When was the last time you took a good hard look at your product or service descriptions? I had a disturbing experience the other day and it made me wonder if you were having this same problem. One of my clients was complaining that customers didn’t want to upgrade and move up to the new technology even though it was going to save them time, money and effort.
I started by comparing the company’s product selling sheets. I arranged the selling sheets from the most basic product all the way to the big Kahuna. When I looked at each sheet I found that features were stated as benefits and each successive upgrade never compared the basic features to the additional features that came with the new product.
It’s no wonder that they were getting so many objections in their sales process. Customers felt that the product they were using was good enough and saw little need to upgrade to a higher cost, higher benefit product.
Features contain competitive advantage
Maybe it’s just me, but sometimes I think we disregard features in favor of benefits. There was a time when we pushed features and ignored benefits. Then we got smart and pushed benefits and ignored features. While it’s true that we buy on emotion and benefit—features are still an important component of your marketing strategy because they often contain competitive advantages that set you apart.
Features are things: Buttons, knobs, transducers, functions. Features make benefits possible. Even software and services have features. In the case of software, features look like functions. They are the buttons that you click on such as “profile” or “create tab.” Services have features too. A cleaning service might list vacuuming, window washing or baseboard cleaning as a feature.
It’s not uncommon to start taking your product’s or service’s features for granted or to discount them because “everyone has them” or because you are so familiar with them that you’ve forgotten about the different facets that set your features apart.
In a search engine and keyword driven world, features have become extremely important. When something goes wrong for your customers, they will search their problems and they will search what they think their solutions should be—often, a feature of your product will appear in those search terms.
This is an ideal time to take a fresh look at your product and service features. Features contain competitive advantage. They are the unique functions or items that set your business apart. If you’ve had a difficult time in setting yourself apart from the competition, make a list of every feature that you have and describe why it is the way it is. What is it about this feature that is important or different from other alternatives?
Capabilities are worth caring about
Capabilities are distinct from features and benefits. They are an in-between state that connect the feature to the benefit. You can say that they lead your customer into understanding how the features you have deliver the benefit.
I have a fingerprint scanner on my computer that stores my passwords. This saves me five minutes every time I would forget a password and have to look it up or re-set it. The fingerprint scanner is the feature, storing my passwords is the capability and saving me five minutes is the benefit. The way to create a capability or to spot one is to look for the phrase that answers the question “What does this allow me to do?”
Capabilities aren’t really benefits. Benefits are a feelings and emotions while capabilities tend to be actions or tasks. This distinction is important because when your customers are choosing a solution to their problem, they may be focused on a task or capability that they want. If your product description only lists features and benefits—your customer may pass you by because they don’t see the connection between what you offer and what they are trying to accomplish.
Bring on the benefits
Benefits are the ways in which the features make life better. Benefits are emotions and feelings that are created by the capability of doing something you weren’t able to do before, which is a result of having a feature.
When you only focus on benefits without including the features and capabilities, your prospect might be attracted to your offer, but then their brain starts asking pesky questions like “How will this help me do my task faster?” If they don’t get the features and capabilities to answer their questions and connect the dots, they will either choose on price or they will do nothing.
If you’re experiencing lots of objections in your selling process, take a critical look at your features, capabilities and benefits. Pulling these together will help your prospect sell themselves and choose you over any other alternative.