Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Features vs. Benefits

Marketing professionals often struggle with the "feature vs. benefit" dilemma when developing a plan to promote their products and services. But the problem can be followed back one more step to the developers of products and services. Rory Sutherland in his 2009 Ted Talk "Life lessons from an ad man" provides a great example of this, comparing two different approaches to the length of the Eurostar train journey from London to Paris. The approach of the engineering mindset is to shorten the journey by improving the track quality to allow the trains to run more quickly. Rory offers an alternative scenario that gets at the underlying customer experience question. The "feature" may be length of journey, but the value is in the quality of the experience, so Rory proposes an alternative service improvement that creates a "benefit" for travelers without changing the trip time (watch the video to hear his suggestion).

Building a consulting practice presents a similar challenge. It is quite easy as a consultant to focus on the thing to be done for a client, for example "install a new CRM system." This is the feature, not the benefit. Sometimes consulting takes on an appearance of benefits by breaking down the task into other tasks that appear more focused -- "gather business requirements, CRM Strategy, vendor selection process..." but really these are just more features. The key to defining a set of services for a consulting practice is to identify the underlying business issues and how real value will be delivered. For example a company wanting to replace its CRM system might be evaluating how to improve sales efficiency, which could include a lot more than just a software package. Delivering the benefit (or shall we just say, the RESULTS) in this case is about reducing sales cycles, improving close rates, increasing customer satisfaction... and that might be accomplished through new collaboration models, compensation changes, sales training, connecting sales to other functional areas, changing the channel strategy...

So developing a "feature" service that offered a client a "CRM Implementation" would miss the real opportunity to serve that client through a focus on real results. Having a "home run" for a consulting business is about understanding your clients and what their real challenges are so that service offerings can be focused on delivering results.

Building a Customer Solutions Practice

1. Features vs. Benefits

2. Three Imperatives

3. ...