Have you ever heard a customer say that they bought a new cell phone because of its Sub-6 and mmWave, its 5,000 mAh Lithium-Polymer power cell, and 12MP + 64MP + 12MP rear camera? Probably not.
That customer will likely say what enticed him is that the phone is 5G-capable, has a long battery life, and has a camera with a powerful zoom. If you refer to the technical details of the phone, these characteristics are actually what can be done by the specifications mentioned in the first paragraph.
They are one and the same but said differently! What you’ve seen is actually the power of benefits selling the product instead of the features.
There is a popular saying in marketing that goes – features tell, benefits sell. This especially applies to copywriting.
When marketing a product, you can take two basic approaches as a copywriter. You could either make the most emphasis on the functions of your product or service including all the interesting aspects of your business you worked hard to create, or you could focus on the ways in which your product or service will actually improve the lives of users.
Of these two approaches, which should you focus on?
Both approaches come with their own perks.
If you were scrolling through Instagram and came across an ad with a message that describes the benefits of the product or service being advertised, you would instantly know what you have to gain from using the product.
And if the message communicated across states the unique features of the offer, you would immediately know what sets it apart from the competition.
Now, you’re probably wondering which would be best to adopt between benefits and features in your content. This article describes both features and benefits in detail. And although these two may appear quite similar, you will soon learn that they are completely different terms and that they depend heavily on the intent of the users.
In this article, you will learn the following:
Before moving on to describe the differences between benefits and features, let us first look at the meaning of these terms, along with the importance of each of them.
What are Features?
A feature can be any of the following:
- a statement that describes a factual aspect of your product;
- the description of a function your product can perform;
- technical specification of a design, its raw material, etc.
- a product’s function, without reference to how this function can help.
Simply put, a feature is what a product or service actually is or does; nothing more, nothing less.
For example, if your product is a bird feeder hanger, a couple of its features are as follows:
- it is made of stainless steel; and
- it has been powder coated coal black.
(Remember this example, as we will use it again later to emphasize the benefits.)
When you include the features of your product while marketing, it enhances your advertising efforts and makes it easy for people searching for particular products or services to identify yours, especially when it's what they’re looking for.
You can say that using features in marketing comes in handy for people who care more about the technical aspects of what you offer.
When writing down features, you do not think about the people who will use the product or service. You simply write down what the product/service is made of and what it can do. That's it.
More often than not, if a product is a new version of one that is already available in the market, the features listed down are additional components or capabilities that previous versions, models, or competitors do not have. This serves to highlight what sets this product apart.
What are Benefits?
A benefit describes the way in which a product or service could add value to the lives of the consumers.
In other words, the benefits describe how the functions or parts of a product can help the users. It is always in relation to the user. The benefits tend to act as the selling point of products as it gives reasons why a person should buy or use a product.
When you ask the question, “What will this product do for me?”, the answer you get is always a benefit of the product in question.
You can say that benefits are centered around the results of acquiring a product or service, and is the very reason why prospects become actual customers. You would hardly ever find a consumer who just buys things for the sake of doing so because everyone buys things to solve one problem or the other, no matter how trivial the problem may be. Even impulse buys, or purchases made out of curiosity and urgency, all mention the benefits of the offer.
Going back to our example on bird feeder poles. When you say one of its features is that it is made of stainless steel, then the benefit is that it will not be prone to rust. To emphasize this benefit, you may even say that since it will last long, you will save money by not buying a new one anytime soon.
As you might have noticed, when thinking of the benefits, you take into consideration how the feature can help your target customer.
So there are two points of consideration when listing your offer's benefits, and these are:
- The feature or product description; and
- The target market's pain point.
A pain point can be equated to a problem that needs to be solved. Sometimes, you have to dig deeper into the lifestyle of your typical customer to understand their main concerns in life.
Some pain points are obvious like, for instance, people with big gardens may have trouble getting their garden cleaned. Other pain points are not easily recognized unless you point them out. For the person with a big garden, sweeping the leaves is an option, but sweeping can cause back and arm pains. The best solution would be to use a leaf blower which can help the person finish the task quicker.
