Marketing Benefits vs Features

Burlington, ON (George Torok) Stop telling your customers about horsepower (feature) when they are concerned about missing dinner (benefit). One of the biggest marketing mistakes is to talk about features like horsepower when your customers only care about benefits like getting home for dinner.

What are you marketing – Benefits or Features? Wake up and talk about what’s important to your customer. Your engineers care about features like horsepower. Don’t worry about hurting the feelings of your engineers. They are not your customers.

Should you promote benefits or features? The question sounds simple. The answer is also simple. Yet so many marketers make this mistake. You probably know the difference between benefits and features and you might wonder why so much marketing focus on the wrong aspect.

If you are marketing a car the features might be that it is available in candy apple red, sky blue, moss green or charcoal gray. The benefits might be that you will look sexy in red, cool in blue, inviting in green or mysterious in gray.

This lesson about the difference between features and benefits was hammered home for me a few decades ago in my first career when I worked in marketing for International Harvester (IH). I was representing IH at the International Plowing Match. I was excited about being on the tractor display. My job was to explain all the features of the new tractors to the farmers.

I had memorized the details of all the tractor models – horsepower, PTO power, tire options, etc. I could name the factory where each model was manufactured. I even prepared cue cards with this information in case I forgot. I felt ready to wow the farmers with my technical knowledge about the tractors. I was well armed with the features.

But I was jolted into realty when a farmer with crooked teeth stared at me after my dissertation about horsepower and said, “Can she pull a three-furrow plow in sandy clay?” A benefit question.

That question shocked me. I didn’t know the answer. I didn’t have a clue. And I realized that that was the important question. I didn’t know the answer that was important to the customer. The company had not prepared me for it. They had given me facts – not relevance. There was nothing in the marketing brochure about benefits just features.

If you don’t know what is important to your customers, you will be talking about horsepower – when they are worried about getting stuck in the clay.

What is the clay that your customers are worried about? Learn the nature of that clay. Talk to your customers about the clay and their concerns. Other than the engineer that designed the tractor, no one else cares about horsepower. Customers care about the clay because that is what costs them fuel and that is what makes them late for dinner.

Smart marketing is about knowing, understanding and conversing with your customers about how your product offers them benefits to improve their life. Everything else is manure.

George Torok© GT George Torok is coauthor of the bestselling, Secrets of Power Marketing, the first guide to personal marketing for the non-marketer. Get your free copy of “50 Power Marketing Ideas” at
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