Features vs. Benefits in Marketing and Why It Matters

Using Features vs. Benefits to Boost Profits in Your Home Business

marketing features and benefits
Credit: Erik Dreyer | Getty Images

You may not have an interest in infomercials, but they offer a great tutorial in understanding the marketing concepts of features versus benefits. These commercials not only outline all the great features of their products, but also, they take special care to highlight how the product will make your life better (benefit).

Special coated and heated (features) cooking products allow you to make dinner faster, easier and with less clean up (benefits).

Unique non-toxic formula (features) cleaning products get every stain out with a single wash or wipe (benefits). 

It goes without saying that you need a quality product or service to build a successful home business. But they're worthless if you don’t actually sell your product or service. That’s were marketing comes in and where many home business owners fall short. Unfortunately, many first-time entrepreneurs don’t have a background in sales or marketing, and as a result, their marketing efforts don’t achieve desired profits.

That doesn't mean you need to be an obnoxious salesman or even do an infomercial. Instead, it means understanding the psychology of sales, and tapping into what makes people buy. To do that, you need to know the difference between features and benefits.

What Is a feature?

A feature is essentially your products' or services’ specifications. If you sell handbags, your features would include the size, color, and materials (i.e. leather) that make up your bag. If you were selling virtual support services, features would be the list of tasks you can complete.

Your features can include your delivery or customer support services. For example, free delivery or free technical support are also features.

For many businesses, a feature can be part of its unique selling proposition, or what makes the product or service so great. For example, the Apple iPod shuffle holds 2 GB of audio, is about the size of a quarter, and comes in a variety of colors.

However, while buyers might want or need features, promoting them isn’t enough to entice people to buy, because features only tell about a product or service.

What Is a benefit?

A benefit is the value or result a buyer can get from your products or services. It essentially answers the question, “What’s in it for me?” For example, what does 2 GB of audio (feature) on an iPod Shuffle get me? It means having 500 songs (benefit) in the palm of my hand (benefit).

Why Is Knowing Features vs. Benefits Important?

In sales circles, there is a story often told to highlight features versus benefits. The story goes that there is a man who wants to hang a picture on his wall. In order to do that, he needs to drill a hole in the wall.

He goes to his local hardware store to buy a drill. Salesman A shows the man a drill that’s shiny, compact, with 10 different drill bits, and it’s cordless. Salesman B shows the man a drill and says, “This will make a hole in your wall.” The man buys the drill from Salesman B. Why?

In this example, the shiny, compact, 10-bit, cordless information focused on features, but failed to tap into what the man really needed; a hole in the wall. Salesman B sold the benefit the drill would deliver; a hole.

In the end, people buy solutions. They have a desire or a problem and they buy the item that fulfills their need. Many business owners make the mistake of thinking buyers will understand what the feature mean in terms of results, and that’s often where their marketing falls short. In the drill example, the man might have thought a shiny compact drill was great, but what he wanted and needed was simply a hole, and he hadn't been able to see how shiny and cordless would do that for him.

A person might want a tiny portable device that carries their music, but they might not know what 2 GB of audio space (feature) means. They do understand the storage of 500 songs (benefit).

How to Use Features versus Benefits to Market Your Home Business

Both features and benefits are important in your marketing. Here’s how you can use them to increase your home business sales.

  1. Understand your market. If your market is buying something to solve a problem, you need to know what that problem is. For example, does he need a hole in the wall?
  2. Determine the reason for the market’s need. Many people might want your need your product, but not all will want it for the same reason. In our example, the man needed a hole to hang a picture, but another person may need a hole to hang a shelf or build a bookcase. In the home business topic, there are parents who want to start a home business to stay home with children, but also, there are retired people who want continue to earn an income while they travel. Or there are people who are tired of the rat race and want to be their own boss. All of them want to own a home business, but their reasons differ. These reasons can help you narrow in on your target market and craft marketing materials that speak to your market.
  3. Make a list of your products' or services' features. What are the specifications of what you offer? What are the dimensions or colors? What does it or you do? What additional perks come with your product or service, such as free shipping, batteries included, or free consultation?
  4. Translate your features into benefits your market needs. 2 GB means 500 songs. A drill leads to a hole to hang a picture. Batteries included means you can use the product when you receive it. This is often where new business owners struggle, but it’s the key factor to creating marketing materials that entice buyers. The trick is to look at your features and decide how it benefits your buyer. What results will they get? Some features can have more than one benefit or have different benefits depending on the market. For example, one group might want to lose weight to look sexy, while another might want to lose weight to improve their health. That means, you'd sell sexy as a benefit and to the other you’d sell health.
  5. Consider the emotional aspect of delivering your benefit. While people will consider features and benefits, ultimately, they buy on emotion. You want to tap into this emotion in your marketing materials. As you translate your features into benefits, consider how your buyer will feel when they get the results they want. Put yourself in your buyers’ shoes and imagine what it would be like for them to reap the benefits of what you offer. That’s what you want to sell. For example, selling a hole in the wall means the customer can admire his new painting and or family portrait.

Creating Enticing Marketing Materials

Once you understand your market and what it wants, and you’ve translated your features into benefits, you can now write marketing messages that attract your market and entice them to buy.

Writing from your buyer’s viewpoint, create headlines, sales letters, ads, social media posts, and other marketing materials that will not only solve their problem, but also makes them feel an emotional response to your solution. If you sell weight loss products to people with health issues, paint a picture of a vibrant and full life, free of the constraints of weight and the health issues that come with it. Or, to sell your weight loss product to a market that wants to look great, you might paint a picture of looking sexy on the beach. The goal is to make them feel the experience of having solved their problem or achieved their goal through your product or service.

As you create your marketing messages, remember that most consumers are enticed to buy to solve a problem, achieve a result, save time or money, and/or reduce hassles. You’ll want to consider how your features can help your buyer in these areas.