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How to Sell the Experience When Features and Benefits Aren't Enough

by Jonathan Kranz  |  
February 12, 2008

Suppose your product features are much like your competitors'. And the benefits of using your products or services are similar—whether customers use your gizmo or theirs, they're going to arrive at the same place.

Looks like you're on the commodity train. Destination: Irrelevance City, with stops in Price Warburgh and Declining Marginshire.

When ordinary features-and-benefits-based communications fail to distinguish your business from the pack, it may be time to take your messages somewhere else—into the heart of the customer experience.

In education, travel, luxury goods, food service, hospitality, professional services and other industries in which the thing sold is a thing lived, you need to communicate what it feels like to see, hear, touch, or taste your product.

The following points form a rough road map that can take your business from a place that's obscure in your prospects' minds to one that is tangible, vivid, and highly desirable.

Who: Personalize the experience

When value is locked in the experience—whether a dynamic classroom, an invigorating executive retreat, or an indulgent spa—objective "facts" fail to capture the subjective essence of your product. For that, you need a personal perspective, and none is better than that of your customers themselves.

Direct quotes, testimonials, day-in-the-life narratives, and even brief biographies can introduce the sympathetic element that allows prospects to project themselves into the experience you provide.

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Jonathan Kranz is the author of Writing Copy for Dummies and a copywriting veteran now in his 21st year of independent practice. A popular and provocative speaker, Jonathan offers in-house marketing writing training sessions to help organizations create more content, more effectively.

LinkedIn: Jonathan Kranz

Twitter: @jonkranz

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  • by susan thornton Tue Feb 12, 2008 via web

    Jonathan's articles are always wonderful - and chock full of information that is readily useable, which is appreciated!

  • by Janet Park Tue Feb 12, 2008 via web

    It was very well done and I enjoyed it.

  • by Brian Monger Tue Feb 12, 2008 via web

    The article is based on the concept that experience is not a benefit? Basically shows a lack of understanding.

    I agree that if your benefits are the same as those of your competitors (whatever the features), you have a commodity. You would also be demonstrating that you are a poor marketer

  • by The Data Doc Sun Feb 17, 2008 via web

    The "Insider Secrets" are a nice touch, Jonathan. Your points would have fallen flat without them.

    And no, Brian, he's not saying that experience isn't a benefit. He's saying that FAILURE TO VIVIDLY COMMUNICATE the experience is a fatal flaw that far too many companies actively embrace in an effort to appear "professional." Does that make them poor marketers? It depends on who is signing the corporate marketer's paycheck.

    If one is writing to serve or connect with external customers, your conclusion is correct. But if one is actually writing to avoid displeasing one's immediate corporate boss (who is in turn posturing to climb the corporate ladder) then the real audience has a much different agenda and the writing style must change to accomodate it if the writer expects to continue receiving a paycheck.

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