Get to the Point Already!

Jimmy Carter, Ronald ReaganEffective marketing isn’t really all that complicated: identify a need, develop a product or service that meets that need, and “connect the dots.”

Unfortunately, many people get hung up on the process of actually making this all happen, frequently committing the cardinal sin of confusing features with benefits.

We’ve invested a good deal of time on this subject over the years, but to summarize, features are about you; benefits are about your customer, client, or member.

So with that in mind, we have a trio of examples to share with you this month to illustrate just what we’re talking about...

Are You Better Off Now?

The year was 1980. The USA hockey team had pulled off the “Miracle on Ice”–a stunning upset of the Soviets in the semi-final game at the Winter Olympics.

52 Americans were still in captivity in Iran after a group of militant students took over the American Embassy in Tehran.

And we were in the midst of a presidential election–the first one I actually got to vote in–featuring the incumbent President Jimmy Carter, and California Governor Ronald Reagan.

In the closing comments of their final televised debate, Reagan included the following challenge:

“Next Tuesday all of you will go to the polls, will stand there in the polling place and make a decision. I think when you make that decision, it might be well if you would ask yourself, are you better off than you were four years ago?

Is it easier for you to go and buy things in the stores than it was four years ago? Is there more or less unemployment in the country than there was four years ago?

Is America as respected throughout the world as it was? Do you feel that our security is as safe, that we’re as strong as we were four years ago?”

He went on to say that if you could answer “yes” to all of these questions, then you should vote for Carter; if not, then you should vote for him.

In that single, brilliant, example of “features vs. benefits” he succeeded in making the entire election about one simple issue: your personal economic situation.

One week later, Reagan took the election in a landslide victory, winning 44 states, and receiving more electoral votes (489) than any non-incumbent candidate in history.

He went on to win re-election to a second term in 1984 on the strength of a strong economic recovery, this time winning 49 states and 525 electoral votes–the most ever in history. He got to the point.

We Don’t Hit the Ground...

Our daughter celebrated a recent birthday by doing something she’s been wanting to try for quite a while: skydiving. Needless to say, Lorie wasn’t too thrilled by the idea, but it was Alyssa’s decision, so we all went to watch her jump.

We were all concerned with the safety of the jump, but Alyssa seemed just as concerned with how good she was going to look in the outfit she was wearing. She was joking with her instructor about this, and said, “I want to make sure I look good when I hit the ground–referring, of course, to her safe landing.

The instructor immediately replied, “We don’t ‘hit the ground’–we land.”

The features here included all the safety checks, the classroom training session, and the maintenance of the equipment involved. The benefit was a safe landing.

He got to the point.

What’s Your Motivation?

At the end of most of my live events, we include an action-planning session where the attendees take a few minutes to consider what they’ve learned, how they’re going to implement something from the session in the next 30 to 90 days, and what specific benefits–both monetary and non-monetary–they’ll receive when they’re successful.

At one program, when reviewing the responses on the plane ride home, I laughed out loud–the action the person was going to implement was to quit smoking. The benefits he wrote down as expected outcomes were “Keep wife, more golf money.”

Now, there are certainly more benefits that come along with ending a smoking habit, like better health, more energy, and a longer life, but these, although really important, are a bit intangible.

Keeping a spouse happy and having more money to spend on a hobby are more immediate, more motivating, and more likely to lead to the desired results.

He got to the point.

Communication is Key...

You might have the highest-quality product and the best service on the planet, but if you insist on talking about the features instead of communicating the benefits, you won’t get anywhere near the results you should.

Features are about you. Benefits are about them. Any questions?