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Features vs. Benefits: Why Building Materials Manufacturers Need to Know the Difference

Can you articulate the difference between a feature and a benefit? If not, you’re probably using them wrong in your sales copy. This week we talk about the difference between features and benefits and how to use them for the most impact.

Photo of Zach Williams
Photo of Beth PopNikolov
by Zach Williams and Beth PopNikolov

More About This Episode

The Smarter Building Materials Marketing podcast helps industry professionals find better ways to grow leads, sales and outperform the competition. It’s designed to give insights on how to create a results-driven digital marketing strategy for companies of any size.

Deanna Murphy, Venveo’s Director of Strategy, is back this week to talk with Zach about features and benefits messaging, market fit, how to win your customer and more.

The Difference Between Features and Benefits

Many manufacturers get confused about the difference between features and benefits, thinking they’re the same. However, this confusion can impact your bottom line. Often, when manufacturers don’t know the difference, they lump features and benefits together on their website resulting in a big block of text.

Zach explains the difference: “Features are about you. They're about the product, they're about the brand. The benefit is about your customer.”

While it’s tempting, you should never lump both features and benefits together in your marketing material. “The reason why this is important is because if you're thinking about trying to win over [a] prospective customer or prospect, it's much more important to talk through benefits because benefits ultimately speak to a pain point while features back up a pain point… We buy because of pain points, and we rationalize because of those features that support the pain points,” explains Zach.

Benefits speak to your emotional side, which is where many people make their buying decisions even in the building materials industry. The feature should always set up the benefit.

For example, Nest Thermostat’s main headline, which Zach loves, is “Saving energy is a beautiful thing.” “If you think about people that buy Nests, they buy it because it looks good, but they rationalize why they bought it because of how much money it saves them. They're really buying it because it looks really nice when someone walks through their hallway, and they're like, ‘Oh look, you've got a Nest product.’ But they say, ‘Oh it saves me a bunch of money.’ But what they don't tell you is, ‘Well, I like looking cool.’”

Manufacturer Examples

One example of a manufacturer lumping features and benefits together is ZIP Systems. Now, they have a great website that’s really well articulated. However, for their ZIP System, they have four essential bullet points that combine features and benefits.

The first bullet point is “speed and ease of installation” which is a benefit. The supporting sub-headline says “ZIP system creates a quick and simple two-step installation that eliminates the need for house wrap and fill.” The two-step installation is the feature, while the benefit is that it’s quicker to install.

Remember, the feature is not better than a benefit, but the feature should act to set up the benefit or support the benefit. In the example above, the feature isn’t setting up the benefit. The benefit is setting up the feature.

It’s also important to be careful you don’t list the features and never turn them into benefits. Don’t say, “installs quickly” or “lasts longer” or “easier to install.” What does that mean for your user? List your features, then close the loop for what those features mean for the decision-maker.

Another example is Milwaukee Tool. On the drilling section of their website, they have three bullets: most powerful, most compact and auto-stop control mode enhanced safety. The first two are features that aren’t followed up by benefits. Why is the most powerful important to your user? Why should they care if it's the most compact?

Also, consider what your statement really means. What does most compact really mean? Most powerful compared to what? Compared to drills of the same size or ones four times the size? Adding benefits to your features clarifies what you are actually saying. You need to close the loop and define to the user what the feature is going to do for them.

This is essential for any copy you use: in ads, trade show booths, flyers and even conversations with your team or customers. “Frankly, nobody really cares about the features necessarily unless they're backing up or supporting the benefit. So this even comes down into your sales training or copying in your emails. It's a part of everyday all-day communication,” says Zach.

When your sales team gives their elevator pitch, they need to be able to create the most impact possibly in 30 seconds max. Being able to give your feature and following it up with the benefit is how you can create that impact quickly.

The last example is Cambria Quartz, one of the Venveo team’s favorite brands. Their SEO description says, "American-made quartz countertops are long-lasting, easy to maintain and elegant. Cambria quartz surfaces are durable non-absorbent and available in stunning designs." These are all excellent features, but the text doesn’t easily define the benefits.

However, Cambria Quartz has incredible visuals on their website. The purpose of the benefit is to elicit an emotional response — Cambria is simply relying on a visual asset to support their written features. They allow the imagery to do the work for them.

Want Even More Insight?

Remember, if you want to write persuasive copy, you need to ensure your features (statements about the brand or product) set up your benefits (statements that emotionally impact the customer).

To learn more about features and benefits, listen to the entire episode here. You can reach out to Deanna on LinkedIn.

Remember to like and subscribe to Smarter Building Materials Marketing wherever you get your podcasts.