features and benefits

Features and Benefits: What’s the Difference and Why Does it Matter?

Linda Mulcahy
September 26, 2018

Features and Benefits

Some people use the terms interchangeably, but there’s a big difference between features and benefits. One way to think of it is with this Marketing 101 mantra: features tell and benefits sell.

What’s the Difference?

Features are the facts about a product, such as its color, size, age, material, parts, industry rating, construction method, ingredients, packaging, country of origin, miles per gallon, patents, and so on.

The benefits explain why those features matter to the customer.

Features are often presented as a bulleted list in a product description. They’re important, of course, but good copywriters know how to translate features into benefits.

For example, I recently eyed a pair of hiking boots that have an “antimicrobial mesh lining.” That’s a feature.

And I don’t care.

I don’t know what antimicrobial is though it sounds science-y and important. Mesh makes me think of fishing nets and chicken wire. And lining shmining. Whatever. I’m bored now.

But when the product description noted how this antimicrobial mesh lining will keep my feet cool and dry even on long, hot summer hikes? Well now I’m not only interested in the feature, I’m convinced I NEED that feature. Hot, sweaty feet are the worst! And this here boot will solve that problem? Add to cart. Check out now.

See, it’s not really about the hiking boot. It’s about me. Me and my delight as I imagine myself comfortably trekking along the dusty trail with my cool and dry feet.

This story about vacuum cleaners from Entrepreneur describes the difference well.

Why Does it Matter?

It’s been said that people don’t buy products, they buy better versions of themselves.

When you write copy that focuses on the benefits of the products, you’re helping people envision that better self. The person they want to be. The one with more time. More money. Better health. Stronger relationships.

Features alone don’t tell that story. Benefits do.

A blogger over at the ecommerce site Shopify suggests that product descriptions shouldn’t actually sell a product but, rather, an experience.

Sure, good copy tells customers what the product does. But it doesn’t stop there. It describes how the product solves their problems and improves their lives. For example:

  • A new software program doesn’t just automate payroll. It lets you focus on other revenue-generating tasks. It helps make money!
  • A yoga class doesn’t just provide instructions on 12 beginner poses. It promotes vitality and flexibility and gratitude and peace!
  • Acne medication doesn’t just heal skin disease. It offers confidence and all the popularity, romance, and success that comes with it!
  • Donating to an animal shelter doesn’t just give an abandoned dog a meal. It gives that sad baby a second chance at a good life in a loving home. And you did that, you hero!

You get the idea.

Entrepreneurs know their products backward, forward, and inside out, but their focus is often too narrowly focused on features, so they don’t market it well.

In these cases, potential customers get confused and distracted by the jargon-filled descriptions of technical innovations or industry awards, and they don’t get the answers to their most important questions: What’s in it for me? How does this solve my problem? Why should I buy this?

Frustrated, they click away.

But smart business owners hire good copywriters to engage and persuade their customers, turning browsers into buyers through the power of describing benefits.

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