Imagine you’re looking to sign up for a new coaching service. Of the ones you’re considering, you read this program description:
“You’ll get an initial consultation, a one-hour coaching session each week for six weeks, and daily email support for the duration of the program.”
And a second one:
“During the initial consultation, we’ll discuss your vision and strategize next steps so you walk away with a couple of immediate wins.
Then for the next six weeks, we’ll hone in on your purpose and create a doable action plan that will move you from sales stagnation into profitable momentum. You’ll be thoroughly supported throughout the program with daily email and phone access whenever you need it.
Imagine how your newfound clarity and confidence will transform the way you do business and in turn what your business does for you.”
Which program sounds more exciting and promising?
Which one do you feel more confident will produce results?
Which one would you go for?
What if I told you these descriptions are actually for the same program?
The difference is the first is focused on features and the second emphasizes benefits and outcomes. Right away you can see how highlighting benefits and outcomes creates a more compelling, emotional pitch.
Many people get confused about the distinctions between features, benefits, and outcomes when it comes to their own marketing messaging. If that’s you, then read on because I’m going to break down the differences between these three components and explain where they fit into your communications so you clarify your value and make stronger connections and sales.
Features — what you see
Let’s start with features because this one is easy for most people. In fact, that’s why so often product and service descriptions are long on features but short on explaining outcomes. Features are attributes like size, shape, color, function, and process. A food processor can be described by its motor’s horsepower, the types of blades and attachments, and what categories of food it can handle.
For services or other intangible offerings, features are the steps in the process and how it works (i.e. the number of meetings included, follow-up support, or bonus elements).
In all cases, people need to know what something looks like, literally or figuratively. Describing the features of a product or service establishes base expectations and provides context.
Benefits — what you get immediately
Benefits are the short-term, future-focused advantages you gain as a result of the product’s or service’s features. What can you do or experience immediately because of how the product is designed and functions? Benefits are what comes immediately after the ‘because.’ Because of that blender’s 1200-watt motor, you can pulverize hard foods like nuts and ice in seconds flat. Because the blender’s pitcher and other plastic parts are BPA-free, you don’t have to worry about chemical contamination. Because the coach meets with you weekly, you have regular access to learning and support.
Benefits offer insight into what makes the product or service unique. They build the case for why the offering would be a better buy than the competition.
Here’s the Triple B mental reminder:
Because = Benefits = Build the case
Outcomes — what you experience over the long-term
Outcomes describe the transformations that result from using the product or service. They bring emotion into the mix. With the blender’s power and versatility, it will be easy for you to make highly nutritious meals that support your family’s health. With the intensive one-on-one support and strategic planning you get in the coaching program, you’ll learn a new way of doing and thinking that will take your business to the next level.
Whereas benefits are about short-term advantages, outcomes speak to the long-term gains. They paint a vision of the future where your customers have resolved their challenges and met their aspirations. Outcomes are a result of the benefits just as benefits are a result of features.
Features = Benefits = Outcomes
Put it all together for persuasive copy
Let’s look again at the program descriptions I shared at the beginning to see how features, benefits, and outcomes work together for a compelling pitch.
You’ll get an initial consultation [FEATURE], a one-hour coaching session each week for six weeks [FEATURE], and daily email support for the duration of the program [FEATURE].
Again, this first description only talks about features. Features are important because they help you know the basic nature of the program, but without sharing benefits and outcomes the program feels dry and uninspiring.
During the initial consultation [FEATURE], we’ll discuss your vision [FEATURE] and strategize next steps [FEATURE] so you walk away with a couple of immediate wins [BENEFIT]. Then for the next six weeks [FEATURE], we’ll hone in on your purpose [BENEFIT] and create a doable action plan [FEATURE] that will move you from sales stagnation into profitable momentum [OUTCOME]. You’ll be thoroughly supported throughout the program [BENEFIT] with daily email [FEATURE] and phone access [FEATURE] whenever you need it [BENEFIT]. Imagine how your newfound clarity and confidence will transform the way you do business and in turn what your business does for you [OUTCOME].
In the second description, the benefits and outcomes make up nearly half the copy. You get a much better sense of what to expect and how well this program can solve your immediate and long-term challenges.
For more examples including a fun and powerful way to combine features and benefits called the Benefits Burrito technique, check this out.
Product and service descriptions are one of many ways to share features, benefits, and outcomes in your communications. Presented as a bulleted list, features and benefits work great for a side-by-side comparison between your offer and the competition. Highlighting benefits is essential when promoting memberships. Donation requests centered around outcomes can significantly boost response. Outcomes are also an important component of a strong positioning statement.
When your features, benefits, and outcomes clearly differentiate your products and services, you’ll attract more of your ideal customers. They’ll be able to connect their challenges and aspirations with the solutions you offer through your product or service. When they understand the value of what you’re offering, it will be easier for them to come to a buying decision. And for you, upselling and cross-selling will be easier, allowing you to earn more and have greater impact.
If you’d like more help with communicating your unique value, check out my free plug-n-play blueprint Define Your Brand’s Star Power with writing templates for developing a strong brand positioning statement. With this you’ll attract more of your ideal clients, can charge better rates, and become the obvious choice for your prospects.