Focus on Benefits, not on Features

Companies often forget to focus on the unique value proposition they offer their customers. They focus on product features instead of customer benefits. They need to translate many product features to a distinct set of customer benefits and roll them into a unique value proposition that differentiates their product in the mind of potential customers.

A feature is what your product or service has or does. It is a characteristic that is a quantifiable, indisputable fact. While they may be factual and convey an advantage, they don’t communicate why they are important or how they will help your customer. Measurements, colors, weight and capabilities are all features and do not sell a product.

A benefit is something of value or usefulness. A benefit explains what the features mean and why they are important. It can answer the question of “What keeps your customer up at night?” Customers are looking for solutions and a benefit shows the customer how your features will solve their problems or ease their pain.

There is an oft-repeated saying which captures this logic perfectly: “People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole.”

Understanding the needs of customers is also important for the product and engineering teams. Otherwise, they will view both the competition and the market too narrowly. If you are selling quarter inch drills, you view your competitors as quarter inch drill manufacturers.

If you view your product as on demand tools for boring holes and attaching objects, you recognize a broader set of competitive and complementary products including bores, glues, solder, welding supplies, nails, screws, bolts, etc. You would also recognize that electromechanical torque can be applied to screws, bolts, and nuts, expanding your product line into adjacent markets.

If you focus on features, then you treat your product as little more than a commodity.  A differentiated service is less subject to price erosion and heavy discounting.

Summing-up: Customers are really looking for benefits. Even if the are claiming to look for a certain feature, is the benefit of that feature what actually solves their pain.

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