Why the difference between features and benefits matters even in non-sales writing


Posted Feb. 5, 2019

We mostly hear about "features versus benefits" in reference to sales and marketing. Specifically, these ideas refer to how your company discusses its product or service offering. A feature is a characteristic of your offering, something that it has or is. A benefit is the value or outcome created by the offering.
This distinction is critical to marketers because consumers don't purchase features, they buy benefits. For example, an umbrella might be small, lightweight, and stylish. Those are its features, but that's not why you buy it. You buy it because it keeps you dry while being easy to carry and its stylishness makes you look good to people around you.
However, the "features versus benefits" question actually applies in scenarios outside of direct sales. In fact, it matters every day in ways most people probably never think about it. Proposals, presentations, research, even emails: every communication you produce needs to speak to the intended audience's needs and interests. If you can think about the benefits to the reader, you can make your communications more effective. For example, some everyday scenarios where emphasizing benefits matters might include:
Scenario Features Benefits
Job hunting Your resume or LinkedIn profile lists your "features," like work experience and education. But you'll be more successful in applying for jobs if you can translate those features into the benefits your employer will realize by hiring you, like more sales, greater productivity, etc.
Change management Every organization goes through change, and most communicate changes simply by describing them. If you really want to get people to buy into changes, tell them what's in it for them (WIFM). How will the changes benefit the people expected to alter their behavior?
Policymaking Organizations must set policies and create processes to govern how they operate. The facts of these policies and processes are their features. More people will understand, appreciate, and follow these policies and procedures if they can understand what they get out of them.
Recruitment When you describe what it's like working at your workplace, you probably have a bullet list of corporate features. Translating the features of working at your company into benefits – here, you can feel good about the meaningful work you do in an environment designed to minimize stress and help you feel rewarded – can make a world of difference in recruiting top talent.
The key is to sell the value, not the product, no matter what the "product" may be. So, the next time you sit down to write anything – an email to your boss with a request, a job posting, a proposal making a request – ask yourself if the material is describing features or benefits. You're more likely to persuade the reader to your cause if you emphasize the benefits to them.
About Hurley Write, Inc.
Hurley Write, Inc., a certified women-owned small business (WBENC and WOSB), Historically Underutilized (HUB), and Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE), has been designing and teaching customized onsite writing workshops and online corporate writing courses for over 30 years. We also develop and teach specialty courses, such as how to write proposals and standard operating procedures (SOPs) and deviation and investigation reports, and how to prepare and give great presentations.