When crafting the sales messages for a leaf blower, you can mention that:
- it has a powerful motor (feature) that can blow away lots of leaves at a time (benefit);
- it is lightweight (feature) so you won’t hurt your back and shoulders during usage (benefit).
Having an accurate target persona is necessary for you to understand your customer’s pain points. If you don't know how to do this yet, check our guide on building a target persona.
How to Create Features and Benefits
Features are usually technical specifications, while benefits are what can be derived from the features. If nothing can be gained from the feature from the point of view of the consumer, or if there is no pain point that can be solved by that feature, then there is no benefit.
To help you understand these two terms better, let’s look at direct comparisons between both of them in the examples below.
Features vs Benefits Comparison
Aside from the features and benefits, we will include the Targeted Marketing Message which is basically how you will market the product based on the benefits and the target audience.
Targeted Marketing Message
With 5,000 mAh Lithium Polymer power cell
24 to 48 hours of average usage.
Your phone will have a longer battery life, and will not easily run out of juice in the middle of a mobile game or video streaming.
Keto Weight Loss Pills
Gluten-Free appetite suppressant.
Improves energy levels and induces nutrient absorption during digestion.
Lose weight while still having enough energy for your activities. You don’t have to worry about fainting right in the middle of your exercise regimen.
100 Landing Page Templates
No need to create landing pages from scratch, and no coding necessary.
Create professionally designed landing pages in a few minutes without the need for a programmer and graphic designer. You can save time and money!
Over five million skilled and verified freelancers.
Find all the remote workers you need in one place, with verified identities, and working in one management platform.
Get access to a large pool of talents who are willing to get things done faster and cheaper for you. You can surely find a professional that fits the qualities you are looking for without fear of fraudulent transactions.
With headrest and lumbar support.
Prevents lower back and neck pains even when sitting down for extended periods of time.
Play for hours on end without feeling stiff with the padded back and seat that aptly support your spine.
500 Mbps download and upload speed
Faster internet connection with less video stutter and quicker downloads.
Enjoy smoother online classes and meetings, uninterrupted streaming, and high definition video viewing.
Has interchangeable drill bits.
Change the drill bit based on the type of material you will be drilling on; whether it be concrete, wood, or metal.
There is no need to purchase several drills. Just one drill for multiple tasks means less storage space required and more value for money.
Brax Native Advertising Management Platform
Has a Native Power Editor.
Update several or all of your campaigns at once.
Get work done faster! Create ads, pause targets, manage budgets, and optimize bids without having to go back and forth between platforms and tracking reports.
Notice how the targeted message is simply the storytelling aspect of marketing the benefits? Many brands use the benefits or the targeted message as the basis of their advertising copy as it is relatable, hence capturing the audience’s interest.
It is safe to say that benefits come from features, the targeted message comes from the benefits, and the targeted message is the marketing angle. So if it’s actually the same things that sell a product, how come one approach is more effective than the other?
What Is The Difference Between Features And Benefits
Marketers often confuse features with benefits mostly because of intent. Experienced or well-read marketers know that it is important that their products or services solve the problems of the consumers.
However, many marketers invest so much time in studying the problems of their consumers with the sole purpose of addressing those needs that when they eventually do, they tend to forget that to the layman, the benefits of the product may not be straightforward to see.
When this happens, you would notice that such marketers advertise the features of their product without actually stating benefits, because they assume the properties of the product speak for themselves as beneficial.
While the benefits of a product may be obvious from its features to a technically inclined consumer, many may still not get it right away. Just because you know the reason why what you’re offering will be of help to your consumers, doesn’t guarantee that they also do.
Another common reason why marketers mistake features for benefits is because they often equate the time, effort, and resources put into creating a specific aspect of the product with its importance to consumers.
The truth is that consumers care only about themselves and how your product will help them. They don’t care if you put your everything into developing your product. Even if you tell them you spent half your life perfecting a feature, their first reaction would be, “so?”
You have to clearly state what your customers are set to gain.
If you have any experience in marketing or have done some studying, you would have come across the common advice, ‘Sell the benefits and not just features’.
The problem is, distinguishing these two strategies seems unclear sometimes. To avoid confusing features for benefits, you can ask the question ‘What’s in it for me?’ and center your marketing strategies around the answers you get.
