Features vs. Benefits vs. Outcomes — Leverage All Three to Boost Your Sales

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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.

But, it’s not that easy to make the switch. Many people get confused about the distinctions between features, benefits, and outcomes when it comes to their own marketing messaging. Let’s break down the differences between these three components and explain where they fit into your communications so you can sell more and more easily.

Features — what you see

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 a service 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, either literally or figuratively. Describing the features of a product or service establishes base expectations and provides context. When the prospective buyer is able to compare or contrast features with what they’re already familiar with, they can begin to understand what’s being offered and move into the next step of the buying decision.

Benefits — what you get immediately

Benefits are the short-term advantages you gain as a result of a product’s features. 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. Think of benefits as short-term but future-focused advantages. What can you do or experience immediately because of how the product is designed and functions?

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.

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.

Description 1:

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.

Description 2:

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.

Product and service descriptions are one of many ways to share features, benefits, and outcomes in your communications. Presented as a bullet point list, features and benefits work great for a side-by-side comparison between your offer and the competition’s. Using benefits to encourage membership sign-ups works well. Donation requests centered around outcomes can significantly boost response. Outcomes are also an important component of a strong positioning statement.

Ultimately, features, benefits, and outcomes help prospects connect their pain points with the solutions you offer through your product or service. Your solutions represent a better future. Speaking about this new, brighter future is one way to acknowledge your prospect’s problems in a productive way. Doing so creates empathy which in turn builds trust. With a foundation of understanding and trust, you’ll alleviate concerns about the value of the purchase which will make your sales cycle more efficient and shorter.

Focusing on features and benefits gives you a natural way to upsell and cross-sell allowing you to more broadly serve your market and earn more. You’ll also clearly differentiate your products and services from others in compelling ways that will attract more of the kinds of customers whom you can best serve.

Lisa Mullis