Features vs. Benefits – How to Present Your Product in a Cold Email?

We’ve been talking with our users about the copy of their emails. It seems like they often struggle to tell the difference between the feature of their product, and the benefit this feature will bring to their potential client. Or rather, they feel like writing about features will automatically make the prospect think about benefits – just like they do when they write about their product.

Well, the problem is the prospects, especially in outbound sales, often do not have that special ability to see the benefits while reading about features. That’s why it’s important we talk benefits instead of features when communicating with our potential customers. Here’s how to learn the difference between the features and benefits and how to write about benefits instead of features in your cold email pitch.

Our perspective vs. prospect’s perspective

If we want to write awesome cold emails, the first difficult thing we have to learn is to see through our prospect’s eyes. This will allow us to understand their pain points and needs – which is the key to discover possible benefits our product or service can bring them.

The second thing we need to learn is understanding our addressees. We need to imagine what they think and feel when they read an email we sent them. That’s the reason why we carry out research on our prospect group – to understand them better even before we start communicating.

So here’s what we usually do:

  1. We do some research of our prospect group.
  2. We write a nicely personalized and customized intro of our cold email, on the basis of our research.
  3. We write a pitch that is basically a fixed list of our product’s features, and it’s the same for each of our prospect groups.
  4. Our prospects get the email, open it, read the intro – because it’s about them, and they like reading about themsleves, like we all do.
  5. Because they like what they’re reading, they go on and what they suddenly come across is a list of features they cannot refer to whatsoever. That’s when they lose their interest.

If our pitch is fixed, i.e. we don’t have to change anything to send it to different groups of prospects, it means it is not customized enough, and it probably means that in such an email, we focus too much on ourselves and our product instead of focusing on our prospect and on the exact problem our product solves for them.

Example

Just to make sure that the above doesn’t sound like theoretical mumbling, let’s take an example. Say we’re selling a newest digital imaging software. We want to reach out to different companies who could make a good use of our product. As a result of our research, we choose two prospect groups:

  1. photographic studios
  2. digital marketing agencies

We figure both of those groups could use our software to professionally process pictures. And we know that our software allows to do it better, faster, and cheaper than the popular pieces of software of the same type.

So what do we write about in our email?

First of all, we would probably come up with a nicely customized and personalized intro, adjusted to the two groups of prospects separately, or perhaps even more specifically customized to additional subsegments.

So far so good. The next step is the pitch. And that’s the tricky part.

Because we’ve just written a well-personalized intro, we feel like we’ve done our job paying attention to our prospect. So we think to ourselves, ‘OK the first part was about them, now it’s going to be about us. After all, we’ve got to tell them what we are all about’.

So our pitch goes like this:

We’ve came up with a digital imaging software that makes processing photos faster. It offers a full range of functions within a simple interface.

Now, what do you think of this pitch? Is it about features or about benefits?

Dividing the pitch into pieces

We’re still on the same example of a pitch. Let’s see step by step what it actually says about what we offer:

  • it’s a digital imaging software
  • it has a lot of functions
  • it has a simple interface
  • it makes work on the photos faster

How we read it ourselves:

  • it’s a digital imaging software – it’s totally reliable substitute for the standard you currently use.
  • it has a lot of functions – it has all the functions you need for professional digital imaging, so when it comes to the variety of features it’s as good as the competitor’s soft that you’re currently using; i.e. you can do miracles working on your images.
  • it has a simple interface – that’s the point at which it’s better than your current solution, because you can access all the functions you need within seconds; you don’t have to spend hours reading or watching tutorials to find out how to do something. You can relax and focus on the things you do well instead of struggling with a software that is too complicated.
  • it makes work on the photos faster – which means you can refine each project to perfection faster, and still have some time left for more projects (better productivity at work = more success faster), or have some time for yourself.

Our problem here is that we don’t realize one crucial thing. We don’t realize that our prospects do not read our message, or don’t build its semantics for that matter, the way we do ourselves.

