Features vs. Benefits

“In the factory, we manufacture perfume. In the store, we sell hope.”

Charles Revson, Founder of Revlon Cosmetics

Why are so many voters – especially younger and first-time voters – attracted to Sen. Barack Obama’s message of hope? Why does it seem that Sen. Hillary Clinton’s latest message – “I’m in the solutions business” – is not gaining traction?

Could it be something as basic as the difference between saying, “This will make your stomach feel better” versus, “Trust me, this medicine will be good for you?”

People like to buy, but they do not like to be sold! The sales guru Jeffrey Gitomer reminds us of this basic tenet in each of his best-selling books. Don’t tell us what what you have done in the past – and why it will  good for us. Entice us with a message of what our future will look like. Paint a picture of the future – our future. And help us to see how we fit into that picture. Help us to make the decision. Don’t just tell us your solution.

We will buy hope – if we can see the benefit. Our benefit. Don’t try to sell us on the basis of the quality of the ingredients you put into your perfume. Charles Revson did not build his Revlon cosmetics empire based strictly on a special combination of ingredients. Those ingredients are features – and features do not motivate us to buy. Hope is a little more difficult to see and quantify. But that is a leader’s role – to help us to see hop and to put us in the picture. And that gets the sale most of the time!

This is not a political blog. I am not writing to “put down” a candidate. Nor am I advocating for a candidate. I enjoy observing and analyzing political strategy. I like to learn from the successes and mistakes in the current presidential primaries and apply them to my business – consulting and training. I write to share my observations with my readers.

Here’s what I see so far. Perhaps you agree, perhaps you don’t. But I hope that you will at least read on:

1) In the current edition of Time Magazine, Karen Tumulty notes that Sen. Clinton has been running her campaign as a “pseudo-incumbent.” She writes writes:

“This is not the race that Clinton thought she would be running. Her campaign was built on inevitability, a haughty operation so confident it would have the nomination wrapped up by now that it didn’t even put a field organization in place for the states that were to come after the mega-primary on Feb. 5.”

Business lesson: Do you make the assumption that your customers have to buy from you? That you are their best choice, their only alternative? Do you position your store as successful based solely upon the number of years that you have been in business? Do you assume that potential customers will automatically see how your experience works to their benefit? Do you position you business as being their “inevitable choice?”

I hope you don’t. That is presumptuous. That is arrogant. That is a losing strategy! The Clinton campaign is finally coming to grips with this reality – and they hope that it is not too late to reverse course.

2) In today’s “First Look” column on the MSNBC website, Mark Murray reports on a speech given by former President Bill Clinton:

“This really is a choice between the excitement of the new and a lifetime of empowerment of other people,” Bill Clinton told a crowd of about 300 at a morning rally here. “This really is a choice between the inspiration of speeches and the profound inspiration of solutions.”

Business lesson: Are you (too) quick to prescribe the solution to your customers’ problems? Have you taken sufficient time to get to know your target customers – and their individual needs? Are you convinced that your solution is the best solution for them? That you have the perfect “one-size-fits-all” solution?

If so, that is presumptuous on your part. And it borders on arrogance. People do have choices when it comes to buying (voting) and they know this. Get to know them as individuals first. Focus on their problems And then help them to see how they will benefit from your solution.

Don’t keep the focus on you and what you may have done in the past. Shine the spotlight on your customers – focus on their needs. Give them hope – for a better future. Focus on what you can do together in the future.

If you want to learn more about the difference between features and benefits, click here to read a recent article from www.entrepreneur.com.

What are your thoughts on this subject? Please share them below.

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