Why features tell, but benefits sell

As business owners, we spend so much time researching, developing and refining our product offering we can sometimes overwhelm our customers with all the reasons they ‘should’ buy our products.

I made a client smile recently by using the old marketing adage of ‘features tell, benefits sell’. He hadn’t heard the phase before and it helped him understand how to alter his point of view to be more in line with his customer’s needs and desires.  I was reminded again of this theory when trying to purchase a pushbike; bamboozled by tyre types, hybrids, carbon wheels and so on. In the end I referred to the customer comments and reviews on the pushbike I was interested in, in the hopes that a ‘normal person’ could tell me what I needed to know (was it comfy, could I fit a child seat to it and so on).

In a nutshell, features are all the great facts about your product you want a customer to know. Communicating these facts can work well in an environment where there are many products that are similar but yours has the edge, or all customers are guaranteed to be expert and understand what those facts mean to them.

For example: This hybrid bicycle has carbon wheels and a gel saddle.

On the the flip side, benefits show the customer ‘what’s in it for me’. A benefit, communicated well, can solve a problem for a customer (I need a bike for my commute to work), fulfil a desire they have (I want to look like I’m good at riding a bike/I don’t want to look like an idiot riding a bike) , or show them the results they might expect (I’ll arrive at work in good time without being too tired).

For example: This bicycle makes long rides easier with its lightweight carbon wheels. Its hybrid design is flexible enough to use for everyday commuter cycling on road and for leisure rides over mixed terrain.  The gel seat is ergonomic and comfortable. 

A simple way of turning a feature into a benefit when writing enticing copy is to apply the ‘so what’ test. After each statement, put yourself into your customer’s mindset and ask yourself ‘so what?’. Fill your copy with clearly communicated benefits, the results that your customer can expect and solve your customers problems for them.

It is vital to put yourself into your target customer mindset; a road cyclist who regularly reads cycling magazines and considers him/herself expert on bikes will need a different type of product description to a leisure cyclist who wants to choose a new bike for infrequent trips to the park with the family.

In summary; start with the facts, ask yourself ‘so what?’, and tailor your benefits to your target customers needs and desires.

If you need help with writing copy for a product launch, website or packaging contact us at Brandbalm Marketing for marketing support and advice.




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