How to Zero in on the Benefits of Your Business

Last week I wrote a blog explaining the importance of focusing on the benefits of your products or services (as opposed to the features of your products/services) when communicating with networking partners and potential customers.

Once you have a good understanding of the difference between benefits and features, you can begin zeroing in on the benefits of your business.  In order to do this, your first task is to focus on your best customers.  What problems were they experiencing before they came to you?  What problems did you solve for them?  How did you make their lives easier?  The answers to these questions will begini to connect you with their motives for buying your products or services.  You provided some value to them that was significant enough to cause them to spend their money.  What was it?

An additional task this week is to create a list of the features versus the benefits of just one product or service you offer.  On a sheet of paper, make two columns–one column with the heading “FEATURE of This Product or Service” and the other column with the heading “BENEFIT of This Feature.”

Once you’ve completed this list, begin to include the language of your benefits in your messages to your marketing team, to prospects, and while networking.  It would be a good idea to eventually complete this list for each of your products or services because the more you can communicate the benefits of your products/services, the more people will see the value of what your business provides.

Come back next week to learn how to simplify your message and make it more specific and, in the meantime, I’d love to hear from you in regard to any questions you may have about benefits vs. features and/or get your thoughts on what you may have learned or realized about the true benefits of your products/services through creating your features vs. benefits list.  Please share your questions/thoughts in the comment forum below.  Thanks!

 

Can You Pinpoint the Benefits of Your Product or Service?

Sales training often teaches us that customers make buying decisions based on (1) their emotions (“Sell the sizzle, not the steak!”) and (2) the value the product or service brings to them.  Marketing specialists capitalize on customers’ emotion-based buying habits.  Customers choose a product or service based on its benefits, not its features.  The features are simply the bare-bones facts–the elements or significant parts–of the product or service.  The benefits are its value to the customer–how it will solve their problems, eliminate their pain, and make life glorious.

Image courtesy of adamr at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of adamr at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

To understand the difference between features and benefits, let’s think about a car:

Features of a car

  • V-6 engine, dual exhaust, front-wheel drive, sunroof, significant interior legroom, heated seats, heated glass

Benefits of those features

  • V-6 engine–ability to pull onto the highway without hesitation (and to impress your friends)
  • Dual exhausts–higher fuel efficiency and more power (and it sounds groovy and also impresses your friends)
  • Front-wheel drive–more interior room because of the lack of a driveshaft tunnel
  • Sunroof–the open feel of a convertible with the safety and security of a sedan
  • Legroom–greater comfort while driving long distances and more room for your growing family
  • Heated seats–cozy motoring on frigid days and nights; greater back comfort on long-distance trips
  • Heated glass–the convenience of not having to scrape icy windows in the winter

The more perceived value a benefit offers, the higher it gets ranked in your decision to purchase.  Objectively, a sunroof is not a significant feature, but if it makes you feel a bit like a race car driver, perhaps that benefit raises its value for you.  Heated seats are nice too, but they might not rank high in value for to people who live in a warm climate and wouldn’t strongly influence their buying decision.  The benefits of dual exhausts, however, might have perceived value for all buyers–better fuel efficiency, more power, and a sound like your beloved but departed ’57 Chevy.

What does all this have to do with your referral marketing message?  Simply this:  Most businesspeople, without thinking about it, talk in terms of features.  As professional experts and salespeople, that’s what they’re most familiar with.  They’re not accustomed to looking at their products or services from a customer’s perspective.

In formulating the message you want your networking partners to convey, your challenge is to put yourself in the customer’s place.  What are the benefits of your product or service?  How will it make the customer’s life or business easier, more comfortable, more satisfying, more profitable?  How can you shorten and simplify your message so that others can communicate these benefits more clearly and surely?

Now that you have a good understanding of the difference between features and benefits, I hope you’ll come back next week to read the follow-up blog post I’ll be doing which will teach show you exactly how to zero in on the benefits of your business.  Until then, if you have any questions about features vs. benefits or any thoughts you’d like to share regarding this post, please leave a comment in the comment forum below.  Thanks!

Building Your Network Effectively–Where to Start . . .

If you’re having a hard time building your network because you’re concerned people can’t seem to understand or relate to your business, it’s helpful to remember that before you can begin to network effectively, you need to find a way to explain your business in a way that people will easily understand. 
We ALL need to heed this rule of thumb and be able to clearly and simply communicate what it is that we do by pinpointing key aspects of our business for our potential referral sources.

My advice to anyone confused about how to clearly explain what it is that they do is to ask yourself these questions and write down your answers:

  • Why are you in business (other than to make a living)?  Why do you do what you do?  How does your business serve others?
  • What do you sell?  Most important, what are the benefits—not the features—of your products or services?
  • Who are your customers?  What are your target markets?  Be specific.  Look at all segments of your business to determine the niche or niches you prefer to work with.
  • What are your core competencies, and what do you do best?
  • How well do you compete?  How do you stand out from your competition?

