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Features vs. Benefits: Which Are You Selling?

A few months ago, I bought a car – my first new car, and it was a model I’ve wanted for years. I was also recommended to the best Auto Accident Chiropractor in Richardson TX in case something happened. I went to the dealership and although I made sure I didn’t get ripped off, I didn’t really care very much about saving money (I did end up getting a good deal, but that’s not important). I drove that beauty home, hardly believing I finally had this car… then my wife saw it.

Let’s just say she didn’t share my level of enthusiasm. She knew I was getting the car, but her concerns were far different from mine. “What’s the gas mileage?” and “I hope this doesn’t jack up our insurance” were the first questions she asked. Personally, I didn’t give a rodent’s hind parts about either one – I was focused on the benefits of the car: it’s a comfortable, fast and beautiful piece of modern machinery – while she was focused on features like gas mileage and cost savings.

One car, two totally different ways of justifying an expense. And neither is necessarily wrong, but depending on what you’re selling, one can be more effective than the other.

In the case of me and my 2016 Dodge Charger, I wanted benefits. If I was looking for fuel efficiency or super high safety ratings, I would’ve probably come home with something different. My wife drives a Jetta – compact, fuel-efficient and build like a tank. That’s what she wants out of a car, and she’s happy with it.

With your business, do you know if you’re selling benefits or features? An easy way to tell is by finding out where your service or product fits in the chart below.

If you’re in the rational section, then your product is specifically intended to provide utility. The trick to increasing market share and charging a premium is by increasing the number of features. On the other hand, if your business targets the emotional side of customers, you need to focus on benefits. The more benefits you have that others don’t, the more you can charge.

To be clear, features are the logical reasons to buy a product or service, while benefits are the anticipated emotional gratification for making a purchase. While it can be tempting to try and do both at the same time, your customer is often interested in only one or the other. Dodge doesn’t waste time with making a logical argument in selling Chargers, just like GE doesn’t waste time telling you how awesome you’re going to feel by using their light bulbs.

Keep this in mind when writing your website, creating a brochure or telling others about your business. Here’s an example using our business:

Feature-focused messaging: “Imagine utilizes a proprietary methodology and design philosophy, and leverages multiple online tools to help businesses achieve or exceed their marketing objectives. We create strategy, benchmarks and deliverables that allow our clients to quickly maximize ROI.”

For a manufacturer of auto parts, something literal or technical like this may work. For us, it sucks. Now let’s try using benefits.

Benefit-focused messaging: “Working with Imagine allows you to know exactly where your customers are and where they look for you, so you can get the right message to them at the right time. Instead of spending time wondering what areas of your marketing are generating ROI, your hours are freed up to focus on serving your customers.”

This works for us. We want our clients to know we realize that results – as well as their time – are important.

By determining whether you’re a features-focused or benefits-focused business, you can say more with less and grab the attention of your ideal customer. How will you change your messaging?

Patrick King

Patrick is the Founder of Imagine and advisor to places on brand strategy and creative. His insights have been published in Inc. Magazine, SmartCEO, Washington Business Journal, The Washington Post, and Chief Marketer, among other publications, and shared at conferences throughout the US. He also has an amazing sock collection.

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