Sell Benefits, Not Features

Why is developing and launching a new product or service so hard? It takes time and resources – both human and financial – to make it happen. According to various research studies, between 50 percent and 80 percent of new products launched each year fail, costing companies and shareholders billions of dollars. While the concept is not always the only reason a product or service fails, a winning concept is an essential cornerstone for all successful marketing communications.

Without it, you’re simply using resources with little to no productive results in the market.

A concept fundamentally is a representation of an idea for a product or service. With a definition that simple, it might seem surprising that so few professionals can craft a great concept. One of the biggest challenges in creating concepts is making sure the customer is the focus and that it offers a meaningful and relevant benefit.

All too often, those developing new ideas sell product features rather than true customer benefits.

Customers buy benefits, not features – so find a benefit with a strong hook.

Two fundamental types of concepts exist: core idea concepts and positioning concepts.

Most concepts comprise some elements of each. A core idea concept simply describes the product or service. For the most part, it’s a relatively concise description of what’s being offered to the end buyer. The purpose of a core idea concept is to determine whether the idea is of interest. Typically, a core idea concept doesn’t attempt to sell any benefits to the potential buyer; it simply elaborates on all the key features the product or service offers.

In contrast, a positioning concept attempts to sell the benefits of the product or service to a potential buyer. The positioning concept must tap into real consumer beliefs that provide a relevant context for the product idea. A positioning concept focuses on the rational or emotional benefits a buyer will receive or feel by using the product. Your positioning concept identifies the winning customer approach – the foundation for a communications strategy used to execute your advertising, PR, sales materials, website, Facebook page, etc.

Benefits come in several shapes and sizes. It’s important to find a specific type that best leverages customer needs and perceptions of your brand or company, while still being unique and ownable among your competitors. It generally is easiest to divide your potential benefits into four categories as follows:


Derived from the heritage benefit of the brand (i.e., Robitussin® tablets for the same relief you trust in a new form)


Grounded in formula – or service-based claims (Tylenol® gives you effective pain relief that won’t irritate your stomach)


Based on appealing to the senses of sight, smell and touch (i.e., Use Downy  to get softness and a freshness in your washables)


Based on personal feelings about the process or final outcome (i.e., Send Hallmark cards when you care enough to send the very best).

Now that you understand the benefit, the next question generally is, “What do I do with all my features?”

The features of your products and services are used to convince your target customer that your benefit is true and believable. For example, Dial has a line of hand soap called “Dial Complete.”

The product promise (or benefit) is that you can protect yourself and your family from germs by washing with Dial Complete. Supporting these claims are that Dial Complete kills 99.9 percent of germs and is the No. 1 doctor recommended antibacterial soap.

The idea of protecting your family is a bigger, more important claim for the target audience: moms. This is manifested with the selling line of “protect yourself.” Even though the manufacturer likely loves and is proud of the bold support claims, that’s all they are – support for the benefit. The active ingredients probably can be put in another competitor’s products. They could make the same statement on 99.9 percent germ kill, but Dial already owns this greater piece of consumer real estate.

The same is true for you, your business, your brand, your product or your service. Sell a meaningful customer benefit, and you’ll have a lot more marketplace traction. You’ll better own a position in the marketplace that can be leveraged through all your communication touch points.

Reprinted with permission.