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Defining the benefit in your product

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If you’ve ever taken a sales training class, you may have heard of the features vs. benefits marketing approach. I call this technique the WIIFM (What’s in It for Me) Factor because, by stressing the benefits, rather than the features of a product or service, you are telling your prospects what is in it for them when they purchase from you.

While you may be proud that you offer the latest innovation, technology, material or method, those are not what sell the product. You must articulate what the customer gains (or, in some cases, loses) by purchasing your particular product to induce them to spend the time, effort and money to make the purchase.

An example is the case of the business accounting program my company uses: Every year, the software company releases a new version with more bells and whistles, which it advertises as the reason we should spend the money to upgrade. Our accounting needs are not so complicated that we need these new features -- we only use a fraction of what we already have in our current version, which is now 4 years old -- so we have no inducement to make the purchase. About every three to four years, however, we do buy the upgrade; not because we want or need the new “stuff” they’ve added, or because we’re just dying to spend money on software. We do it because, if we don’t, our accountant will no longer be able to do our income taxes because his company no longer supports the older version of the software. We now have a very specific benefit to spending the money: upgrade or do the taxes in-house. The new features could not persuade us to spend the money; however, the benefit of being able to have our trusty accountant continue to handle our taxes gets me to write that check.

Keep in mind, too, that features often differ very little among competitive companies; it’s the benefits you offer that can close the sale for you. Give your customers and prospects that WIIFM Factor, rather than a laundry list of product features, and you are at least one step closer to making that sale.

So what exactly is a benefit?

First of all, when you are marketing your product, it makes no difference to the customer if you benefit in some way from an item’s production, sales or post-sale process. There must be a tangible or measurable benefit to the consumer. All talking points must be perceived benefits from the customer’s point of view.

Taking that into consideration, determine what outcome(s) the customer will enjoy by using your product and you have just discovered your benefit statement(s).

To check that it is indeed a benefit statement, make sure that you can word your perceived statement in a “You will …” format. For example, you might think it’s cool that your product is made from the latest space-age material, but does that benefit the customer? How about, “You will save money on shipping costs because this latest space-age material is 50 percent lighter than the traditional components used in this widget.” By saving money on shipping costs, your customer can now either charge less for their product, making them more competitive, or keep prices the same and increase their profits. Now that’s a benefit!

If you can make an impact on the life or business of your target market in a tangible way (e.g., “This spray will reduce sunburn pain 75 percent faster than the leading brand”), emotional way (e.g., “Especially for the purple lover, this mug now comes in three shades of purple.”) or in a measurable way (see the example in the above paragraph), then you have a benefit to promote.

Keep in mind that customers are individuals. What may be a benefit to one may be of no consequence to another. Going back to my example of the accounting program Lev Promotions uses, there was a time that we needed a program that could handle accounting for individual inventory components that would be assembled into a completed item for sale. At the time, the software did not have that capability. It would certainly have been an inducement to upgrade had the software company added that feature 12 years ago. When they finally did add it, we no longer needed that feature, so it was no longer a benefit to us.

What it all comes down to is that, no matter how exciting, cool, neat, imaginative, etc., your feature is, if it does not provide that tangible, emotional or measurable benefit that can be defined and described to the customer, then it is not a selling point.

Beerfas is the chief solutions specialist of San Diego-based Lev Promotions, offering marketing consulting, promotional products, promotional marketing programs and more. She also offers seminars and training in marketing and customer service.

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