Features, Not Just Benefits – Why Differentiation Requires More Than Vague Maxims

August 17, 2016

Every marketing 101 class worth its salt will have you walking out the door uttering two time-honored maxims where messaging and copy is concerned:

  • Benefits, Not Features.
  • Unique Value Proposition.

No one really wants to hear about what you do, they want to know what you’ll do for them, right? And you want to make sure that you’re showing unique value; that you offer something no one else does. You want to provide differentiation.

The problem here is that because of strict adherence in marketing copy and creative to the first maxim, just talking about benefits is no longer good enough to achieve the second.

Every company I come in contact with is going to make me better, faster, cheaper, smarter.

These are benefits aimed at the “what’s in it for me”. The problem is everyone says that they do that.

We’re inundated with high-level marketing messages that offer over-vague descriptions of what a company does. So much so, I’d argue, that the most effective messaging and copy offers not only benefits but also features. The “how” is actually just as important as the “what it means to me”.

How can you differentiate if you don’t show me how and why you actually deliver your unique value proposition?

Better, cheaper, faster isn’t unique. Better, cheaper, faster because we do something no one else does is.

This provides two nice added bonuses for marketing online:

1.       Great for SEO – If part of your plan in articulating your message is to articulate a number of very specific solutions you offer and how you offer them, you’ll wind up with a ton of great content ripe for rankings and optimization (and primed to speak to very specific problems and queries).

2.       You started the differentiation; who’s next? - You're placing the onus back on the other guy. “Here is how we provide all this incredible value; how do you do it?” If you have a quality product and a better solution, including not just the “what” but also the “how”, your advertising can provide you with the differentiation you’ll need to acquire new customers in noisy, crowded fields.

The thing to remember here is that new-age marketing - from PPC to SEO to old media – is forcing marketers to crank up both the specificity and the relevance of their messages. This means being able to say more than “better, faster, cheaper, smarter”; this means leveraging the numerous mediums available to you to articulate how you get me there in ways that no one else can.

Tom Demers

Tom Demers

Tom Demers is Co-Founder & Managing Partner at Measured SEM and Cornerstone Content.

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