Distinguishing Product Benefits from Features (Refining your Offer)

(Photo Credit)

I started this real-time experiment, Testing the Muse in Practice, by detailing the circumstances around why I needed to sell my Jeep in order to buy a bigger vehicle for my soon-to-be family – read about it here.

In that post, I described the problems I was having in comparing and selecting between two or more used vehicles – particularly when all other variables remained equal.

Although my search was on autopilot – getting alerts anytime a used vehicle matching my criteria came up for sale – many used cars came and went. Some jumped out as being a “great deal” or “way over priced”, but since I had a very informed, narrow scope of what I was looking for, the majority sort of sat in the middle of the pack – similar price, similar mileage.

This is when I set out to solve how someone (e.g. me) could best make a decision, or at the very least rank, 2 or more used cars that, by all appearances and available information, are very similar vehicles.

We’ve come a long way since that scenario in trying to solve that problem and in making that solution commercially viable, specifically through a mobile app. In the last post, we developed a design theme, name/domain, as well as logo/icon.

In this Part 7 of Testing the Muse in Practice, we’re now at the stage where we need to begin to build the content that will populate the website. To do so, you have to begin to break-down the features of your product and consider how these features translate into product benefits for your prospective customers.

 

Features vs. Benefits

Without even realizing it, we often mistakenly mix-up the two concepts of “features” and “benefits”. But it’s important to understand that when positioning your products, features and benefits are not the same thing.

In the context of a product or service, one way to distinguish one from the other is to consider:

  • A feature is a fact, function or descriptor about something.
  • A benefit is the positive result of that fact, function or descriptor for someone.

 

Features don’t sell products – benefits do.

As a creator, you are likely to get consumed with the features you want built-in or highlighted on your product (or service). While it’s extremely important to have a solid understanding of the functionality, and features that either help the function or further define your product and make it stand out, this is only half the picture.

It’s vitally important that you can describe these features as “benefits” to the end-user.

It’s the benefit that someone gets from a product, whether utility or emotional, that triggers the deciding factor of whether or not a purchase is made. So you are better served by focusing on the benefits that your product provides to the customer, rather than the coolest new function or feature you think might hook your potential customer.

It’s partly for this reason that the “Minimum Viable Product” and the concepts outlined in Eric Ries’s The Lean Startup are a popular, effective, and efficient method to get your ideas out to the marketplace. The idea is to reduce the concept to the bare minimum, by stripping the features to the core, and focusing on the product benefits that are delivered to the customer. If these primary benefits resonate with the market, then further functions and features are added and the concept is built-out accordingly.

This is a particularly powerful strategy when Testing the Muse – release a minimum viable product or prototype, and let the consumers determine for you:

  • If there is even a market for your concept (e.g. is this an adequate solution, and are the product benefits great enough to justify a purchase?); and
  • What features would add further value to this product (e.g. increase the benefit)?

This has the net effect of “allowing” your audience to determine the essential features for you, removing much of the guess-work of developing your product.

The take-away message here is: don’t spend unnecessary time dreaming up extraneous features. Stay lean, and focus 90% of your efforts on describing the product benefits to the potential market.

 

How to Turn Any Feature into a Benefit

This quick trick comes courtesy of Pat Flynn of Smart Passive Income – a personal ‘hero’ and one of my favorite blogs and podcasts:

Take any feature of your product or service, and add the words “which helps you…” on the end of it, and finish the sentence. You now have your benefit.

For example: My product has A, which helps you B and C.

In practice, this would look like:

  • Our new oatmeal bar is packed with fibre, which helps you feel full and satisfied.
  • This kit has over 10 puzzles and 30 brain teasers, which helps your kids build their vocabulary and learn math skills.

And more specific to our app example:

  • This Car or That Car app instantly ranks your prospective used cars, which helps you quickly and easily compare several vehicles at once, saving you both time and effort.
  • This app automatically calculates the average cost of driving each used car per year, helping you recognize good value vs. vehicles that are priced too high, potentially saving your thousands of dollars.

You can make an exhaustive list of the features and functions your product has, and generate an equally impressive set of product benefits for your prospective customers.

 

The Benefits [in] Story Telling

For bonus points, weave your benefits into a story about your product. We see this every day, particularly in TV commercials. Even online testimonials are a form of story-telling, providing proof of benefit to others.

A high-level structure for your copywriting (i.e. on your sales webpage) could be:

  1. State the Problem;
  2. The Solution (your offering) – including the features and product benefits;
  3. Your Solution in Action – your story, on how the product was a benefit to someone or a situation.

In this particular example for This Car or That Car, I have an actual story (described at the beginning of this post and here) where I was in the position of not being able to compare multiple used cars in an apples-to-apples manner, and having to develop a tool to do it. I then used that tool to identify the best valued used vehicle from several potential candidates.

This is essentially a ready-made, built-in testimonial for the product. So it’s simply a matter of re-telling that story from the perspective of an app user – which will allow the potential customer to experience its use in a real-life scenario.

In addition to showcasing the product benefits in a relatable situation, it’s also an opportunity to highlight some of the features that make your product and those benefits that much more valuable (and worth purchasing).

 

Between the description of your product, your list of features, your enticing benefits, and you’re engaging story-telling, you’ve got all the website content you’ll need to support a robust Home page, and even a supporting About page. More on developing your website, including suggested pages and content, coming soon.

In the meantime, we’re working on developing some mock app screenshots to give our website visual appeal, and to provide the prospective customer with a sense of the design and user experience. I can’t wait to share this process with you, so stay tuned!

Action you can take:

  • If you already have a product, service or website – consider how your features translate into benefits for your prospective customers. Don’t hesitate to share in the comments below.
  • If you haven’t already, sign-up below to get notification of the next blog post – and receive exclusive content, such as our free Quickstart Guide to Hacking Market Research, The Architecture of Testing the Muse, and more!
  • Please share this real time experiment with your friends and colleagues on Twitter, Facebook, etc. Thanks!

Best Always,

Jonah



3 thoughts on “Distinguishing Product Benefits from Features (Refining your Offer)

  1. Dan

    Great post, will definitely keep these concepts in mind!

  2. Jordan d

    Makes a lot of sense to me!

    • Hey JD – Great to see you here!

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