Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Writing about features and benefits, there's a difference

Remember the old “features” and “benefits”. I’ve been involved with these two aspects of many a product over more years than I care to remember. (In an earlier life as a sales representative, the product features and benefits were drummed to us by the powers that be in every product training session.)

I note that in a number of ads, I’ve come across in the last few years and up to the present, product features are prominently covered in the body copy of print ads. So much so, that the actual benefits that accrue from those features are many times forgotten. Or, left to the reader to work out.

So, what am I getting at. It’s simply this: to sell product, one has to concentrate on benefits, not features. It’s benefits that sell, not the features.

Features are the different aspects that describe the product. This may be the bells and whistles, which many a salesperson, has more than once been so enamoured of that the benefits of these are lost in the telling. Or, they may be the nuts and bolts of a product.

Let’s stick to print ads, for the purpose of this post. Using a personal computer as an example, today, we see many ads pushing dual core processors, and the amount of RAM found in the units being promoted.

This is akin to saying that this car has so many horsepower (kilowatts of power if we must think metric), or so many cylinders and so on.

This is alright, if we are preparing a specification from which we will be supplying a product. But, as we are trying to sell, we need to highlight benefits. Yes, the old what’s in it for the buyer. What will a buyer or eventual user get from the feature you just highlighted?

Taking the PC example again, more RAM, means that it is a lot easier working a particular computer. In the days of memory measured in kilobytes, rather megabytes (really gigabytes today), this meant the user had to shut down an application before switching to another.

Yes, dear reader, this used to be the case. Our younger readers may not appreciate this, but that was how it was only some 10 years ago.

Anyway, I digress. Multi-tasking is now a given. But, if you were trying to sell a computer with only 512 Mbytes of RAM, what chance have you against your opposition’s offering 2 GB.

But, instead of pointing out the 2 GB, we can highlight the benefit of greater productivity, because of greater RAM. This means in the end, more time to do other things, or more dollars in the bottom line.

That’s right. That is what is in it for the prospective buyer (which is what the reader is).

So, when preparing your next ad, don’t forget to stress benefits, rather than features. If you do have to enumerate features, don’t forget to explain just what this means to the reader. That’t right, what the benefit of the feature is to that person.

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