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Product Features & Benefits

April 8, 2010

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 size, color, horsepower, functionality, design, hours of business, fabric content, and so forth.
  • Benefits answer the customer’s question: Why would I want to own it?
A feature is:

  • Physical size
  • A 75 horsepower motor
  • Patented box spring design
A benefit is:

  • Small enough to fit in your raincoat pocket
  • A mower that takes the work out of yard work
  • A restful night’s sleep

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

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).

To identify your product’s benefits, you need to consider the customer’s viewpoint. Besides putting yourself in your customer’s shoes mentally, talk to or survey them asking them to tell you why they like the product. They might see benefits in the product that you had not considered – or, conversely they may not be seeing the benefit in the product that you had designed it for.

Look at the customers who have purchased your product in the past. What does that customer profile tell you about your product’s benefits? If you don’t have that information, in the future you might set up a few systems to develop and track the following information:

  • Ask customers for suggestions for improvement.Pay attention to customer complaints and prospect inquiries. Listen to what your customers say. Train and reward employees for listening to 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?Understanding product features and benefits helps you develop your marketing strategy to better:describe your products in marketing brochures, publications or in a personal selling situation in a way that is most relevant to customers
  • Differentiate – explain how your product is differs from other products in the market
  • Use a variety of pricing and positioning strategies effectively

Products may be highly unique (specialty products) or virtually indistinguishable from competitor’s products (known as commodity products). Specialty products are not necessarily better than commodity products, but they do require different marketing strategies. An important strategy for specialty products is differentiation. A company differentiates its products when it sets them apart from the competitor’s 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.

Commodity Products
Few, if any, perceived differences among competing products
<————————————-> Specialty 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.

Modifying features usually leads to changes in benefits. Find out what the perceived benefits your product offers so you can communicate them in your marketing messages.

Grouping Features are frequently grouped into different product models – and prices – starting with a basic model to a deluxe model. Automobiles, many electronic devices, vacation packages and many other products offer a variety of features to add to a basic product model. This can even be true of services. For example, if you are 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.
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