The most successful Advertising Agencies and copywriters have long known, to get massive results you’ve got to sell the sizzle! In other words it is absolutely critical to promote the BENEFITS of your product or service, not its features alone.
For example, the most successful Airlines have known for decades that you need to sell a vacation to some exotic destination or place and NOT just the trip to get there. OR, amazing designers like Versace, Armani, Chanel, Gucci or Hermes for example – sell fashion, NOT just practically of clothing. AND, Insurance Companies sell security and deliver ‘peace of mind’ NOT just a paper contract or word document.
It is incredibly important to understand and highlight the BENEFITS of your product or service because they are the key to selling your product or service to other businesses and customers. If the “value” you are selling is unique to your offering and large enough to make it a priority, you will win the business. Benefits = Value and that’s what ‘selling value’ is all about.
So, with that said, I thought I should kickoff with my best answer to the question I get asked by clients or companies in the US, Asia, Europe, and from startups to Fortune 500 brands.
What’s the difference between features and benefits?
- Features are facts about your products or services; they add credibility and substance to your sales pitch.
Some examples might include:
- Open 24 hours
- Batteries included
- Self-setting clock
- Benefits give customers a reason to buy because they explain how your product or service improves their lives. I always recommend adding value, i.e. Immediacy. Free and fast delivery. Inventory breadth. Quality. Price. Choices. Customization. Risk Free. Guaranteed. Unconditional. NOW*. Expires.
I have also found over the years that real benefits connect to your customer’s desires such as reducing costs; saving money, making more money; becoming happier, healthier, more relaxed, being more productive, etc. Additionally, you can only sell with real benefits if you know what your audience wishes, desires, and secretly dreams of.
That’s what selling the sizzle, not the steak, is all about – it’s delivering your value proposition to both new and existing customers!
Additionally, one of the biggest traps a copywriter (or client) can fall into is confusing features with benefits. Often when selling a product or service, both clients and copywriters merely present a list of features, and that’s simply not enough to make a sale today!
However, understanding features and translating them into benefits are equally important in writing your advertising and promotional material. But at the end of the day, it will be the ‘benefits’ that give you the single best advantages for converting customers and building trust and loyalty. I have also found, especially in B2B, make your benefits promise specific. Instead of generalities, use percentages, time elapsed, dollars saved.
I have always found, it’s better to ‘show’ versus ‘tell’, in fact, I can categorically say, show your audience the benefits of your product vs. telling them about the features. It is also important to remember that features work on a ‘factual’ level rather than an ‘emotional’ one because features can also be confusing or hard for a customer to understand.
Importantly, feature-only marketing also puts the burden of understanding on your potential buyer. They are left to connect the dots between the specifications you’ve listed and how they will benefit them. When you leave your audience to draw their own conclusions, you run the risk of confusing them and drawing the wrong ones!
If, for example, you market a Mercedes-Benz car as being “fast,” the audience might interpret this as “thrilling” and “exciting,” but they could just as easily perceive it as “reckless” and “unsafe.” Note the import difference!
Transforming features into benefits
The good news is that features can be transformed into benefits. In fact, this process will help you create the strongest possible benefits or value proposition. To achieve this transformation, you need to tell the audience how your products features will benefit them.
- The gas mileage on a car is a feature; the amount of money you can save on gas is a benefit.
- Home delivery is a feature; not having to interrupt your schedule to go to the store is a benefit.
- This bike has 24 gears, so you don’t have to worry about struggling uphill – you can use the lowest gear.
As an Internet Marketing pioneer from the mid 1990’s, I discovered that by describing the features and benefits up front on your website you will grab your potential customers’ attention quickly even while their mouse/cursor is hovering over the back button. Therefore, whenever and wherever you advertise, I strongly recommend the following:
- Highlight a key benefit (or problem you’ll avoid) in your headline or subhead
- Use ‘bullet points’ to list a series of features and benefits, because they’re easy to scan; mention the most important points first or last
- Avoid technical language your reader or client might not understand
- Use easy to read typeface and don’t clutter up the background with inappropriate bells and whistles that can detract from the benefits!
Additionally, try making a list of your product’s features and then practice writing the benefits for each. Do this again for different audiences, even audiences you might not have considered before. You may just find a new way of looking at your product that helps you better connect with your consumers. So in summary:
- Know your customers/clients gather demographic data (age, sex, household income, family size, number of credit cards, media preferences and so on) and psychographic data (value system, primary hot button, behavioral style, response mechanisms, fears, and passions).
- Always think in terms of results, success and BENEFITS.
- Benefits are good things that come to your customer or client because your product/service has solved their problems, saved them time and money, good feelings, respect from other people, sense of meaning or passion in their life.
Finally, always remember consumers rarely want to buy things for the sake of buying them – they want their purchase to solve their problems.
A feature is what something is, and a benefit is what users can do or accomplish with it.
It takes time and patience to learn how to focus on selling the benefits vs. the features of your products or service. Take the time to practice and perform writing exercises that will improve your skills and give your advertising as many advantages as possible. And, if you are a client, always tell your Agency or copywriter to highlight the benefits first!
MORE ABOUT GEOFF DE WEAVER:
Super strategist who directs Fortune 500 clients to define their vision, create a strategy, and harness their internal innovation to grow their business or reinvent their products. My key skills are decades of data-powered tools including: CRM, Mobile, Social Media, PR and Digital.
Expert at building and transforming brands, businesses, and digital and physical customer experiences at scale. Adept at telling a cohesive and integrated global story across multiple audiences.
Geoff is currently ranked the Top 1% in the Advertising & Marketing Industries with his network on Linkedin and Social Selling Index worldwide. He has a remarkable reach of over 628,220,522 1st, 2nd and 3rd level connections alone on LinkedIn worldwide. (and a US focus)
History of success developing and executing cross-channel global marketing campaigns to drive brand positioning, equity, and awareness while increasing engagement and sales and loyalty. Over three decades of worldwide experience gained in markets like New York City, San Francisco, London, Hong Kong, Sydney, Taipei, etc.
Innovative entrepreneur, author, speaker, and advertising executive with vast expertise driving business growth, reinventing brands, and implementing global marketing campaigns. Always proud and motivated to act as a trusted advisor to many CEO’s, CMO’s and iconic brands worldwide.
Connect with me here:
Amazon Authors: https://www.amazon.com/Geoff-De-Weaver/e/B007DAEKFG
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