Tuesday May 27 2014

To focus on product features or benefits?

By Dorothy M. Tuma

What information do you include in the promotional messages that you use to attract and /or retain new customers? You may have heard it said that your messages must let customers know “what is in it for them.” Different businesses interpret this marketing communication rule in different ways.

How do you interpret it? When you tell customers what you think they stand to gain by using your products or services, what do you focus on - features, benefits or a mix or both? This is part one of a two part series discussing the difference between features and benefits and why it matters.

Suppose you run a school and are limited to selecting two promotional lines from the statements below, would you pick the (a) statements or the (b) statements from each pair? Remember promoting is about attracting customers and the message should appeal to your customers, not to you.

Pair 1
a) “All our teachers are highly qualified”
b) “100 percent of our PLE candidates score 5 points or less”

Pair 2
a) “We offer public speaking and computer classes”
b) “Our pupils are confident, articulate and computer-savvy”

If you selected the (a) statements, you believe that product / service features or attributes are the most attractive message you can present to your customers. Highly qualified teachers, public speaking and computer classes describe something about the school. For the purposes of illustration, here are two more examples.

A tooth paste manufacturer who advertises tooth paste as “white” and “containing fluoride” is describing something about the tooth paste. A trainer who promotes their training courses as “short, practical and tailored,” is promoting features of their training programmes.

By telling your customers what your product / service features are, you are telling them what your product is. Product features are strictly about the product. What are the features of your products or services?

Those who selected the (b) statements believe that the benefits customers will enjoy as a result of bringing their children to this school, offer a more appealing message. Product benefits refer to what the product / service does for customers. Going back to the toothpaste example, the manufacturer who focuses on benefits will promote results like the fresh breath that users of their tooth paste will enjoy.

The customer service trainers will say their training programmes lead to higher customer retention rates. Public speaking coaches will promote the articulate and confident speakers who graduate from their programmes. Benefits put the spotlight on your customer.

What are the benefits of the products/ services you provide?
Are you able to clearly distinguish between your product / service features and benefits? Product / service related items are features.

The results customers enjoy as a result of consuming your product / service are benefits. The two lists should not overlap.

Next week: Why the difference between features and benefits matters.

E-mail: dorothy_tuma@dmtconsultants.net