Features Vs. Benefits

As customers, we know: what we like, what we’re looking for, how we want to be sold to.

Everyone selling, everyone marketing is also a customer themselves. So why do we have to filter out so much irrelevant babble when people are selling to us?

Marketing Babble

Most of the software marketing aimed at businesses or professional is infected with pompous verbiage. These marketers think they are creating a positive impression by making their company seem professional and important.

It’s counterproductive though. People have learned to ignore or translate marketing babble like “we’re the world’s leading supplier of blah, blah…”. Tim Johnson lists many awful brilliant examples of marketing gobbledygook in his “Leading Providers of MABUSHI” blog post.

Technical Babble

Long List

Too many features

On the opposite end of the spectrum, the technologists are no better. Instead of trying to impress with complex grandiose marketese, they go too techy.

Developers are justifiably proud of their achievements, of all the capabilities and functionality they have built in. They want to impress based on their cleverness, the completeness of their solution and tend to present long lists of features and support for an alphabet soup of technologies.

Image Credit

Buyers Want Babble-Free Solutions and Benefits

As a buyer, your key question is “How will I benefit?” You don’t want to wade through lots of marketing or technical babble. It should all be about you.

  • How you can use it
  • Why you’ll want to use it
  • How you will feel
  • Which problems it solves for you
  • How you benefit

So software marketers, don’t try to impress

  • Simplify your message to the essential
  • Focus on the customer not the vendor / software

Benefits are not Features

If you’re focused on building great software, anticipating customer needs, striving to beat your competitor… then it’s natural to focus on your software’s features. As Dan Crow, CTO at Songkick explained to me on Twitter

Because one feature solves many problems. Its easy to describe features, impossible to describe the solutions they enable
Tweet by Dan Crow @crowquine

But I think it’s important to focus software marketing on the problem being solved, the benefits. Sure, cover the features later on, but initially people need to understand why they would want to use this software. And it’s going to help develop better leaner software if you know the main problems you’re solving.

If you’re not sure whether you’re listing benefits or features, the classic marketing test is: “So What?”. Keep asking “So What?”, when you have to stop you have a benefit. For example:

  • “Software X automatically generates valid HTML”
  • “So What?” > “Code has to be fixed manually”
  • “So What?” > “So website visitors and search engines don’t see errors”
  • “So What?” > “The website will get better ranking on search engines and more visitors”
  • “So What?” > “Your website will generate more revenue”
  • Now that’s a benefit

Aim for Simplicity

Preaching “Less is More” and citing Apple as an example of marketing excellence are both clichés, but that’s what I’m going to do…

Apple invests vast amounts of technical, design, and marketing expertise into their amazingly successful products. And they just work. All the brilliance, all the blood, sweat and tears is hidden.

Not only is the technology hidden, but so is all the marketing text. Apple’s marketing is deceptively simple. It’s extremely easy to understand—it’s frictionless. Apple rarely discusses product features, they focus on the benefits:

  • You will really enjoy this
  • You are going to look cool
  • You will fall in love with your Apple products

Apple out-markets everyone.

You Can Simplify

While you can’t all be the next Apple, you can learn from them. Paradoxically, saying less is much more work.

  • Write out your main points – the key benefits and features
  • Prioritize and remove half
  • Edit and edit again – use half the words and make the words simpler

Simpler, leaner software marketing delivers better results.

Further Reading

Two great blog posts by Tim Johnson, to help you cut through the babble:

Additional advice on other blogs

Agree? Disagree? Please add your comments below

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