Sell the Benefits, not the Features

Nearly every week I get at least one, if not more, credit card offers in the mail. Despite the fact that most offers promptly become trash, I open one up every so often to find out what I’m throwing away.

Every time I open up an offer and read through the cover letter I am amused to see how much credit card companies think I care about things like “Double Points” or “No Annual Fee”. I must be really special to be offered these features. Most credit card companies are offering the same features with slight differences depending on the company. To me, it all looks the same, and when I’m finished reading I tear up the papers to be recycled.

I’m the first to admit that I may be biased against credit cards. I have a severe allergy to debt in all its forms, and I tend to stay clear of any avenues that may lead to debt. This includes credit cards. (I do have a few cards strictly used to build/maintain my credit score.) However, aside from my personal bias, these mail offers do an awful job of selling the the product. The focus of the offer is always centered on the features of the card and rarely on how the features actually add value to my life.

Here is the letter credit card companies should be writing me:

Dear Mr. Walkiewicz,

Here at [Insert Company Name] we have created a credit card designed for you to get more out of your everyday purchases. You can choose to carry a balance or pay in full each month. Balances may be subject to interest charges. Our card offer today includes the following features:

  • No annual fee
  • Double Points at gas stations and grocery stores
  • X% cash back on qualified purchases
  • 0% into APR and XX.XX% after the first 15 months

We do our best to create features that benefit our customers. We hope that you consider using our card as a tool to deliver more value to your life from the purchases you are already making every day.

Card users similar to you have experienced great benefits from using our product. For example, John D. (33) from Indiana uses his card to purchase gas and groceries. With the reward points he earned last year, John covered the cost of the airfare for his annual family vacation. Likewise, Jane S. (26) of Arizona uses her cash back rewards from her qualified purchases to pay for a monthly dinner and movie night with her boyfriend. We are proud to know that by simply using our card to purchase their everyday needs, both John and Jane have gained meaningful benefits.

Our hope is that you also consider using the benefits that our credit card offers to add more value to your life.

Sincerely, [Credit Card Company Executive]

A letter like this does a few things that the typical credit card offer does not.

First it frames the credit card, or product, as a tool that can be used to improve the user’s life. Second, it tells about the great features and goes one step further by showing the real world impact that the features can offer. Third, the letter shares a couple of personal stories that the prospective customer can relate to.

My point is not to single out credit card companies or their offers. Many people like to shop around for the best features and sign up accordingly. My point is that when selling a product we should always consider the benefit to the end user to be paramount. Great features, on any product, are not where value is delivered to the customer. Value is delivered to the customer by demonstrating how the features can bring the user closer to what is important to them. We stand to sell more if we start focusing on what is important to the customer, not on the latest bells and whistles of our own products.

How do we do this?

  1. Be honest about the product you’re offering and over deliver on the benefits to the customer.
  2. Frame the product in a way that adds value to the lives of your customers.
  3. Introduce relatable stories about how your product has brought value to people. The more personal the story, the better people will connect with your product.