Product features and benefits have an annoying habit of blending into one another, causing confusion among your copywriters, which leads to confusion in your audience. Aren’t they the same thing, though? No. And, a clear features vs benefits mindset is the best antidote for this allegedly fuzzy boundary.
Features are not the same as benefits. In some ways, they are opposites: features vs benefits. This distinction is important for marketing and selling purposes. Let’s first take a shot at distinguishing the two in an abstract way.
“Yea, features describe the product maybe in an objective or technical way, while benefits show what the product does for the customer, how it makes the customer feel, what results or outcomes they can expect.”
So far, so good.
Our problem usually comes when we try to set out those pesky benefits themselves in written form. For some reason, no matter how hard we try, we always lapse into writing features and completely forgetting to sell the benefits.
So, let’s make it clear what each means, how the two are related, and how you move from one to the other to improve your copywriting and make things super clear for your audience. This is my program for developing a clear features vs benefits mind.
Defining Features vs Benefits
Features and benefits are different ways of describing the same thing – your product. They’re different because they look at the good or the service from two viewpoints:
- Features are how you look at your product and how you’d describe it
- Benefits are how audience, customers or service users looks at your product, and what they might say if they were recommending it to someone else
Features are what a product is and what it has. These features can often be things we can define objectively or measure. It’s vital to note that features include the product’s function, or what it does. It’s a common mistake at this point to equate functions with benefits but functions are features too.
Example: A feature of a sword is its sharp blade. The function of this blade is cutting. But the question of why cutting anything is beneficial still remains unanswered. Why would anyone want to cut something with a sword? And, what outcomes can they expect if they do so? What edge (ahem!) does a sword have over other cutting devices?
Benefits are the positive outcomes and results that people experience by using the product. It’s what a user can achieve or accomplish with your product, what they can do with it that is to their advantage. This is a more subjective understanding of the product, one that is not true for every potential customer everywhere.
Example: Some benefits of a sword include self-defence, butchery, rituals, and decoration.
They are not the same thing.
Confusion Between Features and Benefits
One reason in-house copywriters can find that benefits are harder to write is because they require you to distance yourself from your product and look at it as if you were your ideal customer. This is why creating buyer personas is vital to the marketing process (What is a Buyer’s Persona?). Although you can’t take the perspective of every individual customer, you can look at your product through each persona.
A customer persona is a document that contains some of the following information:
- Who your current or ideal customer is
- What their job title, role and responsibilities are
- What their values, priorities and pain points are
The confusion of features with benefits often comes from the side of those who have spent time developing the product or service and who only know it from an insider viewpoint. You’ve laboured over those features, you know them inside out and you’re proud of them.
You Are Not the Target Audience
You need to remember that you didn’t create the product for you!
Focusing on benefits means you must make explicit why your product is good for your customers (e.g. your toothbrush removes all plaque from their teeth). And if any of those fancy features (e.g. your toothbrush is made from wood) are of no benefit to them, they won’t care be moved enough to make a purchase. That’s the cold, hard truth. Though, some customers will appreciate the sustainable aspect of replacing plastic with wood. A product may have fabulous features that no one values enough to purchase. Always do your research on what the customer appreciates about your product and how they’d describe it, as a layperson, to a friend or colleague.
Converting Features into Benefits
The best way to craft benefits from features is to show empathy. Ask a brutal question of every individual feature: “So what? Why should anyone care? What’s the big deal?”.
Think of some answers to these questions:
- What specific problem of theirs does it solve?
- How does it make their life better, easier, more successful, more enjoyable?
- What pain does it remove?
- What value does it add?
- What’s unique about it?
- How will it improve their business, their world, their life?
- What, specifically, do your existing loyal customers rave about?
Let’s look at three examples to spell out the difference.
Features vs Benefits Example #1: A Portable Concrete Mixer
Features: Manufacturer. Motor. Overall dimensions. Drum capacity, mouth size, and speed. Voltage. Weight. Wheels. Blades.
Benefits: Saves time, money and effort to produce concrete. Workers can focus on other aspects of construction. Don’t need to hire extra employees. No material waste. Concrete with the same consistency. No back and muscle pains!
So, the features here are technical and the benefits seem obvious but they still need stating.
Features vs Benefits Example #2: A Luxury Spa Getaway
Features: Location and area details. Distance from major cities and airports. Size. Cost. Facilities. River. Space. Decor.
Benefits: Total relaxation. Tranquillity. Escape and revive. Stress-relief in a device-free, therapeutic riverside oasis. Unlock new experiences.
The benefits are more subjective and emotive than the first example but that’s good because the entire purpose of a spa are the emotional benefits. Here are 9 ways to inject emotional words into your copywriting.
Features vs Benefits Example #3: An Online Copywriting Course
Features: Title. Start date. Length. Times. Cost. Content. Medium. Resources. Preparation. Certification.
Benefits: Don’t need to outsource it. Expand your list of services. Impress old and new clients with high-quality, creative, professional copy. Save and make more money!
Features blend in with benefits at points here when it comes to course content and certification. But separating them out makes you focus on why people would want to buy what you’re selling.
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