If you study the examples of features given above very carefully, you will observe that features are technical, while the benefits are on a personal level. And if you look at the targeted message, you will notice that it’s even more customized for the needs of the target audience.
The features and the benefits are just two halves of the same apple, with the main difference being how they are presented.
Here are the key differences between features and benefits to help you distinguish them:
- Features are primarily the product’s specifications of characteristics, meaning that it describes what a product provides or has. Benefits, on the other hand, are simply the value of that feature that customers gain.
An example is a Gaming Chair. Included in its features are the headrest and lumbar support, and the accompanying benefits are that it prevents lower back and neck pains even when sitting down for extended periods of time.
- Features tell customers WHAT the product is, has, or does. Meanwhile, benefits tell WHY the product feature is relevant to the prospects.
An example of this is the Keto Weight Loss Pills, which is Gluten-free. The benefit of this feature is that it improves the energy level of the person using it. It is relevant because it means the consumer can use this product even if he has a highly active lifestyle.
- While product features are based on facts, product benefits are more inclined to establish an emotional connection between the offer and the audience so that they find it easy to relate to the product.
Let us use Brax’s features and benefits as an example. One of our features is the Native Power Editor. Its benefit is that you can update multiple native ad campaigns at once. You can add new ads, change bids, pause targets, and more, without having to switch back and forth between platforms and reports.
This means there’s no need to labor hours in front of the computer optimizing your campaigns. You won’t even have to hire someone to do the manual task for you as you can do it yourself in a matter of minutes. Imagine how much time and money you’ll have for other things that matter in your life! (See the emotional angle driven out of the benefit?)
- Features give information on the product’s details, be it physical, functional, or technological, while benefits simply explain the value or improvements it can add to the life of the consumer.
The internet plan in our example states that the provider will deliver 500 Mbps of upload and download internet speed as a feature. A customer with no knowledge of how important this number is, or has no idea whether 500 Mbps is fast or slow, will not understand exactly how this number is relevant to him or his life.
But if you mention that the benefit is a faster internet connection with less video stutter and quicker downloads, then the customer will understand what you mean right at the bat.
- Features are based on the product itself, while benefits are based on the consumer’s life, that is, in the form of a solution to their problems.
Look at the Landing Page Builder example. This is targeted at individuals or companies that don’t have a programmer or graphic designer in their team but would like to create professional-looking landing pages.
100 templates within the platform have the benefits of giving the user several options, as well as making it easier for the user to create what he desires quickly, easily, and cheaply.
When to Use the Feature-Driven Marketing Approach
At this point, you should have a good understanding of what features and benefits are, their importance, and the key differences between them.
Both are important during marketing as they provide beneficial information that helps users during their buyer’s journey, such as the product’s price, design, and relevance to the real world.
Nevertheless, marketing messages should lean more on the benefits side because the benefits of a product or service are really what makes consumers purchase.
If you choose to call attention to the features of your product, then you should ensure that consumers understand what they will gain from using those features.
Sometimes, the answer to the question of whether to take the features or benefits approach in marketing a product may change depending on the product.
Here are some instances when taking the feature-driven approach is better:
If you’re in a saturated market.
If your product or service is one that has a lot of competition and the customers already know the benefits of using such an offer, then you may gain some competitive advantage by naming a special feature to stand out. This must only be done if your target market understands what they are set to gain from the feature without a need to explain.
For niche offers or demographics.
Features are great if you are targeting a niche demographic that are highly technical or knowledgable about your offer/niche. For instance, if you are selling a reseller hosting account, you can say that you have a Dell PowerEdge with a 56 core Xeon CPUs server. The buyer, who probably owns an agency that sells hosting accounts, knows that this means the servers are powerful and secure. This feature alone answers the question “how secure?” without the need for additional explanations.
For expensive or luxury offers.
If you’re selling high-end items, it is important to mention actual specifications. You can follow up with the benefits, but it is not actually necessary because targets for luxury brands already know what the benefits are.
It may not even matter if the benefit of this product is the same as the benefit of a similar cheaper product. Why? Because the target market for such offers is typically more interested in the feature, price, and brand name.
