Benefits first: The performance, not the notes.

For all the brilliance of the composer, what creates a symphony, the proof of its endurance is the performance.  In Lucca, Italy I got to see some pages of Puccini’s operatic scores and it was amazing to see Tosca orchestrated line-by-line.  But if I hadn’t heard the music itself it would have been less impressive.

With marketing, just like with music, it’s about the performance not the notes.

One of the most common challenges for service businesses, especially those with complex, technical and intangible aspects to what they do for clients, is how to talk about the whole.

We can’t explain what we do” is a challenge I’m often posed with.  When I’ve joined organisations as their Marketing Director, or now as a Consultant, I often ask sales to tell me what their solution does for clients.  I often hear “it’s different for every client” followed by a number of features of their product or service. 

The product development team (often analysts or web developers) love to explain how brilliant and complicated each detailed feature is – because they’re rightly proud of that work. But imagine if Google tried to explain their algorithm before they’d give you the search result!

It’s very common for companies to focus on the features not the benefits of their service because that’s usually the source of their IP and differentiation. 

I remember having an interview for a job where someone put a glass of water in front of me and asked me to tell him what the features and benefits were.  It was a brilliant question and I now use it myself – not only when hiring marketers but also when trying to get my clients to shift from features to benefits. 

Try it with your team.  People will tell you things like “it’s clear, it’s cold, it’s smooth” (describing the glass) and then they might say “it holds water”. I rarely get up in the morning and think about finding something to hold water.  I wake up and think “I’m thirsty” and the problem I’m solving is a need to quench my thirst – a benefit. 

Of course, you could go much further.  It’s proven that drinking lots of water keeps you healthy.  And if I believed what I read in Cosmo, drinking more water might even lead me to look like Kate Moss! 

What’s the real benefit of your service?  When did you last spend a bit of time figuring that out?  Or asking your customers?

The marketing lesson here is that you need to talk in benefits first, not features.  The musical point is that it’s about the performance – and what that does for your audience – not the notes.  But you can’t get to one without the other.

I can help you distil the benefits. And then help you find the right notes.

Jill Pringle is a brand marketing consultant working with service-led businesses. A published Author and Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Marketing, Jill specialises in developing audience insights and composing and orchestrating value propositions. Jill’s services provide a cost-effective way to leverage senior marketing input without hiring a CMO. And build powerful propositions that improve your sales pipeline.




We help service businesses focus and orchestrate their brand and marketing strategies as well as providing workshops, coached marketing orchestration programmes and 121 consulting.

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