Features And Benefits – What’s The Difference?

The terms “features” and “benefits” are continually thrown around when people are discussing marketing strategies and communications tactics – most of the time, with a sentence much like, “We need this brochure to have real features-and-benefits text throughout the whole piece.” At which point, everyone normally nods in agreement. Who could disagree?

But of course, if you asked most of the people in the room, few could honestly agree either, because they’re not clear on what “features-and-benefits text” or “features/benefit format” actually means, including the person who made the comment. Why? Because it’s an expression that doesn’t really mean much of anything. It’s become marketing jargon.

Let’s clear up the confusion by first defining these two words.

Features: characteristics of a product, service, or other offering.

In other words, what are the pieces and parts of whatever it is you’re marketing?

For example, if you’re selling a car, some of the features might include airbags, a convertible top, and an incredibly powerful engine. If you’re selling a management consulting service, some of the features might be 20 years of experience, an online project-tracking tool, and a helpful document that the client receives at the end of the process.

Benefits: tangible or intangible positives that customers and clients receive or experience via a product, service, or other offering.

In other words, why would anyone want to do whatever it is you’re trying to get them to do?

Normally, if you have to choose, it’s best to talk about benefits more than features. It’s the potential benefits that lead people to act, not the features. There’s an old expression in the marketing world… “People don’t want quarter-inch drill bits. They want quarter-inch holes.” We’ve heard this statement expressed differently and credited to different sources (the most credible source being David Ogilvy), but the sentiment is always the same… People don’t buy your product because of the features it has. They buy it for the benefit they hope to receive from using it.
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