Marketing 101 teaches you “Customers buy benefits and not product features.” I’m not disputing that nor am I making a new revelation. What I do want to talk about here is the how and not the why of you should translate your features into tangible benefits if you want your marketing content to engage with prospects and convert them into customers.
It was Charles Revson (the pioneering cosmetics industry executive who created and managed Revlon Cosmetics through five decades) who clearly understood and practiced this marketing principle when he said, “In the factory we make cosmetics; in the drugstore we sell hope.”
Another often-quoted marketing lesson is from Theodore Levitt who once told his M.B.A. students at Harvard: “People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole.”
Features Tell, Benefits Sell
It would seem that all a B2B or industrial marketer has to do is write benefits laden copy and magically prospects would become customers. However, it is not so easy to translate features into benefits that really engage and speak directly to your target audience.
I have come across two tools for helping you dig deeper and create marketing content that focuses on benefits over features.
The first tool is the Product Analysis Worksheet from the book Personal Selling: An Interactive Approach by Ronald Marks, Ph.D., and professor of marketing at the University of Missouri. I found this one from Michael Fortin’s blog.
According to Professor Marks, it is quite simple to use his Product Analysis Worksheet and this is how it works:
- There are four basic layers – features, advantages, motives and benefits.
- Features: attributes that products or services have. For example, Type N612S control valves are available in inlet sizes ¾” through 4″ and outlet sizes 1″ through 5″.
- Advantages: what the features will do. In our example…Various configurations of Type N612S control valves make them suitable for a wide range of applications.
- Motives: how the customers’ needs are satisfied. Continuing with our example… Quicker delivery because a wide range of sizes are available as standard control valves.
- Benefits: what’s in it for me (customer) WIIFM. This is where you expand on the above and make it into a benefits-laden copy. For our control valve example, we could say:
“Our Type N612S control valves are available in a variety of standard sizes that allow for quicker delivery which will reduce your down time, cut down your maintenance cost by saving you as much as 48% over custom engineered products and provide you the flexibility of using our full line of control valves in a wider range of applications.”
The second tool for helping you convert features to benefits is the FTB Sales Technique, which stands for Features, Transition and Benefits. This technique has been used very successfully by Brad Humphrey who is the founder of Pinnacle Development Group, Inc. and a former US construction company owner. He has spent over 20 years consulting, coaching and delivering practical and relevant advice to construction businesses.
According to Brad, the most important piece of the puzzle is the transition. He explains it very well by saying, “Thus, for every feature about my company, the product that we use, the equipment that we operate or the process that we follow when completing work, I must transition the featured aspect into a believable benefit to the customer. If I fail in doing this, I risk losing trust, interest and, worse yet, any future business.”
Brad demonstrates the principles of the FTB technique by using an example from the construction industry:
- Feature: By using the additional rebar we will strengthen the weight load for the parking lot
- Transition: … which means you
- Benefit: … will be able to handle the heavy trucks your company owns.
Assuming that you are already knowledgeable about your products and services, (see my previous post about the sales experience) you can create your own transitions by trying a combination or a variation of one of these:
- which provides you with…
- so you will receive more…
- this allows you greater…
- enabling you to spend less money…
Sometimes though you may have to just state the feature, which in itself can be the key benefit. Here’s an example, let’s say your target audience is engineers, instead of writing “our valves are manufactured to world-class standards and continue to operate trouble free in the harshest of operating conditions,” you can simply say “Manufactured to ASME Code standards, designed to handle up to 300 psig and 415°F.” That conveys a precise benefit to the design engineer who could then specify your valve with complete confidence. However, this is the exception and not the rule and is typically used in product specification or data sheets.
As you can see from the two techniques discussed here, features only tell your prospects about the attributes of your product and services. To convert those prospects into customers, you must sell them on the benefits of the experience that they can expect. It is only when you tie them together or translate features into benefits can you engage with your target audience and increase your success rate of closing the sale.
How are you translating your product features into customer benefits? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment.