Features vs benefits: Leveraging the right mix in your marketing message

As much as we all wish there could be a magical ‘all in one formula’ to sell our products to customers, unfortunately, there isn’t. In creating a marketing message to reach a target audience, business owners have to decide on the balance between ‘features and benefits’.

What are features?

Features refer to certain attributes of your product, which could be descriptive or technical. It is basically a surface statement of what the product or service is, how it works, dimensions and so on. They highlight noteworthy information about the product or service offered. These facts add validity and credibility to the product or service you are trying to sell.

As much as you are selling your product or service based on a feature, an effective way of enhancing value to customers is to outline why these features matter. The features of some products are often written in language that makes it difficult for the average customer to understand. There is no point in listing a number of technical specifications if the customer does not know what it means. Take a window advertisement as an example, promoting triple glazed windows. As fancy as the name sounds, customers will not be able to relate to how buying these fancy windows will benefit them in any way. This is where the highlighting benefits come into play.

What are benefits?

Benefits help explain how features enhance the lives of customers. Effective highlighting of a product’s benefits can give your business the ultimate advantage over your competitors, in attracting a customer to your product. Benefits tend to elicit an emotional response, due to the relatability of a message to the audience’s individual lifestyle. There are a couple of ways benefits help to convince customers into purchasing a product or service:

People tend to give a positive response when given a reason

There is something in the psychology of all of us wanting to know the because or why behind every statement. With the wide variety of product and service options available, customers are becoming increasingly sceptical of all products and simply a listing of features will not cut it.

People want a solution to enhance their lives 

Most customers will only purchase a product or service if it improves their life in some way or provides a solution to a problem. In the window example, a customer wanting to warm their house during the winter months would not have purchased the triple glazed windows if the selling company had not listed out the benefits of these windows. Customers need to be able to make a connection between the features (triple-glazed windows) and the benefits they receive (reduction of heat loss and higher temperature inside the panes).

Scales and abacus

How can I find a balance between features and benefits?

This is often the most difficult challenge for business owners. There is no point in outlining features of a product if customers do not know how this product will solve their problems. Conversely, there is no point in providing a list of benefits, but failing to link it to features of a particular product or service.

An effective way of reaching customers is to transform features and benefits. This can be done by first mentioning features of a product, outlining benefits, then diving in deeper to answer the “Why” questions customers might have. Product features increase a customer’s attention, but benefits tip customers over the edge, and choose your product over similar products in the market. For instance, many window glazing companies offer triple glazing products. Why then should a customer choose your triple glazing services over another brand offering the exact same product?

Therefore, in order to create a captivating product message, it is important to place a higher emphasis and dive deeper into the benefits. Remember that any question that comes up in your mind will likely come up in the customer’s minds too, not to mention a load of other questions you may not have thought of.

Leveraging features and benefits

Therefore, when designing a marketing campaign, an easy three-step process should be followed:

Step One: What are the features of this product?

Going back to the window example, the main feature of this product will be a window designed with three layers of glass using a traditional spacer in between each glazing gap.

Step Two: What are the benefits of this product?

Create benefits that answer “Why is this feature included?” and “How will this feature provide a solution to my problem?”

Step Three: What are the benefits of the benefits? (Diving Deeper)

Yes, you read that right. In other words, how do the benefits truly benefit and help individual customers solve their problems? You should dive deeper by asking this ‘Why’ question for every answer given. Every ‘Why’ statement should be moving closer toward a customer’s desire. This allows you to cover every doubt a customer might have and create a convincing advertisement that leaves no hesitation in a customer’s mind.

So how should I be designing my marketing ads?

It’s simple. Start with features, then rely heavily on benefits.

Customers are often distracted by the wide variety of choice and targeted marketing just to buy one simple product. So rather than you risking the chance of them missing an important benefit that you want to highlight, there is nothing to lose in listing down every single benefit related to the product or service.

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Final Tip: Adapt, adapt, adapt

Like I said at the start, there is no ‘all in one formula’ that allows you to reach every single customer. Although the tips recommended above are a great starting point, it is necessary to also look at your target market. From there, you can decide the right mix between features and benefits. For example, if you were a wholesale supplier selling to builders installing triple-glazed windows, they may be well aware of the benefits of the product, and want to instead focus on the features. However, if you were a builder recommending triple-glazed windows to customers. Listing a ton of product features to “impress” the customer, will end up backfiring. This is because customers with no background in that area will not understand what these features mean to them.

Therefore, my final tip is to constantly do your market research, get feedback and adapt your marketing strategies. Our world is constantly changing, and old strategies that worked in the past may not necessarily work today. So keep innovating and happy copywriting!

About the Author

Simon Choi is a former Change Management Consultant specializing in communications. In 2017 he pursued his passion for entrepreneurship starting photography business Refractique. Simon enjoys writing in business and psychology. He lives in Melbourne, Australia.