Features and Benefits

Whatever your business sells is more than a product or a service. It is a solution to a problem that your customers have. The problem may be finding a safe place to care for their children during the workday or eating a healthy and delicious meal where it is convenient to them or reducing the cost of manufacturing equipment by purchasing it from a reputable importer. All consumers are seeking solutions to specific problems. All businesses are established to help consumers solve problems.

How do consumers discover these solutions? Through businesses explaining the features and benefits of their products and services. A feature is a characteristic. Typically, it's a primary or even unique feature. It's a characteristic that buyers are seeking or should be seeking as they make a purchase. More important, a benefit is the reason why they seek the feature. It is what the product or service offers to the buyer. Both of these topics—features and benefits—will be described in greater detail in coming chapters as you develop your business concept and match it to customers. For now, consider the topics as they relate to your business plan's description of products and services offered.

Product Features

The products sold by a business each have features or characteristics. A widget may be made of tempered steel, a computer printer uses low-cost ink cartridges, a car has unique styling. The specific products your business sells will have explicit features. Your business, too, will have characteristics that make it better or unique. Your business plan must not assume that readers will already know what features your products and business have; you must tell them.

Features are included in the product description component of your business plan. For example, Bob's Widget Store will feature the widest selection of name-brand widgets in the Yukon Valley. That's a characteristic of your business and should be prominently noted in your business plan.

Product Benefits

So what? Do your potential customers really care about the primary features of your business? They should. In fact, that's why you even mention the features—to indicate the benefits. Customers of Bob's Widget Store don't need to go anywhere else when looking for name-brand widgets. The primary benefit is ease of shopping.

Turn on the TV or read a magazine for the ads. You'll see that companies don't sell features; they sell benefits. They don't offer a sleeping pill; they offer and illustrate a restful sleep. Airlines don't fly you anywhere; they give you enjoyable destinations and emotional reunions. Think of the many benefits that your business offers its customers.

Benefits must be described in terms the customer understands. You can find all popular widgets at Bob's—that's the benefit. Your investors want to know what features and benefits your business expects to develop. Your marketing strategy (Chapter 11) will expand on product and business features and benefits.

One important benefit that your business can offer is listening intently to your customers and taking action on what you hear from them. Customers want to know that your business is interested in satisfying their needs and wants. By interviewing customers and using surveys, you can continue to be aware of what customers are thinking and how to keep them coming back to your business.

Service Features

Services aren't tangible, but they still have features. For example, a timemanagement consultant offers a service that features proven methods and results. The business owners and employees know how to help others manage their time better. That's the service feature.

Businesses typically offer more than one feature. Service businesses, for example, understand what their customers require and offer a variety of services, each with numerous features. A time-management consultant may also offer training classes featuring concise guides that summarize what is learned in the class. This is a secondary service feature. Your investors should know about it.

Service Benefits

Customers want to know: What's in it for me? What's the benefit? Your service business plan should summarize the benefits that customers will receive for primary and secondary services. What do your customers want and how will they benefit from it?

In addition, your business plan should think of investors/readers as customers and answer the same question: What's in it for me? How will the investors benefit from investing in your business opportunity?

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