Your Company's Features & Benefits

Products may be described in terms of their features and benefits.  Features are product characteristics that deliver benefits; we buy products for their benefits. Stated another way:

  • Features are product characteristics such as size, color, horsepower, functionality, design, hours of business, etc.
  • Benefits answer the customer’s question: What’s in it for me?

This distinction is further illustrated in the following examples:

A feature is. . .

A benefit is. . .

Physical size

It’s small enough to fit in your raincoat pocket.

A 75 horsepower motor

A mower that takes the work out of yard work.

Patented box spring design

A restful night's sleep.

 

While product features are usually easy to detect and describe, product benefits can be trickier because they’re often intangible. The most compelling product benefits are those that provide emotional or financial rewards. It’s not the brighter smile that the toothpaste offers that is it's benefit; it’s what the smile might bring you. (A good-looking mate, a better job, etc.)

Emotional rewards run the gamut of human emotions but basically allow the buyer to feel better in some way. For example, sending flowers to a friend or family member allows the buyer to express love. Buying products made from recycled materials offers the buyer the chance to be environmentally responsible.

 

Products that deliver financial rewards allow the buyer to : 

  • Save money (a discount long-distance phone plan)

  • Make money (computer software for managing a home-based business)

  • Gain convenience and time (microwaveable meals).

Discovering Your Product's Benefits

To identify your product’s benefits, you must consider the customer’s viewpoint.

Besides putting yourself in your customers’ shoes mentally, talk to or survey them asking them to identify your product’s benefits. They might provide you with information you never thought about!

Look at who has purchased your product in the past. What does that customer profile tell you about your product’s benefits?

Going forward, you might set up a few systems to develop and track  product benefits: 

  • Ask customers for suggestions for improvement.

  • Pay attention to customer complaints and prospect inquiries.  Be open to what your customers say. Go so far as to train and reward employees for questioning customers and prospects to learn what they want and what they don’t like about your product. Analyze and learn from this input.

  • Watch your competitors. Do the changes in their product offerings suggest desired product benefits?

Why is it important to understand what my product’s features and benefits are?

Understanding product features and benefits allows you to do such things as: 

  • Describe your products in marketing collateral, publications or in a  personal selling situation in a way that is most relevant to customers.

  • Differentiate–explain how your product is different ("better") than the competition’s.

  • Use a variety of pricing and positioning strategies effectively (see several strategy ideas below in "Strategies that are based upon features").


Differentiation

Products may be highly unique (specialty products) or virtually indistinguishable from competitors’ products (commodity products)–and anything in between. Specialty products are not necessarily better than commodity products, but they do require different marketing strategies.  A potentially important strategy for specialty products is differentiation.   A company differentiates its products when it sets them apart from the competitors’ products in the minds of customers. Having a thorough understanding of how your product’s benefits compare to your competitors’ allows you to compete with them through differentiation.

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Commodity Products

Specialty Products

Few, if any, perceived differences

among competing products

Highly unique features compared to other products competing for buyers' dollars

 

Strategies that are based upon features 

  • Introducing - Being "the first" to offer a new product feature is a proven competitive strategy. For example, being known as "the first" organic body lotion to have Vitamin E will position your company as a leader, at least for a while.

  • Improving/Modifying - Instead of being at the head of the pack with a totally new feature, you might simply modify and/or improve your product’s features. "Improving" your product creates the impression that your company cares about satisfying its customers.  

    Modifying product features is a strategy many businesses use to compete with a competitor who lowers their price. For example, if the maker of one organic body lotion lowers its price, the maker of another may add Vitamin E as a "new improved" feature but keep its price the same.

    Don’t forget that modifying features usually leads to changes in benefits. Stay on top of knowing the perceived benefits your product offers so you can communicate them in your marketing messages.

  • Grouping - Oftentimes, features are "grouped"into different product models—and prices—starting with a basic model to a "fully loaded" model. Automobiles, many electronic devices, even vacation packages offer a variety of features to add to a basic product model. This can even be true of services. For example, if you're an accountant you might offer a certain fee for preparing annual tax returns, another fee to additionally process payroll, and another to manage all of a client's financial affairs.