Ok, but what’s in it for me? Lead with benefits, not features

Mar 26, 2022

It’s the question on every consumer’s lips: “What’s in it for me?” Known in marketing speak as ‘the WIIFM factor’, this simple sentence demands you put yourself in your target audience’s shoes. Why would they care? What is it about your marketing messages that speaks to your ideal customer’s needs?

When you’re immersed and invested in your brand, it can be easy to get carried away talking about the features of your product or service. After all, you’re proud. You believe your offering is the best in the market. Plus, you and your colleagues spend the majority of your waking hours creating and refining it, so it’s bound to be at the forefront of your mind.

But, the truth is, most people don’t care about your product or service. And they probably can’t tell you what your brand stands for. That might sound harsh, but it’s purely intended as a constructive reality check. (Be honest: if you didn’t work for your company, would you care?) What consumers do care about is what your product or service can do for them. How it can improve their life. What benefits it offers.

“The truth is, most people don’t care about your product. They care about what your product can do for them.”

WIIFM is the reason you should lead with benefits, not features. That means tipping your marketing messaging on its head so you always speak with your customers’ needs in mind. Instead of focusing on what you offer, focus on why you offer it. Say your coffee maker has a new, faster speed setting. So what? “Get your morning caffeine fix in under a minute” is much more appealing. Maybe your latest phone contract includes more data? “Watch films on the go” is a benefit that will actually catch consumers’ attention.

Here are five tips for making sure your marketing answers the question, “What’s in it for me?”

1. Know who you’re talking to

How can you put yourself in your customers’ shoes and consider how your product or service benefits them, if you have no idea who your ideal customer is or what they care about? We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: before you do anything, decide who you’re targeting and find out as much as possible about them.

The best way to do this is by creating customer personas that go way beyond demographics (extra points if you consider Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs). Armed with detailed psychographic insight about your customers’ needs, aspirations and pain points, you can tailor your messaging so consumers feel as though you’re reading their mind – which is a surefire way to convert.

2. Create strong value propositions

A value proposition is “a promise of value to be delivered. It’s the primary reason a prospect should buy from you.” Mapping out value propositions for each specific product or service, as well as for your overall brand, is a crucial foundation for a solid marketing strategy. Not only does it help your whole team think from the point of view of your customer. It also ensures you deliver consistent messaging across all touchpoints – from sales, to customer service, to creative, and beyond.

A strong value proposition is:

  • Relevant – explains how your product solves customers’ problems or improves their lives
  • Quantifiable – outlines specific benefits that are of value to your customer
  • Different – gives your customer a reason to buy from you over the competition

3. Avoid the “curse of knowledge”

As Stanford University Graduate Elizabeth Newton discovered in her ‘tappers and listeners’ experiment, “The problem is that once we know something… we find it hard to imagine not knowing it. Our knowledge has ‘cursed’ us. We have difficulty sharing it with others, because we can’t readily re-create their state of mind.”

Make a concerted effort to look at your marketing with fresh eyes – imagine you’ve never heard of your brand before. (If that’s too difficult, ask the opinion of someone who actually hasn’t!) Rather than assuming a base level of understanding, go back to basics with concrete language and messaging that simply and clearly communicates the benefits of your product or service.

4. Make it easy for consumers

“The best brands don’t lead with product features because they know it makes people feel like they’re being sold to,” says co-founder of Column Five, Josh Ritchie. “It also puts all the work on the customer to analyze all the features and determine whether they even want the features – or if they will even benefit from the product.” Respect consumers’ time by making it as easy as possible for them to understand what they’ll get (WIIFM) and imagine themselves benefitting from your product or service.

That could mean finding ways to demonstrate what their life could look like if they buy from your brand – for example, by creating a reward-based sales promotion that showcases your product. Or it could be as simple as removing ‘friction verbs’ that describe things people have to do (rather than things they want to do) – like “buy” or “sign up” – from your CTAs. Instead, replace them with verbs that suggest consumers will achieve gratification passively, or make something seem like less like work – like “get” or “discover.”

5. Hero your customer

Scan your marketing for any use of the word “we” and switch it to “you.” Heroing your customer using the third person (e.g. “you,” “your” and “yours”) is a simple yet effective tweak that forces you to reframe your messaging as a benefit, rather than a feature. You might still mention the role your brand has to play, but remain modest – think of yourselves as a trusty sidekick. For example, rather than “we do this (so you can do this),” your message should be, “you can do this (because we do this).”

Take this one step further by using social proof to highlight real customers and their wins, which is an effective tool for developing trust and creating a sense of community around your brand.

The challenge with the WIIFM factor is that marketers think like it, too. The challenge is to “Start thinking in terms of what’s best for whoever is reading your message and not for whoever wrote it.” For every piece of marketing you produce, at any stage of the funnel, put yourself in your customer’s shoes and ask, “What’s in it for me?” If you have to exert even the slightest effort to figure that out, run through these tips and try again.


At RIX, we help you put your customer at the center of your sales promotions with creative reward solutions that focus on people instead of products. Want to know how we can help you increase market share, revenue and brand engagement?
Book a free consultation today.

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