Feature v. benefit

One of the most common yet most misunderstood, even overlooked aspect of marketing one’s business to customers is effectively communicating your benefits to customers.

This might seem elementary, but I’ve seen even seasoned marketing professionals confuse a business feature with a customer benefit.

Here’s what I’m talking about: imagine yourself standing before your ideal customer. The customer asks you, “Why should I buy your product?” or “Why should I use your service?” Now, if you’ve taken the time to truly understand your customer, you would know that your answer should correspond to what truly motivates that customer, and not to something intrinsic to your business.

To make this example familiar, let’s use McDonald’s to illustrate. Now there are probably a lot of reasons why a loyal customer would choose to eat at McDonald’s. So what might be one of them? Well, a feature of McDonald’s business is that it has many locations all over the world. However, “lots of locations” isn’t really the reason why someone would eat at McDonald’s. In other words, it’s not a benefit.

The benefit (or outgrowth of the feature) might be that McDonald’s is easy for the customer to find and access. Carrying that a step further, an even more relevant benefit might be that the customer knows that no matter where she finds a McDonald’s, she’s going to experience the same delicious Big Mac served quickly and conveniently.

So, in a nutshell, features are about your business, while benefits are about the customer. Don’t ever be caught flat-footed describing your product or service using vacuous terms like “quality” or “value.” Everybody says this. As a result these terms have become meaningless. Go beyond, get specific and differentiate your business in terms that describe what’s in it for your customers.