‘Sell the sizzle, not the steak’ – why we sell benefits, not features…

One of the oldest adages in the advertising and marketing community is, ‘features tell, but benefits sell’. Essentially, it means that if you want to sell something, you should focus on how your product benefits the customer, not the features it has. Of course, features are still important, they’re just not the driver for most consumers to make a purchase.

Let’s start with an example…

Imagine you were asked to write some copy to advertise a new line of drills for a DIY retailer for their consumers, which sounds better?

‘This drill is an 18V cordless combi drill that comes complete with 15 torque settings, alongside drill and hammer settings. Featuring a short 30-minute charge time and a built-in LED light, as well as 2 x 1.5Ah Lithium Ion batteries.’


‘Whether you’re hanging a picture, building a set of drawers or renovating your kitchen, this incredibly versatile and durable drill has you covered with 15 useful torque settings. Save time on your project and eliminate the need to wait for recharging, this set comes with 2 batteries and an ultra-low 30 minute charge time. Poor visibility? An innovative LED light makes sure you can see clearly in those hard to reach areas.’

The first example is factually correct and contains information that a potential buyer might want to know. But for many, it will ultimately mean very little, especially in a DIY audience. The second example clearly states the features but frames them within a benefit that most consumers can relate to and a realistic scenario that they may have experienced.

Why though?

To put it bluntly, people simply don’t care about features. At most they might use them to draw comparisons between two different products they’re evaluating, but that’s it. Theodore Levitt was an American economist and professor at Harvard Business School and considering our above example, he quite aptly said:

“People don’t want a ¼ inch drill. They want a quarter inch hole.”

It’s the same for all products, no matter how large or small…

Do we buy a mobile phone because it has a 12-megapixel, wide-angle camera and f/1.8 aperture? No, we buy the phone because it captures our memories in stunningly realistic shots that will stand the test of time.

Do we buy a house because it has A rated energy performance, a door lock that meets safety standard BS 3621 and a 10m x 10m front room with high ceilings? No, we buy it because it’s a cosy, secure and spacious place to turn into a home.

Do we buy a beer because it’s crafted from a unique blend of hops and barley, brewed in an old tin dustbin and distilled using the tears of a unicorn? Well, some people do (hipsters), most of us just buy it to give us the confidence to belt out Wonderwall at karaoke night down the local.   

How do we sell benefits?

Selling benefits is actually incredibly simple, much easier than features, in fact! All you need to do is ask yourself some simple questions:

What are my customers expecting as a result of buying this product?

What does my product do that no other does?

How will my product make my customers life easier or better?

Put yourself in your customer’s shoes and try to think about the more emotional reason they might need your product, even if it seems like something that could never have an emotional purpose.

Try it yourself! Go and grab one of your products, take a good look at it, ask yourself these questions and write yourself a new product description. We think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the results.

Get in touch

Need some help selling the benefits of your product? Bogged down in features? We can help!

Give us a call on 01254 878956 or email hello@workhousemarketing.com.