Ultimately, what you are selling is the benefits of the product or service you are offering and not the product or service itself. To a customer, a benefit is something that is solving a problem, improving a process, saving time and/or money or increasing competitiveness. But perhaps more importantly, it is the way a customer feels once they realize that benefit that really counts in the end. Do they feel more successful, competent, competitive? Have their lives been improved somehow? An easy to understand example is a company that sells home security systems. Are they selling the system or the peace of mind and feeling of security that it offers?
The thing that many business owners forget is that to really reach and engage customers, the benefit has to be made clear right from the start. Marketers talk a lot about marketing based on benefits and not on features. But sometimes this gets lost in the minds of product or technology developers. The more technical or jargon prone a product is, the more this can be a problem. I understand that in certain industries, a lot of details may need to be communicated. But let that be secondary. First understand and then communicate what the benefits really are. Remember that no matter how proud you are of the technical features of your product, you still have to sell to a human being.
So benefits describe the more affective aspects of how your offering delivers clear customer value and not so much the cognitive benefits. I’ve talked before about the six categories (see diagram below) that go into building a great Value Proposition, but don’t be tempted to lump Benefits into the other categories like Offerings or Value Experience. While certainly there can (and should) be overlap among these categories, it helps your focus and clarity of both internal thinking and external, customer directed messaging to consider these 6 categories separately at first before trying to combine concepts or language.
- Core – These are the main functional benefits of your product/service. For example, the core benefits of both a Ferrari and a Toyota (or any two cars) are essentially the same: they both provide a way to get from one place to another.
- Expected – These benefits are often unstated but expected. Using the Ferrari example, it is expected that it is fast, stylish and expensive, whereas the Toyota is safe, reliable and affordable.
- Augmented – These are benefits beyond the expected and may offer added value, surprise or excitement. For example, a Ferrari may be safer and holds its value better than any other luxury sports car, whereas a Toyota may be the longest lasting car, with the lowest cost to own of comparable vehicles. Customers might not know these facts and will perceive them as added values when they find out.
- Potential – These benefits are often more implied or imagined and create emotional reactions in the customer, which is always a good thing and really, one of the main goals of marketing. So for the Ferrari example, a customer imagines him/herself gaining status with their new Ferrari, impressing their peers and leading a life of glamour and excitement. The Toyota owner, on the other hand, images a long history of weekend trips with the family or passing the car on to a child when they are ready to drive.
So it certainly will help your marketing to go through the exercise of really understanding what benefits your product/service offers. Then your next step is to put it all in language that is meaningful to the customer, and finally, you have to choose the proper channels, images and messages to communicate this all to your target market.