Writing Benefits for Your Features

Barbara Spagnola - Wednesday, August 13, 2014
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One of the most common traps that marketing folks get into when working on technical products is focusing on the features of a product rather than the benefits to the end user. Features are great - we all want to know what is in a product and want to be able to compare it to other products. But at the same time there are many features that, while the benefits may be obvious to the Marketer or Product Manager working on them, may leave potential customers wondering why they matter.
Here's an example. Back when I was the Product Manager for the Human Interface for the MacOS at Apple, the company would routinely release new technologies with each operating system release. Since many of these technologies were very "cool" by technology standards they would get talked about as feature. A few examples include QuickDraw GX and QuickTime.
Now for those of us who are more technical geeks, or for those who followed what Apple was doing we immediately understood what Apple meant when they said "includes the new QuickDraw GX graphics and printing architecture and version 2.0 of QuickTime". But for the other 99.999% of the world, stating some benefits would have answered the age old question of "So why should I care" (and "So why should I upgrade").
When writing effective benefits statements think of the phrase "Which means that you can". What do I mean by this? To give you an idea I'll use the 280 Group as an example (this is the part of the article where we do the shameless self-promotion).
One of the "Features" that we promote is that we provide "Hand Picked Marketing & Product Management Consultants and Contractors". On its own you might say "So What?", but here's the benefit statement.

FEATURE:
"Hand Picked Marketing & Product Management Consultants and Contractors…"
Which means that you can…
BENEFIT
"…save the time and hassle of doing the work yourself to find a qualified consultant, check their references, etc."

Here's another example:
FEATURE:
"Seasoned Professional Consultants…"
Which means that you can…
BENEFIT
"…rest assured that you will have a committed and professional resource to see the project all the way through and get excellent results."

The "Which means that you can" phrase helps bring out the real value to your customers. They don't care about technology or features if there isn't an associated benefit to them. This may seem like Marketing 101, but it is amazing how many companies neglect this when writing their marketing content.
To wrap up, let's go back to the Apple example. Now if I told you that you should upgrade to the newest version of the MacOS because you'll get QuickTime 2.0, which means that you can watch movies on your computer that are twice as big and are much higher quality, would you be a little more prone to want to upgrade?


About the Author

Brian Lawley is the CEO and founder of the 280 Group (www.280group.com), and has shipped more than fifty successful products. He is the former President of the Silicon Valley Product Management Association, won the 2008 AIPMM award for Excellence in Thought Leadership for Product Management and is the author of the best-selling books, Expert Product Management and The Phenomenal Product Manager.

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