With no physical limitations, internet content and software product features can increase exponentially in hopes that something – like the proverbial spaghetti – will stick to the wall. But the central product strategies of many start-ups are oriented around nice-to-have features rather than need-to-have benefits – and it’s the latter that leads to successful companies.
A feature is something your solution might do. A benefit is the resulting improvement your product delivers to a user. Example: a slick development environment is a feature, but “lower development costs” and “faster deployments” (which are by-products of the slick development environment) are benefits that a customer enjoys and will pay for.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking this is just about business or sales. Every time you are trying to get someone to change – even if it’s in a homeowner’s association, a church group, or advising an elementary school student – people respond to messages that tell them how they’re going to benefit. As the saying goes, everyone’s favorite radio station is wii.fm (“what’s in it for me?”).
In the publishing world, there are a number of books that realistically would be better as long-form essays or blog posts but have been padded to become a book – a strategy that authors hopes will result in economic benefits to them but forces their readers to wade through fluff as they search for the core of the message.
The lack of physical limitations in the connected world can cause us to get lazy as we invest our time in the things that don’t matter. Establishing message discipline and knowing the difference between features and benefits are keys to success.
P.S. In a recent post I included the definitions of a couple obscure words I had learned. I came across another new word recently. Here it is, with it’s exotic spelling: chthonic, meaning “concerning, belonging to, or inhabiting the underworld”. Drop it during your next cocktail conversation.