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What do you think customers consider the most when they’re comparing different brands of a product they’d like to purchase? What would make them choose one over the other? The one with better-looking features? Or is it the one possessing better benefits?

You’ll almost certainly go for benefits. After all, people won’t be spending their scarce cash on something just because it appears to have more air horns or springs about it; they’re more interested in what it can do for them. Or are they?

In actual fact, a lot of businesses still seem to be oblivious of the fact we’ve just laid out. While we’re all so comfortable with chanting mantras about the primacy of adding value to clients’ lives and making our brands customer-centric, we still want to design products that seem pretty to us, without considering the prospective buyers’ preferences. We like to add shiny new features to our offerings, just to get the public excited- but we neglect basic things like product effectiveness and durability.

When you’re trying to persuade people to buy your wares, do you tell them about what benefits they’ll get from it, or do you simply point out that it’s pleasing on the eyes and pleasant to touch? Are you constantly bamboozling them with fancy product specification lingo, or do you cut to the chase and tell what’s in it for them?

It’s true that in certain cases, dwelling a bit more on product features in your marketing is a good idea. It might even be the norm in your industry, something even your would-be customer would expect from you. The point we’re making here is this: don’t oversell specs. And sometimes, you might even need to sell very little of it.

So, when should you harp on your service’s benefits? And when is it ideal to zero in on its features instead? We’ll try to answer this question by turning over a few instances in which one is frequently more talked about in marketing than the other.

Benefits vs Features in Marketing: Industry Examples

The pharmaceutical industry is hardly in the business of promoting products by referring to their features. They’re all about what illnesses the drug helps to cure, and the improvements it brings to the health of its consumers.

There are a couple of obvious reasons for this. First, most people would think that an emphasis on ‘features’ trivializes human health. You don’t want to do this if you’d like to remain in the public’s good books. There’s a hint of moral aloofness about such an attempt; it comes uncomfortably close to treating the endeavour of saving lives as a branding tool.

Banks, for the most part, also tend to magnify the benefits of their services in their marketing. There’s mention of features in many bank ad content, but they’ll usually be followed by descriptions of the benefits that account holders can derive from banking with the specific financial institution.

On the other hand, smartphones are more frequently marketed by talking about their specifications. When a new model or update is released, they’re described in terms of their operating systems, screen resolutions, battery power, thinness, and so on. You may only get proper treatment of the strengths and weaknesses of the device from watching it being used in real life.

It should be pointed out that emphasizing benefits over features should be the rule for most products and services. The reason is simple: the vast majority of items on sale at any market are solutions. As we noted earlier, buyers are more concerned that their money lets them fix their problem. Fine packaging and sweet embellishments may be eye-catching; but if the products of which they are a part don’t deliver on customers’ expectations, they’re probably not worth the fuss.

How to Market Benefits

The first step to making your marketing more benefits-driven is to ensure that your products do in fact add value to the lives of the people you’re targeting with them. In simple terms, your products should be solutions, not just objects. Your offerings have to work as you promise, and you won’t have to swallow hard when you present them to the public as such.

The actual marketing will involve talking more about what your products helps customers achieve. Marketing copy shouldn’t hoard its words around fabulous new features for their own sakes. Be clear and persuasive in your communication regarding the value that your service adds to people’s lives.

Marketing content achieves this when they’re tailored to mirror the customers’ experience with a product. The storytelling strategy works well here. Testimonials and case studies would fit in fine with an approach that seeks to emphasize benefits over features since they revolve around how a person’s use of a product has benefited them.

In a nutshell, you need to do these things if you’re going to attract potential clients with benefits:

  1. Make sure yours is a product (or products) with real benefits.
  2. When marketing your service, glide through features, and harp on (their) benefits.
  3. Make your content engaging and relatable for your target audience.

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This article was first published on 21st January 2019


Ikenna Nwachukwu holds a bachelor's degree in Economics from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. He loves to look at the world through multiple lenses- economic, political, religious and philosophical- and to write about what he observes in a witty, yet reflective style.

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