One example is an expensive gem. If a person purchasing is a jewelry enthusiast, then she would understand what it means when the seller says the diamond has the Ideal Cut, color-grade I, and S12 clarity.
Another good example is a luxury car. A car enthusiast, especially for high-powered race cars, would research everything about a car and would even go to car shows to participate and test drive some. If a luxury car can deliver 720 cv at 8000 rpm and can go from zero to 62 mph in 2.8 seconds, it means it’s very powerful and can accelerate really quickly. Without the numbers, the words “powerful” and “fast” mean nothing to the customer. He would even be turned off by the lack of technical specifications that he expects.
Mention the features if they cannot be simplified.
Some features have multiple purposes that listing them down can be troublesome. Some could not even be simplified because simplifying what it does can actually cause more confusion.
In such instances, showing the feature is expected, even if the user doesn’t understand what it means.
One example is a solar inverter with an integrated DC isolator. It is important that sellers mention this exact term because it is a technical feature that has a specific function.
The benefit of having this feature is that it separates AC connections from the rest of the system, preventing electric backflow, which in turn prevents damages to circuits and devices. A DC isolator is used to isolate the entire photovoltaic array during maintenance and isolation.
See how the explanation includes additional terms such as “AC connections” and “photovoltaic arrays” that may require even more explanation for a family man who simply wants to purchase a solar inverter for his home?
Even if the user does not understand the function of this feature, if he was told by an expert in solar energy that that’s what he needs, he needs no further explanation.
When to Use the Benefit-Driven Marketing Approach
Marketing using benefits is very common. You can see them everywhere! Here are some instances when the benefit-driven approach is used (this is not an all-encompassing list):
If your product’s niche is one that doesn’t have a lot of competition, then it’s very important that you answer questions such as ‘How does it work?’ and ‘How does it add value to the lives of consumers?’ The answers to these questions are the benefits of your product.
This is important so that you can resonate well with an audience who may not know anything about your product or service. Ensure that your marketing is benefit-based in cases where your product is not very common or popular.
A lot of competition.
This may sound contradicting to the point above, but really, showing your customers how they are set to gain more when using your product as compared to your competitors can work well, if you can provide a benefit that your rival cannot.
If the product is new.
If no one has heard about your product before, how would they know what the product is all about? How would they know what it means to them? Showing the benefits is key.
Top tip: A really good marketer can make a new product mean so much to its target customers that not getting this product will mean the customer will lose something. They can make it sound like a need. This feeds on people’s fear of missing out.
For new versions of a product.
What is the difference between this new version and the old one? It won’t matter if you use a different part or technology; if it doesn’t improve the product’s purpose or process, then the new version is worth squat.
For instance, Microsoft released an update to Windows 10 on Microsoft Edge in October 2020. Highlighted below are the benefits of the improved version.
So if you are a user of the old version, would you consider upgrading to the latest version? Of course, you would.
For emotional purchases.
Many of our purchases bank on our emotions. When buying something, your possible reasons can be any of the following:
Notice how each reason matches specific marketing psychology? It’s because it’s our deeper instincts that benefits can tap into.
In general, it is best to show your prospective customers the benefits of your product rather than just tell them what the properties are.
The reason why it is ineffective to market only the features of your product is that features are more factual than emotional and may be hard for customers to relate to.
Imagine marketing a mobile phone and listing only the features, as is shown in our first paragraph. The specifications and functions you list may not make sense to customers unless they are familiar enough with gadgets.
But if you mention the benefits of the features in a way that relates to them, then it makes the decision process easier. If you mention that a phone has 8GB of RAM as a feature, and include that with such memory size, they could enjoy high-end games and applications without facing the issue of their phone hanging in the process, they are more likely to get the message faster.
When to Use Both Approaches Together
There are certain instances when using both the benefits and features together is necessary.
Case in point, certain features just cannot be simplified but need to be understood. If you list the features alone, then a large portion of your prospective customers will simply not understand your marketing message. Under such instances, combining the features and benefits must be done.
Also, when marketing the features without the benefits, you leave it in the hands of your customers to decipher your marketing message. Your audience will have to figure out the benefits of your product’s features themselves, and this could work against you.
When you leave it in your audience’s hands to draw their own conclusions, they could draw the wrong ones.
