By Mark Evans

Customers don’t care about a startup’s features. Features are irrelevant.

On the other hand, startups are really, really into features. The more features integrated into a product, the happier they are.

startup featuresNot surprisingly, there is a huge disconnect between customers and startups. It explains why so many startups struggle to attract customers.

So why are startups enthralled with features but pay little attention to benefits?

The easy answer is startups understand features because it aligns with their product-centric view of the world. In their thinking, features are the product’s sizzle.

By creating more features, startups can justify the time and money spent on developing the product. As well, startups believe they are meeting the needs of customers by offering a multi-faceted product.

The big problem is features don’t excite customers because they have little interest in the bells and whistles.

Their focus is how a product helps them be more productive, collaborative, profitable, etc. In other words, they want to know what’s in it for them (aka benefits).

It seems strange but many startups have a terrible handle on their customers and their needs. They tend to clump customers into broad groups rather than segmenting them into a variety of buying personas.

And, even worse, too many startups have little or no insight into a customer’s needs and goals to effectively communicate with them.

Instead of talking about how a product can make a customer’s employees more collaborative and efficient, a startup talks about their product is multi-platform and has good security.

When a customer is exploring a purchase, benefits are crucial because they talk to strategic and tactical needs.

It means startups need to take a customer-centric approach to sales and marketing (aka benefits rather than features). It is a more effective powerful way to attract customers.

So how can startups change their focus from product to customer?

It starts with thinking about their customers. Who are they? What are their needs and goals? What makes them successful? Who are the influencers and decision makers?

The more a startup knows about their customers, the better they can connect with them. It’s having a strong grasp on how a product makes a customer happy from a big picture perspective.

For many startups, this approach is different, if not uncomfortable.

It goes against the grain because features take a secondary role. Some startups can’t jump on the benefits bandwagon so their marketing and sales efforts gain little traction.

For startups that understand why benefits are important, they start to speak a completely different language. It’s all about the customer, and less about the product. But it’s definitely the right way to go.

At some point, features are important as a customer travels down the sales funnel as a way to demonstrate value and utility, as well as differentiate. But during the “dating” process, features must take a backseat to benefits.

More: Nir Benita looks at why startups need to build better products, rather than focus on features. HelpScout also has a good post: “Features Tell, but Benefits Sell”.

For startups looking to jump-start their marketing, I provide strategic and tactical services – core messaging, brand positioning, marketing strategies and content creation.