March 12, 2014

Customer With Benefits... Not Features!

As an engineer and technology addict, I have always loved creating things. When I was a kid, I was passionate about reading stuff on software boxes: software name, the version number, specs for the recommended hardware, etc. I was imagining myself selling complicated tech products. When computers were not massive consumption products, this kind of packaging was acceptable:

MS-DOS 6.22
When I finally did work in software engineering (for a banking software vendor), I was happy to be in an environment where they sold different types of software with complicated version numbers. Though, I felt something was wrong with that. I came to meet a really talented marketer, who was just hired at the time, who took me in her team. There I learned two lessons.

Let Your Customer Speak For You

The first lesson was about B2B marketing. Customers in B2B are very attached to what their peers can say about the product. Thus, publishing case study is essential for the business. These case studies must have a specific format. You must not tell that your customer is very happy about your product, but let him express his feeling by interviewing him.

Why is this important? A potential customer will trust other customers more than you, as your opinion may be biased. Also, a customer will easily talk the language of the other customer describing the value of your product in terms of benefits, not in terms of features.

Benefits Over Features

This is the second lesson I learned about marketing. Avoid describing your product by using feature descriptions. You must always talk first about the benefits your product will provide to a potential customer. While reading your copy, a customer may not immediately get the benefit a feature can provide unless it is obvious. Generally, this is not the case with B2B.

Let’s come back to B2C for a minute with a funny video from 2006. This is basically the difference between the strategies used by Microsoft and Apple at the time.

This is a parody on how Microsoft would design an iPod Packing at the time.

You can see the difference between the technical product that is advertised for its many features and complicated tech specs on one side (Microsoft rebranded). On the other side, what is sold is the benefits, the experience, and the design (original Apple packaging). Fortunately, you can take a look at what Microsoft packaging and the marketing of the product looks like right now (Windows 8 & Windows Phone particularly). It evolved in a good way, they are now selling the experience.

It is a difficult shift of paradigm for tech lovers and engineers caring about making products and how it works. But it is essential that this happens! We need more benefit-aware engineers and product managers, people who care about what the customer needs and wants. The product manager particularly needs to be the customer’s advocate. How can he do this if he does not understand the problems of the customer and the solutions the product provides?

No, the customer doesn’t care about your latest configuration panel, he cares about how you can make his life simpler by providing a simple setup.

No, he doesn’t care about your new dashboard. He cares about finding all the information he needs in one place.

No, he doesn’t care if the device has 4 Gigabytes of memory, he just want to be sure his favorite game will work perfectly.

On top of that, he does not care about getting the version 2.5 Service Pack 8, because he does not even know what this means.

Next time you write a copy for your customers, think about all of this!

Thanks for reading, feel free to give your feedback in the comments below. Let me know about bad product marketing you have witnessed on the web, or in your professional experience.