers and taking their shoes off are both features, but they provide depth and proof that people can feel safe. As you move forward writing material for your website, consider the benefits and features of your service. Use them both to support your overall marketing message.

How do you define benefits and features? Tell me in the comments!

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