It might be a cliché, but the internet really has changed society. From politics to communications, things are undeniably different than they were just a decade or two ago.

And there’s nothing that the internet has changed more than in how you promote your business and/or its products.

Long ago, in the last century, advertising media were grouped in two main categories: print, including magazines and newspapers; and electronic, including radio and TV.

While those two categories are miles apart in terms of their technology, they have one very important thing in common when it came to how you promoted your business: there’s an intervening amount time between the delivery of a promotional message and the ability of the customer to act upon it.

For example, if you see a TV ad for a snappy outfit that you simply must have, you can’t buy it right away. You either have to go online or head to the store.

But, if you’re surfing the web and an ad pops up for that same snappy outfit, you can instantly click on the ad and have the outfit in your shopping cart in a matter of seconds.

Features vs Benefits

Whether you’re selling a product or a service, it has Features, which are the salient facts of your product, its specifications and its functionality. Those features produce many Benefits, which are the positive results that customers can expect by using your product.

If you sell bicycles, one of the features of your bike is that it has 33 gears. One of the benefits of that feature is it’s way easier to ride up hills.

Should You Promote the Features of Your Products or their Benefits in Your Digital Marketing

There’s a reason we highlighted the lack of intervening time between your digital marketing messages and the customer’s ability to act on them.

Customers Are Selfish

feature-based print ad for the 1912 Cadillac
A feature-based print ad.
Benefit-driven copy for digital marketing could have been: “Never be ‘cranky’ again!” [SOURCE: General Motors Priorities and Focus- Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow.}
There’s a natural inclination for businesses to promote the features of their products and services. A company spends lots of time and money coming up with those features and they’re excited to tell everyone about them. “We use state-of-the-art technology”, “we have better customer service”, “we offer a money-back guarantee”.

Unfortunately, customers don’t really buy from you because of the features of your product or service. Ultimately, they buy because of what’s in it for them, or the benefit they get. If you offer the latest technology, the customer gets more digital marketing convenience. Better customer service and/or a guarantee gives them peace of mind.

The intervening time between traditional print and electronic marketing messages and being able to buy gave customers the opportunity to deduce the real benefit. “Oh, the electric start on that snow blower means I don’t have to freeze my buns off trying to get it going.”

Get to the point!

But digital marketing means you can’t rely on customers to take the time to discover the benefits of your offering. Considering online distractions like social media, instant messaging and needing to set up the next selfie, you can’t even rely on them to be there at the end of a sentence.

With little time to deliver your message, and virtually no intervening time between your message and the customers’ ability to buy, you better deliver the benefits as soon as possible.

So, generally speaking, telling customers what’s in it for them – the benefits they get by using your product – is a priority of for your digital marketing content.

Except…

‘Benefits before features’ should be treated as a rule of thumb. There are lots of times when it might be better to promote product/service features first. And sometimes the feature or benefit isn’t related to the product itself, but how you consume it. Check out this video promoting the Volvo XC40. Can you spot the features and/or benefits of the car that the video promotes?

Clearly, it’s not always as simple as ‘features vs benefits’. But, again, the speed at which people consume information on the web means you need to make sure your digital marketing messages get across as quickly and effectively as possible. If you want to learn more, get in touch with the digital marketing team here at nvision, we can help.

Originally published on

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