Do you know the difference between features and benefits?
It seems like a dead easy question, but it’s not. Actually, most business owners and marketers get it wrong.
And they get it wrong because their focus is on the product or service they’re selling, not on the customer. They’re selling features.
But the customer is wanting to buy benefits. She’ll hand over her credit card once she understands what’s in it for her. What is the benefit to her when she buys your product?
To sell your product or services you need to stress the benefits, not the features.
Why? Because customers really don’t care about you or the products and services you’re selling. They just want to know what’s in it for them and how your product can benefit them.
The difference between features and benefits
A definition is handy:
Features are facts about what your product or service does. Benefits are what your customer gets out of it.
Here are a couple of examples.
The first is a classic by former Harvard Business School marketing professor Theodore Levitt who said:
People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole.
Let’s break this down with an example of a man who’s been given a framed photograph of his beautiful granddaughter. He wants to hang the photo in the sitting room and he needs to buy a drill that can make a hole in the brick wall, so he can place a picture hook to hang the photo.
The feature is a drill that can make a hole in brick-work or concrete. The benefit is he can hang the photo. But there’s more to this and that’s the ultimate benefit, which is the joy and pride he derives by looking at his beautiful granddaughter.
The second example I’ve borrowed from Brian Clark, founder and CEO of Rainmaker Digital, who discusses the motivation and benefits of people getting a college education. To quote Brian:
People don’t really go to and the parents really don’t pay for college in order to get an education. Knowledge is what colleges are providing. But what people are buying with all those tuition dollars are the benefits of knowledge.
In this case, the features are the descriptive facts of the course and its subjects. The benefits are what the student gains from the course and this goes much deeper than just the piece of paper on graduation day.
For a start, people with a college degree typically make more money than those without; they generally find it easier to get a job; and they can hopefully enjoy a better lifestyle which is an ultimate benefit.
The Benefits Pyramid
A handy way to look at features and benefits is with the Benefits Pyramid.
The pyramid represents the different levels of benefits, starting with “Features”. These are the descriptive facts about your product.
The next level is “Advantages”. This is what differentiates your product from your competitors. It’s what gives you the edge.
The next level is “Benefits” and then we move up to “Ultimate Benefits”.
There are benefits and then there are those ultimate benefits
Benefits tell you what your customers want to do and be.
Ultimate benefits align with the customer’s self-interest and what they’re looking for. Some of the things people want are to:
- Look attractive
- Be respected
- Be loved
- Be admired
- Be more productive
- Make more money
- Be happy
- Have good health
- Have less stress
- Have more leisure time
Finally, people want to avoid sickness, uncertainty, pain, fear, and guilt.
Advantages differentiate your product
Advantages is what differentiates your product from your competitors. What are the advantages of your product over your competitors? What is it that differentiates you.
Basically, advantages are the Unique Selling Proposition for your product or service.
How to find out what the benefits of your product or service are
First and foremost, it doesn’t matter how great your product is and the features offered, your customer isn’t interested.
She’s only interested in what your product can do for her. What’s in it for her. How can she benefit?
When selling, you need to sell with benefits and support with features.
This is easier said than done. Many marketers struggle to describe the benefits of their product, but there are a couple of cool ways of doing it.
One way is to list the feature at the beginning of a sentence and then transition to the benefit with the words “which means“. Let’s go back to the drill example and simplify it.
This drill can make a hole in a concrete wall which means you can hang a photo.
A useful method but a bit boring and doesn’t easily help you get the ultimate benefit which all customers subconsciously want.
My preferred way is the So What trick that Henneke advocates. It quickly defines the benefit of a feature. Here’s an example.
Imagine you’re selling an electric kettle. There are a number of features on the kettle but its special feature is that it boils water fast. This feature, like all features, is a fact about the product.
To flesh out the benefit the dialogue would go like this:
This electric kettle boils water quickly.
It takes less time to make your cup of coffee.
You’ll be able to enjoy your coffee sooner [benefit]
You’ll have more time to do the things you want to do [ultimate benefit].
Let’s revisit the drill and extract the benefit using so what:
This power drill has a hammerhead action.
It can drill through brickwork and concrete
It can make a hole in the wall so a picture hook can be inserted to hang a photo [benefit].
You’ll able to look at your beautiful granddaughter [ultimate benefit].
You can see by using so what in the above examples, we’ve been able to transition from features, through to benefits, and finally, ultimate benefits. You’ve described the ultimate benefit when you no longer can answer another so what question.
Know your customer to understand the benefits they want
All products have more than one feature and each feature has a benefit. Knowing what benefit to describe to your potential customer is to understand the benefits they’re wanting.
People want many things, but how do you find the real benefits your potential customers are seeking?
That comes back to the very basics of knowing your potential customer. Being able to empathize with them and see their worldview. This will give you an understanding of their desires, wishes and pain points.
Sell the benefits to increase sales
A bit of psychology. People make decisions at a deep-rooted emotional level and then justify it with facts and logic.
When buying a product, your customer is thinking of the benefit she can obtain and sub-consciously the ultimate benefit. She’ll then justify her decision to purchase based on the great features your product has over the competition. It’s as simple as that.
By knowing your potential customer, you’re in a position to sell the benefits your product or service offers. That’s what your customer wants, you’re aligned, and the sale is yours.
The expression “sell with benefits, support with features” is ever so true.