There is one question that all customers ask both consciously and subconsciously. And that question is, "What's in it for me?"
The key to communicating the benefits of your product or service is to look at them through the eyes of the person you are selling to. The more you know about your customers' needs, the easier this will be.
Businesses and consumers don't buy on price alone. If you want proof, look out the window at the cars that drive by, or look at the clothes that people are wearing, or the mobile phones or electronic devices that people use everyday - they are not all using the cheapest goods and services on the market.
You might imagine that consumers are turning away from expensive products or brands and focusing on budget options during recession. But the 2009/10 Superbrands survey revealed that consumers are sticking with high-profile brands they believe represent the best in their fields, despite often coming with a price premium. The survey asks people to judge which brands are considered best for quality, reliability and how easy it is to distinguish them from their competitors.
The number one best-loved brand in the UK went to Microsoft which regained the top position from last year’s winner Google, which is now in third position. Second was the luxury watch brand Rolex.
Customers want value for money and will be prepared to pay more for your product if they gain significant benefits or advantages. Customers want to know what your product or service can do for them, not just how it works. You need to clearly communicate the benefits, not the features.
A feature is about your product. For example, a feature about a PC printer could be that it has a 1200 dpi print quality, or a feature about an office or store might be that it is open until 6pm.
A benefit is about your client. It might be fascinating that a PC printer has 1200 dpi print quality, but the benefits to the customer are its ability to provide high quality professional-looking documents from your desktop. The benefit to the customer about an office or store which is open until 6pm is that the customer is able to conveniently visit the premises when they have finished work.
You may need to look at softer, more affecting issues when identifying the benefits of a personal consumer product. For example, a mobile phone may have internet access, but unless it looks dynamic, it's unlikely to appeal to the teenage market. Some businesses may need to incorporate softer issues into buying decisions. For example, if you're running an office and shop-fitting design service you may want to invest in high-tech computers and stylish furniture because you want clients to know you have high design values.
Features don't sell products or services, they just talk about the finer details and most people don't care about features unless they're experienced in buying the specific type of product you're trying to sell.
The challenge for businesses is to ensure that their marketing and advertising for their products and services communicate the real benefits to their customers. Benefits tell people what results they can get from using your products or service. They explain how people will feel when using your product or the time they'll save from buying from you instead of buying from your competitors.
Nobody can predict economies with 100% accuracy. Some say that the ‘green shoots’ of recovery are starting now some say the worse is yet to come.
The media will have an important role to play to cut through the gloom. Has irresponsible news reporting exacerbated the recent economic turmoil? Stories about far reaching political decisions, on-going wars, terrorist atrocities, ecological meltdown and the horrific behaviour of some members of society all make uncomfortable reading.
Which brings us back to the half empty or half full glass.
The government would say that the glass is fuller than if the opposition party were in power.
The opposition would say that it is irrelevant because the present administration has changed the way such volume statistics are collected. The philosopher would say that, if the glass was in the forest and no one was there to see it, would it be half anything? The economist would say that, in real terms, the glass is 25% fuller than at the same time last year.
What do I say? Well, it’s all about the benefits so it it’s got to be half full. Why? Because, Mr Customer, the glass of cool fresh water was especially put there to quench your thirst and because half of it is gone, it shows that you liked more than just one sip. When you have finished, I will fill it up for you so that you will always have a drink to satisfy your thirst.
Creativity in advertising and marketing is a tool that can help stir emotion but ultimately it must stir people into action. Businesses need to appeal to their customer’s emotions and ‘push back’ against the doom and gloom of recession. If your glass is not half full make sure your customers clearly understand the benefits your product or service and what it can do for them.