Back to Basics: How to Improve Your Feature-Benefit Communication — 8-Point Arc

It's difficult to tackle the complexities of content marketing without first mastering the basics. Unfortunately, a lot of the content we evaluate lacks mastery of the those basics.  Learn some rules of thumb in making sure your all of your feature/benefit communication is easily understood.

Fundamentals are eroding

 

When you analyze over a million pieces of content, you see a lot of interesting things. One of the biggest surprises we’ve seen is the pervasive misuse of the basics, including one of the most basic forms of content: the presentation of “features” and “benefits.”

 

Some of the oldest and most basic elements of marketing communication are outlining features and benefits. It doesn’t matter if you’re a B2B or B2C marketer, have a commodity or luxury offering, high or low price point, offer products or services…whatever it is you sell, you must communicate the features and benefits of your offering.

 

For a communication element that is so fundamental and common, we see them presented improperly all…the…time.

 

Focus on volume hurts quality

 

So it begs the question, why is this happening? Could it be that skills are eroding and output is therefore eroding as well? I don’t believe this to be the case. In fact, I believe marketers are more skilled and clearly more technologically advanced then ever.

 

I believe it’s due to the volume of output required from any given content marketer.  It is ingrained in us that volume equals engagement. This mantra has been true since technology has been enabling brands to better manage their assets and engage their audiences in new and interesting ways. 

 

It’s still true—volume does drive engagement. But it’s becoming less true over time (more on this in future posts). The pressure to publish takes our eye off the quality ball, so basics are missed, and feature/benefit communication suffers.

 

Lesson 1:  Stop and evaluate.  High volumes of bad content is just a lot of bad content.

 

A benefit is not a more descriptive feature

 

Perhaps the most common offense we see in feature/benefit communication is presenting a benefit that is actually just a more detailed feature description.

 

For example, a technology provider we have analyzed (some words changed to protect the author) explicitly presents features and benefit as the following:

 

Feature – Decision chain technology for optimized search

 Benefit -  Get answers to natural language search questions

 

This benefit description is an additional feature description, but just from the perspective of the user.  The fact that I get answers from natural language search questions is still a function of the product.  Perhaps the fact that I can make faster and more informed decisions is a benefit of the feature described.  We see versions of this mistake all…the…time.

 

Lesson 2: If you make the customer translate how your product benefits them, they may draw conclusions that do not lead to a sale.

 

Balance is key

 

There is nothing wrong with communicating details about your product. In fact, it’s a necessity, and at times we see brands not presenting their offer enough. We do, however, see brands that overwhelm with feature descriptions and don’t connect enough to the benefits for the customer.

 

In the table above, we have outlined the average feature/benefit balance for some selected B2B and B2C markets.  Some industries do a great job of striking a balance between feature and benefit communication. In other more technical industries, it’s understandable that they would need to have more technical feature descriptions resulting in heavy feature scores. 

 

However, given these are industry averages, some brands in these industries are much higher. We have seen some brands communicating 25 feature references for every 1 benefit. That has to be hurting the support they provide buyers through the journey, especially as the buyers near a decision.

 

Lesson 3: Balance your feature and benefit communication

 

Hope this helps! Feature/benefit communication is important and the most fundamental presentation of your product or service.  We hope these lessons help in ensuring you have the basics right.  We’ll look for better feature/benefit communication as we analyze the next million pieces of content :)

 

Author

Brian Dames

Co-Founder

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