Features vs. Benefits

The core shortcoming in a “geek” presentation attempting to make a business case is surely touting features rather than benefits.

A feature is an attribute of the solution under discussion.  It’s one of the things a solution can do:

  • “The new JetEdge can achieve speeds of up to Mach 20”
  • “The Tg of the material is 1200 degrees C.” (thanks to Jack Lesko for that one!)
  • “We have achieved latencies of down to 2 ns”

The problem with features, of course, is they’re inside out.

People who are deciding on the merits of a solution don’t care what it will do (even if they say they do); they care about what it will do for them.

What a solution will do for a potential solute (is that the right word lol?) is a benefit, and benefits are what a presentation should pitch.

  • “The JetEdge can get you to London before you left”
  • “The new material can line exhaust pipes without turning plastic”
  • “Web apps can be written on the new platform without messy client-side code”

It is so common for geeks to conflate features and benefits that it’s worth wondering why.  I have two theories, not necessarily exclusive:

  • Geeks hate to lie, generally speaking, and a feature sounds like a fact whereas a benefit sounds like a (potentially false or lying) opinion.
  • Geeks hate to urge someone else to do something; we believe that everyone should make up their own minds about things.  Touting benefits sounds like urging.

Needless to say, geeks have to get over it!  Without urging, those suits are never going to fund your business case.  In fact, the gist of a presentation – bearing in mind all of the caveats from previous posts – is respectfully urging the listeners to take a certain course of action.

The trick is being respectful.

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