Products may be described in terms of their features and benefits. Features are product characteristics; benefits are customer needs served by those features. Some examples of features are size, color, horsepower, functionality, design, hours of business, and fabric content. Benefits are less tangible but always answer the customer’s question: What’s in it for me? While product features are usually easy to define, product benefits can be trickier because they exist in the customer's mind. The most compelling product benefits are those that provide emotional or financial rewards. It’s not the brighter smile that the toothpaste offers that is its benefit; it’s what the smile might bring you (a good-looking mate, a better job, etc.).
Emotional rewards run the gamut of human emotions, but basically allow the buyer to feel better in some way. For example, sending flowers to a friend or family member allows the buyer to feel supportive or loving. Buying products made from recycled materials offers the buyer the chance to feel environmentally responsible. Products that deliver financial rewards allow the buyer to save money (e.g., a discount long-distance phone plan) or make money (e.g., computer software for managing a home based business).
Discovering Your Product's Benefits
To identify your product’s benefits, you must consider your customers' needs. Imagine yourself in your customers’ shoes, talk to them directly, or conduct surveys asking about their needs and perceptions. If possible, hire an independent firm to conduct a focus group with a sample group of customers to test your product for usability and desirability. Examine customers who have purchased your product in the past. What do their customer profiles tell you about your product’s benefits? Once you have a basic sense of your product's benefits, you can set up systems to develop and track their evolution:
Ask customers for suggestions for improvement.
- · Pay careful attention to customer complaints and prospect inquiries.
- · Train and reward employees for questioning customers and prospects to learn what they like and don’t like about your product.
- · Watch your competitors. Do the changes in their product offerings suggest product benefits you hadn't yet considered?
Why is it important to understand my product’s features and benefits?
Understanding product features and benefits allows you to:
1. Describe your products in terms relevant to your customers.
2. Differentiate explain how your product is different than the competition’s, with different benefits.
3. Effectively choose pricing and positioning strategies. Refer to strategy ideas below in "Strategies that are based on features."
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