Let’s list down some instances when using both works well:
1. Product Pages
A product page displays everything your customer needs to know about the product. From how you can use the product to what it is made of; from where you buy this to where (or how) it was manufactured.
Product or service pages cater to both technical and non-technical audiences. Rarely will you ever find a company that prepares two separate product pages: one for technical audiences and another for non-technical ones. After all, how can you control who goes where? What if a technical viewer visits the non-technical page? Then he will be turned off, yes?
If a product is highly technical, then you can expect a really long product page, or at least there are options to view other product information.
Here’s the product page of SunPower Equinox, a solar home solar power system. The text highlighted in green is the features, while the text highlighted in red is the benefits. As you will notice, they are placed side by side to complement each other.
It is a highly technical product, so providing technical specifications and features is important.
Conversely, the target audience here are heads of households interested in green energy but are not well-versed in this aspect. They need to understand how the features of the solar power system can help them get more power even with their minimal technical knowledge.
2. Comparison Tables
When presenting your product as a better alternative, you must use both features and benefits hand-in-hand. This allows you to display what sets your offer apart.
Have a look at this comparison table between Voluum and Kintura, both online marketing tracking platforms. The features are listed in the first column, and the benefit can be seen by clicking on the question mark icon “?”.
It is highly likely that trackers like these are targeted towards technical individuals, or at least those who have some knowledge of the technical side of such platforms because they readily display the features. The benefits are added for good measure.
However, the company does not want to lose out on consumers who want to subscribe to their service but are not techie people.
3. Product Introduction Pages
Both the features and benefits can be used side-by-side when launching new products. This helps people understand what this new and unknown product can do to improve their lives. If you have a new service or product and don’t know how to start using the features-with-benefits approach when it comes to marketing, have a look at Kickstarter projects!
Although you can focus on benefits in these instances, mentioning the features helps in making your consumers familiar with what a feature can do for them. Think of it as educating your target audience while promoting your product at the same time.
It’s not that they’re not smart enough; it’s that they are too busy or distracted to do some research. Plus, making your target customer go elsewhere to find additional information minimizes your chances of converting.
Educating your customers is useful if you want to build a brand around a feature, or if you want your product to be equated to a feature.
For instance, if you’re looking for a solar-powered car, your first thought would be the Tesla Car, right? That’s because Elon Musk and his marketing team have effectively marketed this innovative new product with the main feature of being powered by solar energy.
So right now, in the minds of consumers, solar-powered cars equal Tesla Cars.
How To Turn Your Features Into Benefits
Now that you understand that benefits actually depend on the features and that it’s the benefits that really sell, then it’s about time to learn how to write a product’s benefits.
It’s very easy really, you just need to think about how your product can help your target audience. If it’s still hard, then use the following questions as a guide.
- What does your customer need?
- What does your customer want?
- What are your customer’s pain points?
It’s likely that you have thought about these things when creating your buyer persona. However, buyer personas usually include characteristics of a person without thinking about your product. This time around, you apply what you know about your product and cross-reference it to your target customer’s characteristics.
Write down just one feature of your product and derive the benefits based on the three questions above. You can then choose the benefit that has the strongest impact. You will have to answer these questions for every individual benefit and every single buyer persona you have.
Let’s say you are selling solar-powered flashlights and your target customer is an outdoor enthusiast named John Smith. Let’s apply these to the questions while focusing on the feature that this flashlight has a built-in solar panel and battery.
1. What does your customer need?
What does John Smith need in relation to a flashlight? John Smith likes to camp, and when he does, he’ll need something to light his path at night.
The benefit of having an integrated solar panel and battery:
If the flashlight runs out of charge, you only need to place it where the sun shines and it will be recharged.
2. What does your customer want?
What your customer wants is different from what he needs. A customer usually understands more about what he wants than what he needs because what he wants is always in his mind; what he needs is only put in the spotlight when the “need” actually arises.
What he wants is rooted in his characteristics. An outdoors-y individual would likely be concerned about nature.
The benefit of having an integrated solar panel and battery:
If you want to help Mother Earth, you can reduce your carbon footprint by using green, renewable energy.
