Features vs. Benefits: What Customers Actually Want

Sell your products and services more effectively by understanding the difference between these two terms.

Source: Yuri_Arcurs / DigitalVision / Getty

Features and benefits are two common marketing terms that are often used interchangeably. But they’re very different—and that difference matters.

What’s the Difference Between Features and Benefits?

A feature of a product is something that product or service contains.

A benefit of a product is the way that product will change the person’s life.

Think of the Apple Watch. One of its most popular features? The Apple Watch has accurate step tracking. But that’s not the benefit. Most users don’t want to know the number of steps they take each day as just a fun piece of trivia. They want the benefit of a healthier lifestyle, which this feature can help them achieve. By knowing their steps, users can then make step goals and track their fitness more accurately. This will help them live longer, feel more comfortable in their skin, and breathe easier. These are all the benefits.

Which sounds most beneficial for marketing purposes? Clearly, by promoting the benefits an Apple Watch user will gain, Apple is able to make more of an emotional appeal. But Apple needs to describe the features in order for its audience to fully grasp how they’ll attain the benefits. That means both are essential to an effective marketing campaign.

That being said, when talking with your customers, it’s important to understand how knowledgeable they are. If a customer really understands your industry and the lingo you use within it, it will be easier to explain certain features to them. But if they’re a little less informed, focusing on benefits may take you further. Imagine a software company that’s created a scheduling app. Let’s say their target audience is young parents with a lot to do. The company wouldn’t want to over-emphasize all of the fancy data organization tools or coding technologies—it would want to push the idea of improving the lives of families by allowing them to carve out free time to spend with one another. By going to deep into the technology, they’ll scare off customers who aren’t super tech-savvy but would truly benefit from the software.

On the other hand, think of a nutrition company that wants to sell supplements to health gurus. In that case, the company probably doesn’t need to focus on the benefit of supplements—better health, a longer life—because its ideal clients already know they want those benefits and are already making strides towards them. In that case, the company would want to emphasize the features of the supplements, like the specific ingredients and organic creation.

When deciding if you want to highlight features or benefits, your target audience should be top of mind. Then, execute a strategy that keeps both traits in mind in order to win over your customers.