The classic tug of war between features and benefits

The hardest thing about getting a project going (aside from staying on task) is trying to communicate something that’s an intangible, non-concrete, intellectual concept  through other people into something that fulfills what is right now only a vision in my head.  What further complicates it is that that vision is — at best — foggy. In my brain, I know what I want, but it’s unclear.

Making matters worse is trying to translate that “mind mess” to others who will be responsible for designing it. Of course, while I still being open to their ideas (after all, I’m hiring people because I think they can help), I want to make sure I’m staying true to my vision.  That involves trust; trust in myself that I’m on track and trust in them to do the job (which implies trusting myself to hire — or discharge — the right people.)

What’s in it for ME?

What are the benefits, not the features.

What are the benefits, not the features.

If all that wasn’t complicated enough, some people are “feature oriented” instead of “benefit oriented.” I find that to be especially true when dealing with technicians, web designers, and accountants. In effect, it’s the classic “tug of war” between production and marketing. Production builds; they need to know all the features:

  • What it does
  • How it’s constructed
  • How the parts tie together
  • Where everything goes
  • Who is the supplier
  • Why one thing is better suited than another

On the other hand, all that matters to the customer is “why is that of value to ME?”

I — as customer — do not care that the website is built on a secure platform.
I care that it will not let anyone steal MY data.

I — as a customer — do not care that you have 13 years of experience in designing magazines.
I care that that experience means you will be able to do it faster for ME,
saving ME money.

I — as a reader — do not care that the magazine will be pretty to look at.
I care that it will be easy to read and
help ME feel better about life.

In a nutshell, I try to teach my clients (and to remember for myself) that each and every time you tell a customer what something does or how it’s built, the customer — in his or her mind — is saying “So What?” When you say to a customer, “This widget has 22 programmable options,” the customer is saying “So What?” or “What does that do for me?”

The tug of war

Originally the Long Distance Marketing component of this project (as opposed to the magazine component that it’s promoting) was going to simply be this blog. Along the way, as I mentioned in an earlier post, I was convinced by a “web guy” that it could be so much more. It made sense at the time and it still might. However, as we got into the actual construction, he started pointing out to me all the features I could put into my website.  Granted, they would be powerful and maybe even helpful to me. However, in my head, all I could hear was “blah blah feature.” It was more stuff I had to learn; more things to do. Since the project is new and daunting as it is, it made it worse. I shut down. I was moving to close that part down.

We had another conversation the other day which I think ended up better (but we’re still not out of the woods) where I think I was able to impart into him that all I care about in web design is:

  • Will it help promote/sell the magazine?
  • Will it help establish me as even more of an expert in marketing so others will be interested in hiring me?

That’s it. That’s all. To me, those are the benefits or ponying up the money to him. If he can do that on my timetable (again, note the word, “my”), it makes it worth while. If he cannot, the project was a waste of my money.

No one wants to buy your product. Period.

I try and remind others (and myself) that NO ONE buys what you sell. What we buy are the benefits of what that product or service provides. Our product or service is merely the delivery vehicle for those benefits.

Understand that and you will go a long distance. Miss that concept and you’re out of the game.  Eyes stay on the benefits at all times. Stop telling me what you can do. Understand what I want and fulfill those wants — and do it quickly.

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~ by scottqmarcus on November 8, 2008.

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