These questions will help you explain what your business is all about, and make you more effective at implementing a comprehensive referral system.  By communicating these aspects of your business to referral sources, they’re learning how they can refer you; and that’s what networking is all about.

Congruent in Words and Actions

I recently saw someone’s Twitter update telling me all about how his vitamin line will not only make me skinny and healthy, but will also make me wealthy. While there is nothing objectionable about any of these outcomes, the jarring reality is that the man promoting this wonderful opportunity is neither skinny, nor healthy, and he had just been posting updates about how he was desperately trying to dig himself out of debt!

Do you see the disconnect here? I’m sure you have seen people at networking meetings and events who will stand, introduce themselves, and deliver a promise-filled monologue about how their product or service will bring you all kinds of things which they themselves obviously do not have the benefit of enjoying.

What’s missing is congruency. When your professional message is not congruent with your personal situation, your networking efforts will not be effective. If you are promoting yourself as a wellness coach, and yet you are often sick and carrying 20 extra pounds, there is a jarring incongruence for which it will be hard for you to compensate. When I want to refer my colleagues to a wellness coach, I will refer one who is healthy, fit and obviously achieving the results she promises I will receive from participating in her program.

This may seem logical, but I often see people all over the world with incongruent messages. Ask yourself how congruent your message is.  If you’re a professional organizer, is your briefcase a disaster? If you’re a car detailer, how does your own vehicle look? If you have never done so, take stock today of your message. Evaluate what you’re saying the benefits of your products or services are compared to what you are showing people they are.

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “What you do thunders above your head so loudly, I cannot hear the words you speak.” In his book Inside the Magic Kingdom, Tom Connellan calls this “walking the talk.” How are you doing when it comes to walking the talk in your business? It will have a definite effect on the success of your networking efforts.

Share a story with me about someone (don’t name names!) whose message was not congruent with their actions.  I’d love to hear other stories.

 

The Importance of Knowing Your Products and Services

When your referral marketing plan is working well, prospective customers buy from you the first time because they have been referred by your sources. They may continue to buy from you because they trust you and develop a good relationship with you.  But whatever the reasons they come and whatever the reasons they stay, they are your customers primarily because they need your products and services.

A clear idea of your range of products and services is something your sources need to communicate to prospects. For each product or service you plan to market during your referral marketing campaign, you must be able to articulate for your sources the answers to the following questions:

  • What is the purpose of your product or service?–What needs does it satisfy?
  • How would you describe it?–What are its shape, size, functions, key features, principal activities, benefits?
  • How is your product or service delivered to the customer?
  • How much does it cost and under what conditions?

There are other questions concerning your products or services that you should answer for your own strategic purposes. Is your product becoming obsolete?  Is there a newer or better way to provide the same service?  What are the social and environmental effects of your product or service?  Will economic or regulatory trends force you to change your products or services or the conditions under which you provide them?  In the long term, will you be satisfied to continue to offer these products or services?

Knowing the answers to the questions above will help you clearly communicate your products and/or services to your referral sources.  This is extremely important because only when you’re able to do this will your referral sources be able to effectively refer business to you.

How Soon Should You Expect Profitability from a Relationship?

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve written a few blogs on the VCP Process® of networking and, since I’ve already covered visibility and credibility in detail, today I’m going to tell you what you need to know about profitability, the third and final phase of the VCP Process.

The mature relationship, whether business or personal, can be defined in terms of its profitability. Is it mutually rewarding? Do both partners gain satisfaction from it? Does it maintain itself by providing benefits to both? If it doesn’t profit both partners to keep it going, it probably will not endure.

The best piece of advice I can give you in regard to when to expect to get to profitability is to be patient. The time it takes to pass through the phases of a developing relationship is highly variable.  It’s not always easy to determine when profitability has been achieved: A week? A month? A year? In a time of urgent need, you and a client may proceed from visibility to credibility overnight. The same is true of profitability; it may happen quickly or it may take years, but most likely it will be somewhere in between. It will depend on the frequency and quality of the contacts and especially on the desire of both parties to move the relationship forward.

Shortsightedness can impede the full development of the relationship. Perhaps you’re a customer who has done business with a certain vendor off and on for several months, but to save pennies you keep hunting around for the lowest price, ignoring the value this vendor provides in terms of service, hours, goodwill and reliability. Are you really profiting from the relationship, or are you stunting its growth?  Perhaps if you gave this vendor all your business, you could work out terms that would benefit both of you.  Profitability is not found by bargain hunting. It must be cultivated. And, like farming, it takes patience.

Visibility and credibility are important in the relationship-building stages of the referral-marketing process.  But when you have established an effective referral generation system, you will have entered the profitability stage of your relationships with many people–the people who send you referrals and the customers you recruit as a result. It’s an essential part of successful relationship marketing and networking.

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