3. What are your customer’s pain points?
Think about something that causes problems for your customers. For instance, when his camp light runs out of power and he doesn’t have batteries in his pack, he will have to go to the nearest place to buy batteries from or recharge his flashlight. How can your product solve this?
The benefit of having an integrated solar panel and battery:
There is no need for you to bring half a dozen extra batteries, neither will you have to break camp just to search for a charging station. You can easily recharge your solar camp light during the day and you won’t have to worry about the dark at night.
If you would notice, the benefits derived are very similar to each other. Only the angle by which they were presented that made them a bit different.
Choose the best benefit above based on what you think John Smith can relate to the most. You can even split-test your ads or landing pages between the three to find out which benefit can get you more sales.
Examples Of Brands Using Features And Benefits
Now that you understand what benefits and features marketing is all about, let’s look at some real examples of how these concepts have been applied in various products and services.
For a New Product: The Couch Console by Ebite Inc.
Marketers at Kickstarter and other crowdfunding websites excel at making their consumers feel as if their product is something they need in their lives.
Check out The Couch Console. It is a self-balancing holder that can handle multiple objects at a time, reducing the chances of spilled drinks and messy food. You can enjoy your viewing or gaming time without problems or interruptions (this provides a solution to a customer’s pain point).
For a Technical Product: Zapier
This automation tool displays its main feature with big, bold letters on their homepage. For good measure, they explained what the feature does in a few words (moves info between your web apps automatically) and added the benefit (so you can focus on your most important work).
Notice that while the offer is a technical tool, the marketing message teases the customers’ emotions by saying they can focus on what matters more to them if they use this platform.
For an Improved Version of a Known Product: Gillette Daisy Razor
Some of this product’s features are so basic, but the brand still feels the need to explain each one to make their product appear more desirable than regular razors.
Compare this with the regular razor like this one from Bic:
They have the same main benefit, yes? It’s for shaving.
The additional features of Gillette Daisy are aimed at giving itself an edge over the competition with additional blades, Lubrastrip, and comfortable grip. However, what improvements these features do still need to be mentioned (closer shave, smoother glide, and comfortable grip while shaving) or they will seem useless to a woman simply looking for a way to get rid of body hair easily. The person shopping will not have the time to research what the additional feature is for since she is purchasing a relatively cheap product that is not worth the extra effort.
Make it easier for your target customer to weigh in on which is the better product and you’ll get the sale.
For Luxury Offers: Brilliance.com
When looking at luxurious items, features are displayed readily as compared to benefits because there is no immediate benefit to purchasing more expensive items than cheaper ones.
The features are necessary to justify the expensive price. In a diamond ring’s case, it includes the color, cut, clarity, and carat. You can’t really explain the benefit of a diamond having an SI1 clarity, or an excellent cut, right?
For Niche Products: PayPal
There are only a handful of online payment systems available right now, and PayPal has undoubtedly dominated the space.
PayPal has already made an edge over other online payment systems by saying it is the “safer, easier way to pay”. See how the highlight of this tool is providing assurance to its customers that their service is secure and easy to use, what with the rampant fraudulent transactions happening online.
The company didn’t really have to mention what kind of security features they use to indicate how secure the platform is because, let’s face it, not many people understand what it means when you say TLS and HTTPS connections are used for data encryption.
Also, the bulk of PayPal’s target market is online sellers and shoppers, not technical analysts. You have to touch on the target market’s pain point which is the fear of being defrauded, which they did.
To wrap things up, the answer to the question of which to focus on between features and benefits really depends on the nature of the product in question.
However, the most common approach is to always make sure that you inform the customers of what benefits they will get from the features. This not only makes the customer’s buying process faster but also ensures that they don’t make the wrong conclusions about what they could benefit from using your product.
The marketing angle is usually based on the benefits because it is the one that touches on people’s psychological state. And as we have discussed with many of our articles before, psychology in marketing leads to a better Return on Investment.
Although customers may sometimes look at the features of products and services to make comparisons, they only really care about what’s in it for them. So when drafting your landing page copy or writing product descriptions, if you must state features, ensure you support the features of your products with benefits and give them specific reasons why they need to buy what you’re offering.
Need help in crafting ads that highlight the benefits of your offer? Reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org! We’d be happy to help you with your native advertising journey.