Adams & Knight Marketing Blog
POSTED BY: Pat Dugan

Turn product features into human benefits

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Your company has something new to offer. It’s faster! Or cheaper! Or shinier! Or even better, all of the above! But whatever it is, after all those people put all sorts of time and energy into developing all kinds of new and improved features, it’s exciting, right?

Wrong. At least not to people outside the conference rooms and offices where your new product or service was painstakingly brought to life. Because those new bells and whistles mean nothing to them…yet. Often, they’re claims involving numbers (”3 new options!”) and percentages (”40% lighter!”) that will most likely bounce off your audience’s jaded, hardened hides and disappear into the competitive landscape.

So how do you get your new features to stand out from the crowd and stick in potential customers’ minds? By targeting their hearts. If you want them to pay attention to what it can do, you have to show them what it can mean to them and their lives. For every feature, you have to go further — and find the human benefit that it can lead to. Here are a few ways we do that:

1. First, figure out which feature you want to, well, feature.

Because you have to pick one. I know, I know…but you have so many to talk about! Problem is, like everyone else these days, your audience has a short attention span, and can only focus on one thing at a time. So take that laundry list of bullet points and pare it down to the one feature that is most unique, impressive and differentiating from your competition.

Think about it like this — if I throw a ball to you, you’re probably going to catch it, right? But if I throw three at you at the same time, you’re most likely going to miss all of them. So stick to one feature and benefit at a time. 

2. Next, simplify.

Have you described any new features as simply and clearly as possible? There’s a temptation to try to make features sound more impressive by using lots of flowery language and over-inflated adjectives, but all that typically accomplishes is making your message longer, slower and more forgettable. 

For example, a bank could say “We are incredibly proud to announce our new, more convenient extended weekday hours, from 9am until 7pm.” Or they could just say “Now open later than ever.” Which one do you think has the best chance of being absorbed by customers?

3. Finally, take that feature further.

So you know what you want to focus your message on. And you’ve condensed it down to its core essence — ideally, one simple word like “safer,” “broader, ” “higher” or “richer.” Now you’re getting somewhere. Now you’ve got a doorway to far more emotional, memorable and motivating messages. So walk through it — and discover what kind of human benefits you can find.

Write down the feature you want to highlight. Stare at it. Let your mind wander. Think about what that word means and what it brings to mind. Let’s say you make a medical imaging device featuring new, “sharper” optics. Well, that means doctors can see better, and make more accurate diagnoses, right? Which means patients can feel more confident that what they’ve been told is true. Which means a woman who’s been told surgeons removed all of her cancer can worry less about tomorrow…and enjoy today with her children. 

See how that works? We just went from cold, hard technology to a smiling, relaxed mom in just a few steps. We infused a typical “new features” message with far more meaning to get the audience’s attention and start moving them to take action. We call it “turning emotion into motion.” And it’s key to driving real results. 

All this isn’t to say that you should ignore the “hard” facts of features — because plenty of people still look for those. But if you’re able to infuse them with more human, emotional benefits, you can have the best of both worlds…and chances are, have more effective marketing.

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Pat Dugan
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