Bring out the FAB benefits

Reading a new business plan today reminded me of the importance of differentiating between Features, Advantages and Benefits (FAB) and putting far more weight on benefits than features or advantages.

So what is the difference between features, advantages and benefits?

· Features describe what a product or service does e.g. searches through a million pieces of data a second, sends a repair person within 4 hours, utilises 25 years of industry experience

· Advantages tell you why the offering is better than other solutions e.g. speeds up your data processing, offers a quick response in case of breakdown, provides advice taking into account knowledge of what works

· Benefits are the ways that the product solves real customer problems e.g. “We now save time and money finding the right information quickly”, “The cost of downtime is reduced”, “We are beating our targets by adopting tested solutions”

Features of your own product or services are dear to your heart and seem fantastic and really cool , because you have usually spent months or years developing them and working out ways to do more, more quickly, more efficiently than has ever been done before. But they can be just dry facts to customers who have their own perspective.

You are only going to sell your offering if it solves some of the needs of the customer – or ideally, if it reduces or eliminates some pain they are suffering. So you need to set out, in your marketing material and in your sales pitches, the benefits that will come from buying from you.

The best way to show this is to use the words of actual customers. You should constantly be checking what customers like most about your product. Sometimes you will be amazed that some simple feature (for example a simple prompt to remind them of the next action) has far more value than some sophisticated capability. But if you are trying to in more customers in the same market, what your existing customers find most attractive is likely to be what will convince prospects to become new customers.

If you are a start up with no customers or are entering a new market, then you may not have relevant quotes from existing customers but you should test out your offering on some friendly potential customers and you can gain their reaction. In the very early stages of developing a new offering or addressing a new market, you can even put yourself in the shoes of the customers you are trying to help and think what they would most like.

I have talked about features then about benefits but jumped over advantages. Advantages can be a good stepping stone to working out the benefits, helping you think about what useful work your product or service can do for a customer.

You may want to list the features somewhere in your marketing material, especially for any technical readers, and setting out the advantages may help you tell the story of what you are offering. But talking about the benefits using the actual words of customers is the most important part of your description. The prospect must believe that it will solve their problems, make them work better and make them feel better.

Building your community

One of today’s greatest marketing challenges is building the community around the company, brand or product that you are marketing. It no longer works to keep your company distant from your customers and expect them to be loyal because of they have purchased from you in the past or because today’s products lead the market. Tomorrow’s customers will be looking for something else and will want their supplier to listen to their changing requirements and to adapt their products and services accordingly. Good marketers will always have been listening to customers and asking for feedback as they test new ideas. But there is less and less room to hide for companies that do not connect with the market.
Social media provides us with the tools to connect and discuss. But how do we get the enough of our customers and prospects to engage in conversations and to comment on our website, blog, Facebook page or YouTube channel?
The good news is that a small core of followers can make for a lively debate. Ning’s recent POV research showed that 20 people engaged in conversation with your company and with each other brings a reasonable level of activity and encourages others to participate more. If you take the rule of thumb that 1% of visitors become engaged advocates, you are looking for 2000 to visit your sites. Of these, 20 will then become excited enough to share regularly their enthusiasm, concerns and suggestions and form the foundations of a lively community.
Of course, you have to demonstrate that you are willing to listen to them and take notice of their views as well as producing content to interest them. But engaging the community feels like an achievable goal for all companies on this basis.

Remarkable or reliable?

Yesterday I attended a webinar run by myPRGenie and given by Deb McAlister-Holland of Distribion. The topic was “Get heard and get your content to go viral” and Deb gave us some really useful advice to publish content and promote it so that your audience will pass it on.

Much of the advice was around using the right tools, planning what you are going to say as well as when and how, preparing the content and delivering it in the right way. She had lots of tips on topics such as the tools to use and the timing of messages – I suggest you follow Deb’s Distributed Marketing blog where you can learn from her experience.

Then today I watched one of Seth Godin’s TED presentations about standing out and being remarkable. For a while I wondered what Deb McAlister-Holland was doing that was outstanding since her output is certainly being remarked upon. Eventually I realised that through her hard work and dedication, she was consistently producing really interesting topics and making sure it was always presented in a way that drew people in. There is no one gimmick or element that on its own makes her stand out, but putting all her good ideas into practice makes her stand out.