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What are benefits?

First of all: here’s an old marketing joke.

Question: When is a benefit, not a benefit?

Answer: Almost always.

Okay. So, we don’t do good jokes. You probably aren’t splitting your sides right now.

But, maybe you take my point. Ask most business owners what benefit their customers get from choosing to buy from them, and they almost always answer in features.

Perhaps I’ve gone too far, too quickly – I’ll rein back.

So, first of all: what, besides a fast disappearing British tradition of financial support for those who are unable to work, are benefits?

Well, in marketingspeak ‘benefits’ are the absolute mainstay of a Key Message Outline (the list of messages that you use to engage with your audience – you can read more about what a Key Message Outline is here ).

They are the crucial difference between winning and losing a sale – the positive impact that purchasing your product or service will have upon your prospect. In other words, what they can expect to gain. For example, if you buy underfloor heating, two obvious benefits would be: ‘keep your house warm’ and ‘free up space by removing radiators’.


Where do we go wrong with benefits?

Usually, what happens when you ask a business owner about the benefits of their product or service, is that they immediately start describing the ‘features’ of what they provide – the technical details that mean it’s a great product. It’s hard not to. I probably do this myself!

Business owners are generally so knee-deep in what they are providing that they find it hard to raise their thinking up to benefit level.

Here’s an example:

You: What do you sell?

Underfloor Heating Engineer: I provide underfloor heating.

You: What’s so good about that?

Underfloor Heating Engineer: Well, it’s really quick to install, it has an integral thermostat and instead of having to have radiators, it goes under the floor in your room.

This might sound like a great sales pitch, but the bits underlined are all ‘features’ of what he is providing, not the benefits. Because he (or she)’s so heavily involved in the technical delivery of the product, the engineer knows that having an integral thermostat is a really important and useful feature. He believes this feature will sell his heating system, and he’s treating it like a benefit. Falling into this habit is so easily done. To the person providing the product or service, the benefit of any feature seems so obvious that it doesn’t need a mention. But, all the engineer’s customer cares about is that when they get home from work, the house is already warm. The integral thermostat is at best irrelevant to them, at worst – incomprehensible. Mentioning this feature is not enough to make the prospect want to buy.


How do we fix this?

There’s a strong chance you are making this mistake in your business. And, with good reason. Those features ARE important. Some of your customers will have researched their purchase and already know which features they are looking for. You just have to know when to include features, and how to combine them with benefits.

It’s pretty simple really. When you feel like you want to include a feature because your customer is asking the specifics of what you provide, and ready to hear the features of your product – whether during a sales conversation or in a written context, force yourself to ‘so that’ it.

You simply add ‘so that…’ to the back of the feature, and describe why it’s of value to your customers.

Here’s an example from my business:

“If you hire me to be your Marketing Architect because your website needs rebuilding, I will project manage the redevelopment from start to finish so that you don’t have to take time out from customer business to meet with a web developer or edit a page of text.”

Or for the Underfloor Heating Engineer:

“My underfloor heating has an integral thermostat so that you never have to remember to put the heating on yourself.”

So, here’s your challenge. Go and have a look at your website home page. Check out all the benefits you’ve included and work out if they really are benefits, or if they require a bit of so thatting.

If you’ve missed a few steps in my Key Messages series of posts, you could do worse than head back to my Value Proposition post, to learn why it’s so important and how to create one. It’s here.

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