My quick answer, if you can help it, neither, let me explain.
Let’s take your typical running shoe for example. There are probably hundreds of different models being marketed and sold out there. So what really sells one particular shoe over another? Is it the features such as the price, the colors, or the style? For some… sure, maybe. Or, how about the benefits such as the brand, or the shoe’s availability? Again, for some… sure, maybe. But what if your target market was the serious adult runner who regularly participates in competitive races? Would they be interested in the features and benefits? Yes, sure they might. However, what if you had a shoe that had proven to make several well-known athletes run faster and ultimately win high-prized competitions? Don’t you think the serious runner would be more interested in running faster than in the brand or color of the shoe?
Point being that while the features and benefits are important to some and should play some role in the marketing process, their importance is simply dwarfed by the anticipated results that your product or service may deliver.
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Now I’m not saying to make false claims here. I’m simply saying that results sell! That’s why marketing tactics such as testimonials and case studies are so effective. They typically speak to the results that someone in your target market has realized because of you, you product and/or your service.
So how do you uncover the potential results that your product and/or service may deliver? Well obviously as just alluded to, there’s no better way than though client experiences; More specifically, ones that can be documented in testimonials and case studies. Don’t have the luxury of testimonials and case studies yet? Try drilling down to uncover the real reasons that your target market would buy your product and/or service – what’s the result or results that they’re really after when using a product and/or service like yours? One way to find out is to simply ask your target market, survey them, and find out their ‘why’.
Drill or the Hole?
For example if your product was a drill and your target market was the middle class, do-it-yourself homeowner:
You might ask your prospect: “Why are you looking to buy a drill?”
Your prospect might respond: “I need to drill a hole.”
You might then ask: “Why drill a hole?”
In which your prospect might respond: “So I can hang a picture of my family on the wall.”
Now at this point you at least know that your target market may be using your drill in the picture hanging process and can continue querying to find out the results that they are after – such as being able to hang a picture perfectly centered and straight in less than 5 minutes without damaging the wall, thus freeing up their time to spend on more important things to them such as their family.
So if your drill has features and benefits that would support the desired result, such as a built in level or bit storage right on the drill, those would be worth promoting at this time; other features and benefits can and probably should be temporarily stored away until needed. In other words, don’t bombard your target market with every possible feature and benefit – this tends to cause overload and confusion and confused minds tend to not take action. And as marketers, this is not the result we want to cause.
I do understand that the previous sample dialogue may seem really rudimentary however I use it to illustrate the importance of, along with a simple methodology, for learning your target market’s real motivations for buying. And that will certainly help you create a stronger, more effective marketing message.
So in closing, I like you to do me a favor, I’d like you to try on this results approach to your marketing for a while and see how it fits. Think of your marketing for a moment as if you were casting a movie. The ‘results’ that your product and/or service brings would be the leading actor. While the ‘features’ and ‘benefits’ would be the supporting cast.