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    February 21, 2014 // 11:00 AM

    Features vs. Benefits: A Crash Course on Proper Messaging

    Written by Shawn Segundo | @

    presentWe've all been involved in a purchasing decision that required upfront research. Sometimes we're buying something we know a lot about, but more often than not, we are diving into some foreign territory.

    As a consultant, my clients often ask me, "How should I speak to my audience?" Well, first and foremost, my answer is always make sure you're creating content that is valuable and helpful to your audience. But you've probably already heard that part. When we get into the nitty gritty details of that specific company's goals, however, we start talking about the importance of speaking to the benefits their organization offers, instead of focusing on the features. 

    If that doesn't sound familiar -- selling the benefit over the feature -- this post will help you out with some reasons for doing this, and examples of how to do it properly.

    Don't unnecessarily limit your audience.

    A common pitfall I see my clients run into when they begin creating marketing content is that they assume a certain level of knowledge for their audience. There's a time and a place to do this, but remember, in the beginning phases of the buyer's journey, we need to talk to everyone in the initial awareness and educational phase first. Consider this the lowest common denominator -- or LCD.

    When you get too technical and advanced in your writing style, you're potentially alienating a large portion of your audience. If you focus on highlighting the benefits of what you're offering, you'll naturally avoid this challenge.

    Here's an example of what I'm talking about, using HubSpot's Sources application as the subject matter:

    Features-heavy approach:

    HubSpot's Sources application uses up to seven different original source types, and is flexible enough to let you isolate these different sources, and even view them using the time intervals of your choice.

    What's wrong with this approach?

    • We're assuming a level of technical understanding. I've essentially removed the value of this snippet for anyone who doesn't have a thorough understanding of what those sources may be, or why they should care about them.
    • We're jumping the gun and assuming the audience is already versed in online marketing. 
    • We're not telling a good story, and storytelling is what makes your content meaningful at a visceral level.

    Benefits-centric approach:

    HubSpot's Sources application allows you to see exactly where all of your website visitors are coming from, and more importantly, tells you exactly where all of your new online customers are coming from. So instead of spending time wondering what areas of your marketing are generating ROI, you can know for sure, and spend more hours in your day focusing on the important things like blogging, social media, or determining which leads you should be sending to your sales team.

    Why is this method so effective?

    • Remember the LCD concept I talked about earlier? We've removed the assumption of technical knowledge here, and we're talking to anyone who has any ideas spinning around in their head on how they can use the internet for marketing.
    • Talking to the LCD doesn't limit our audience, either. This statement is just as useful for people with high levels of technical or digital marketing knowledge.
    • We're telling a story that speaks to our audience's pain points. Everyone could use more time freed up in their day, and any marketer would love to know which activities are delivering the greatest return on investment.

    Want some real life inspiration?

    For inspiration on benefits-centric messaging most readers can find as close as their local mall, I'd suggest visiting an Apple Store.

    From the most senior executive in Cupertino to the part time sales representatives in your local store, Apple has nailed benefits-centric messaging from the top down. Go in there and talk to anyone about any Apple product, ask why it's fantastic, useful, or so popular. After reading this article, I think you'll be pleasantly surprised to pick up on some of their tactics on how they use this skill.

    Now go forth, tell a story, and talk about how you benefit your prospective customers!

    Topics: Content Creation

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