Features. Advantages. Benefits.

These three innocuous words often bring more pain than clarity to many business people charged with the task of explaining why customers should choose them over their competitors. Why does it have to be so difficult to articulate the upside of your goods and services?

Whenever the idea of features and benefits comes up in strategy sessions, we often find ourselves arguing about a benefit that doesn’t actually benefit the end user, or a feature that doesn’t appear to have any real world benefit. And then when we add “advantages” into the mix, the marketing conversation get even more complicated.

Part of the problem comes when we have to write it down. While most of us can talk effortlessly for hours about our area of expertise, writing about a product or service in a way that conveys emotion and results in action isn’t so easy. While our facial expressions and passion are hard to ignore in a personal conversation, these intangibles are not so easy to infuse into paragraphs and short marketing messages.

So how do you tell the difference between a feature, a benefit and an advantage? And why does it matter? After all, your customers don’t really care what you call those points on your bullet list. They are too busy sorting out their own priorities to pay much attention to yours.

And this is exactly why you need to articulate features, advantages AND benefits. So that your prospects and customers will pay attention. If all you give them is features, you’re asking them to connect the dots. Don’t leave it chance. Connect the dots for them.

We need an example. Let’s say your company is trying to increase sales on your flagship leaf blower. One feature might be the  “optional three speed motor”. If that’s your leading bullet point, your customer might respond with “and I care because?” Truth is, nobody wants a three speed or a seven speed anything. But they likely want to solve a problem that your 3 speed innovation is perfectly suited to address. This is why you need to push past the features and get to the advantages and benefits.

When writing about your products and services, ask this question after every bullet point:  “And I care because?”

Let’s take a closer look and see where this takes us.

How does your 3 speed version improve on the single speed base model sold across the street? In what scenario will the 3 speed outperform it? Once you’ve clarified the advantages you can zero in on the benefit that your customer will receive by choosing you over the competition. You need to frame the conversation in a way that appeals to your customer. Something like this: “Our 3 speed reversible Zetcon 9000 removes leaves from your gutters 60% faster than those old school single speed Zetcons. Imagine what you could do with all the time you save!”

What did we do? We took a feature (3 speed motor) which by itself doesn’t articulate any positive change into our customers life and we focused on the advantage (faster completion of the task). But more importantly, we moved on to a tangible benefit – a claim that our our Zetcom 9000 will improve the quality of life for our customer (save time). Now your customer can make an intelligent choice. Who knew the Zetcon 9000 was such a life changer. I’d better buy two!

Advantages and Benefits remove barriers and help your customers make their buying decisions. Make the benefits obvious and you’ll dramatically increase your odds of making the sale.