Rule one of startup success. Ask not what your customer can do for you, but what your product can do for your customer. Yes, that’s right, you need to sell benefits not features.

How your startup can sell benefits not features

If you are not focusing on the benefits that your product or service has for its intended audience/customer, then you’re not just doing it wrong. You’re doing it horribly wrong. There’s no point in having a product packed with features that people don’t really want.

We all know the phrase “what’s in it for me?”. Put yourself in the shoes of your customer and ask that very question. It needs to be etched into your brain for every iteration of your MVP (minimum viable product) and every feature development. Are you focusing on the benefit that it will give the customer, or are you creating a really nice feature that’s not really necessary?

Because at the end of the day, your business’ success largely depends not on what your product has in its locker or how it looks. No, the key is what it can do for your customer in terms of making their lives better, more convenient, more productive, and so on. And at a low price of course! This is the heart of marketing for startups. And it’s how you sell benefits not features!

Sell benefits not features: the why

This may not come as a newsflash for many of you reading this. But it’s surprising how often enthusiasm takes over and companies miss the mark. The truth is that if your user can’t immediately tell what he or she will get out of your product, the chances are they’ll quickly move on to the next best suitor. Customers are fickle like this. Why? Simple. Consumers rarely buy just for the sake of it. They want to buy something that solves a particular problem they have. Or may have but don’t even realize they have.

You may actually already know the above. So why do you then put benefits in the background when it comes to your marketing and sales efforts. You may mean well, but as a startup founder you can often be guilty of forgetting that the average user/consumer is not well-versed in your products benefits, or how those amazing features can help them. Nor do they care. That may be an ugly truth, but it’s important to understand.

OK, so now we’ve got that straight, how do you go about “selling” benefits vs. all those fancy features you have. It is the key to turning a prospect into a buying customer.

Engage with your audience

Remember market research? Ah yes, that old chestnut. It’s actually more important than ever before, especially for startups and fledgling businesses who are selling digital and “tech” products. And it will help you to sell benefits not features much better.

It’s at this stage that you can identify your audience’s “problems”, and from there work out what effect these pain points have on their everyday personal and/or professional lives. After doing this, you can start to properly position your product.

An easy way to do this is questionnaires and interviews with early adopters. That’s before expanding the research into more customers as and when you have them signed up.

Speak your audience’s language

Armed with the results of your market research, you can now probably see your product or service better through the lends of the consumer. i.e. in that it’s a solution, and then you’ll start to be able to articulate the problem it solves. This is when you’re starting to speak your audience’s language.

So spelling out the benefits of your product or service is a great start. But speaking your audience’s language doesn’t stop there. There is a deeper element. You need to get in their shoes, tune in to and tug on their emotions. Once you do that, you can also decide what kind marketing is appropriate. B2B or B2C marketing, or a combination of both – depending on the intended market for your product of course.

Get Emotional

So how do you do that? Well, according to research published on, there are six emotions which make customers buy. These are greed, fear, altruism, envy, pride, and shame. Tune in to these in the right way, and you will be on to a winner.

In general, the best way is to avoid the “negative” emotions, such as greed, fear, envy and shame; unless of course it’s done in a tasteful and humorous way. But in any case, the best kind of emotional marketing is that which attempts to use emotional influence for the greater good. This is what inspires joy, happiness and all those positive vibes for products and brands.

Entrepreneur gives a great outline of the 5 best ways to use emotional marketing, based on these categories: Inspirational, Aspirational, Love, Milestones and Local. Check out the article to get inspired.

At the end of the day, making emotional connections with your audience is what will sell your product or service to customers; and make them fans and ambassadors. If you can tap into their emotions, they are more of less guaranteed to keep coming back.

Turn your features into clear benefits

So far we’ve cast aside features, turning them into the villain of the piece. But wait, this is not entirely fair. Because one final key point to remember is that features can easily be transformed into hard-core, real-life benefits; albeit with a bit of practice.

All you need to do is simply tell your audience how that particular feature will benefit them in the short term, or in the long run. Not as glamorous as tapping into their emotions, yes. But it can still play a key role in helping you sell your product. At the end of the day a given feature is the “proof point” for the benefits you are trying to sell. It’s the credibility behind your marketing speak.


Clearly your features may well be the most important part of your product – for you. But for your customer, and potential customer, that is certainly not the case. So yes you need to sell benefits not features. But this doesn’t mean that both can not coexist together in perfect harmony.

When you manage to get those two together, that’s when the fireworks start an your sales will start stacking up. As well as happy customers and brand aficionados.

The important thing to remember is to use your features as a “secret” weapon. They are based on logic and don’t stimulate the senses and emotions. But if you put the right narrative behind it, which is based on the benefits these features bring to a customer, then magic happens.

Go on then! Sell benefits not features; find out how it works best for you!


Graham Wood Graham Wood

The Starttech Ventures Storyteller. Studied Journalism with Business at the University of Central Lancashire. Has worked in various product marketing management positions for the likes of Nokia, Samsung and Vodafone, as well as in several journalism and media roles since 2000.