November 2004    Vol. 13, No. 10  REAP HOME PAGE  A publication of the Center for Rural Affairs    
REAP Rural Business Roundtable

Topic:  Defining Your Product's or Service's Features and Benefits

Introduction: A Sure Thing
Trends may come and go, but some marketing principles never change. Case in point: No ad, brochure, or e-mail solicitation can or will succeed unless it answers the one question uppermost in every prospect’s mind, “What’s in it for me?” Benefits provide the answer, while features, which are the characteristics of your product or service, are used to explain them.

Here’s how it works. Let’s say you’re marketing an industrial machine that replaces an older model that was prone to break down. Your new machine has fewer parts and is more reliable. So your marketing message would focus on how your machine saves the user money on costly repairs (the benefit), thanks to its greater reliability (a feature).

For marketing messages that motivate prospects no matter the medium, choose your core benefits and put them front and center. (Reference: Small Business Success, Volume 16)

Determining the actual or perceived benefits of your products and services gives you a valuable set of guides for your marketing planning. You may discover that you have been trying to sell features instead of benefits.

In your marketing, from personal sales to advertising, you should never mention a feature or what you do offer without immediately describing its benefit to the customer.

Take some time now to think about the FEATURES or facts about your product or service. Jot those in the first column of the worksheet accompanying this article. Include every possible feature of your business, such as actual things you sell, knowledge you’ve acquired, skills you possess, past experiences, resources you can offer, any special equipment you have, your location, your previous accomplishments, and so on. Write down anything that seems relevant in the first column.

In the second column next to each feature, write down the corresponding BENEFITS to your customer. A benefit is an actual valued solution to a real problem faced by your customer. That solution may be monetary, psychological, physical, or emotional.

If a feature that you’ve listed has no real value to your customers, draw a line through it. An example of a feature with no real value to your customer might be that you have a beautiful office — but if your customers never visit that office, it’s not relevant from a marketing perspective.

Once you’ve identified the features of your business and the corresponding benefits to your customers, you can start to focus on your strongest products or services. Choose those items on the list that have the most compelling benefits and use those messages in your marketing!

Note: the Features and Benefits Worksheet can be found following the Roundtable Topic Questions immediately below.

Roundtable Topic Questions

  1. Discuss the definitions of FEATURES & BENEFITS and what they mean to a business.
  2. Brainstorm some examples of FEATURES & BENEFITS of products or services that you are familiar with at local businesses. For example, a restaurant features a dinner buffet — the benefit to a customer is the variety of food choices to satisfy the variety of customers.
  3. After you’ve listed some FEATURES and corresponding BENEFITS of your products and services, review them with the group or with an individual partner in your REAP roundtable group or association. They may be able to help you identify benefits that you can use in your marketing.

Features and Benefits Worksheet

(facts about your products or services)
(valued by customers)


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