How our prospect reads it:

  • it’s a digital imaging software – so it’s like Photoshop, which I already use, so I don’t need it
  • it has a lot of functions – yeah, obviously, so does the Photoshop, and I’ve already got it
  • it has a simple interface – interesting, but what does that mean actually?
  • it makes work on the photos faster – I’m a pro, I think I’m fast enough doing my job. Processing photos is supposed to take a considerate amount of time, so I guess I’m ok. Thanks, but no thanks.

So, metaphorically speaking: we see a facade, and we immediately imagine the beautiful interiors of the building. That is, while reading about a feature, we automatically think of the benefit it brings about in life.

Our prospects see the facade, and all they can see is… the facade. When they read about a feature, they can see – well, a feature. Features are not self-explanatory to them. Features are not attractive enough.

Create a story instead of a list of features

It’s crucial for us to realize that our prospects don’t see anything more than we tell them. They don’t create stories for themselves, that’s why we have to create a story for them (and with them inside as characters).

Just a few days before writing this post, I read a great and extremely powerful article by Logan Strain of NextGen Leads. He describes how his selling process improved at the point when he understood that closing a deal is not about selling the product, but it’s about having the customer get a thing that will actually make their lives better.

The core of the change was about how he presented the product to the customers – he used the power of storytelling to show his clients the benefits instead of features. He was using words they understood and images they could directly refer to. Read the whole article for a lesson of how to talk to your prospects and customers.

Logan describes the process of closing the deals with inbound leads via phone, but I think the advice is universal, regardless the type of leads and the selling channel. It works for cold emails as well as for calls, with the exception that in a cold email you’ve got a limited space for your story, so it has to be more of a encouraging excerpt from the back cover than the whole plot.

What’s in it for you?

So how do we make our example pitch still focused on our prospect? How do we write about benefits instead of feaures of a digital imaging software?

First of all, remember that in your pitch you’re still trying to answer the question “what’s in it for them”. It’s the value proposition – it’s supposed to offer value. Keep that in mind.

Because we have two groups of prospects, we can come up with a separate pitch versions customized for each of them.

So, for a pro photographer, you could write something like:

I bet you’d rather spend your time taking some new pictures than struggling with a complex software to process the ones that you already took. That’s why I thought you may want to check an alternative for digital imaging that provides all necessary tools within a single screen. No more going through longish tutorials to achieve the effect you need for your perfect picture.

plus a short CTA: Would you like to give it a try?

And to a digital marketer, you could write something like:

I know processing photos takes a lot of time, especially using a complex software with many hidden functions. That’s why we came up with an alternative in which you can access all tools from a single screen, so that professionals like you could spend less time processing their photos and have more time for new interesting projects.

plus a short CTA: Would you like to give it a try?

Ok, it’s longer than the universal pitch describing features – but it’s customized and it tells a short story they can settle themselves in. They can actually read the answer to the question: why should I care about this at all? What’s in it for me that I should care about?

These are not the perfect cold email pitches, I realize that. They could be worked on, they could be shorter, they could offer even more value.

But my aim here was to show you that you don’t need to list the features of your product to tell your prospect what’s it all about.

They don’t need a whole list of features. All they need is at least one significant benefit they could actually refer to their very lives.

3 little big things to keep in mind from all this:

  1. The prospects do not read your email the way you do – they want to see the benefits not features
  2. That’s why the pitch (aka value proposition) is not about your product and its features – its about your prospect and their needs
  3. And that’s why you need to tell them a story (with as few words as possible) that they can actually refer to their very situation and think to themselves ‘Hey, I could actually use that in such a situation’.
  • Logan Strain

    Great stuff Cathy!

    I’m glad you liked my article.

    And I totally agree with your post. Fantastic tips here. Sometimes people in sales are so close to the product, they think that its awesomeness is just obvious. Stepping back and looking at it with fresh eyes is the most difficult part of crafting your sales message. But findings ways to sympathize with your leads always pays.

  • Thank you so much Logan! It means a lot.

  • Great piece. Thanks