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Updated 22 January 20
Think for a moment about the last time you bought a new car. You went to a dealer and looked around their shiny showroom. You were approached by an enthusiastic salesman who may have asked you what you were looking for. This is the first step in feature-benefit selling – learning the needs/wants of the customer and figuring out how your product or service can meet those needs. From there, the salesman will move to the features that various cars have that will meet the expanded desires of the individual customer.
A lot of up-front research goes into the design of features in automobiles – research that tells designers what the consumer will find valuable. They study all of the data they can gather on various demographics and specific features are added to all of their car models based upon that data. And why is this? Because car designers know that it is not enough just to have lots of “bells and whistles.” Those bells and whistles must have value, or benefit, to individual consumers.
The same is true of startup businesses. They begin with a consumer need, figure out how they can solve it and then design products and services with features that will fill that need.
Consider the example of Dollar Shave Club, an online retailer that sells a razor subscription service and delivers them once a month. The founders identified a need that its target audience had (men who want to improve their appearance by shaving by who are inconvenienced by going to the store). Through this company, users can enrol in a subscription-based monthly delivery of razors and never be without again.
Source: Dollarshaveclub.com screenshot
How Dollar Shave Club sells its products to customers is not by explaining what they do (the razor), but why they do it (convenience for their busy customers). The razors themselves have physical features that are also described on the company website, and customers have several options based upon those features. But it's not the features of the product that compel them to purchase (they don’t really care too much about the specific differences in the razors). It is the benefits associated with the decision after purchase, in this case, the convenience from the subscription.
This concept is now known as Features, Advantages, Benefits Selling (FABS) or to put it simply, feature-benefit selling. It means that every feature of a product or service that is to be marketed is tied to a benefit that a potential customer will consider valuable. No customer will give a product or service a second look unless and until they see a benefit or advantage in acquiring it, and any marketing message must speak to that – it’s how sales are really made.
Using the Dollar Shave Club as an example still, their marketing message is “Get ready to look, feel, and smell your best”. Users who had to skip a day's shave when they forgot to go to the store to buy razors, can now look and feel their best every day because of the subscription service the company provides.
As Simon Sinek said;
“People don't buy what you do; they buy why you do it”.
There are some common, general benefits that marketers should first look at before they get specific in their messages. Feature-benefit selling usually involves one or more of the following advantages to be presented to consumers.
Active and busy consumers see value in these two things. Dollar Shave Club offers the advantage of convenience to men; so does a monthly diaper subscription to a new mother. Frozen or delivered fresh meals offer both convenience and time savings to those who have long workdays. Software products offer time savings to both individuals and businesses.
This can be personal or business-related. If productivity is a real need, then products or services that can focus on features that promote this are of benefit. Consider, for example, company call centres for customer support. These are time-consuming and labour-intensive operations, not to mention the cost involved. New technology offers far more automation so that consumers can address many of the most common questions, issues or problems on their own; chatbots, armed with AI can respond to the most common questions and issues allowing complex WhatsApp marketing campaigns; CRM software can track entire histories of customers so that when a live agent is involved, he has that customer’s story in front of him. Businesses can improve productivity and reduce staff costs at the same time.
Consumers also see the benefit of productivity improvement in their personal lives. Consider just a few new home products:
- Self-propelled vacuum cleaners can operate on their own, while the consumer is free to do other things.
- Smart home products allow busy people to start appliances remotely before the get home.
- Heating elements in driveways can melt snow with no need to shovel or blow snow.
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Online banking services allow consumers to pay their bills, check their balances, open and close accounts, and track their spending from their mobile devices.
Consumers want to believe that they are achieving cost savings through the purchase of a product or service. Discounts and special sales offer such savings.
Small business owners who cannot afford the cross of full-time staff can achieve great savings with automated financial record-keeping and tax return generation; they can contract out for content marketing and social media maintenance.
Large enterprises can use inventory and logistics software, eliminating the human cost of performing these tasks manually. Many are using new blockchain technology to prevent fraud and loss of goods in transport.
All these examples utilize feature-benefit selling principles to attract potential buyers and convince them that they need certain products.
When the focus is on the consumer need and advantages to him, rather than on what the company wants to achieve, marketing strategies, campaigns, and sales tactics are completely transformed. This places a business ahead of its competitors who are still trying to focus on the product or service rather than the value it provides. In the consumer’s eyes, the company that appears to have their interests at heart is the one they will gravitate to.
“15 minutes could save you 15% or more on car insurance." We’ve heard it so many times because it is a perfect example of feature-benefit selling currently in use by Geico Insurance Company. It has combined two benefits – cost and time savings – and of course is presented by the ever-familiar gecko or through storytelling.
There are still insurance companies that promote themselves based upon how long they have been in business. Which of these brands do you think the consumer remembers? Very few. Case in point.
Daniela is a blogger with rich experience in writing about UX design, content planning, and digital marketing. Currently, she is the contributing editor for Top Writers Review where she helps individuals and organisations improve their web content writing.