Understanding the differences between ‘features’ and ‘fluff’

Feb 22 • Morry Morgan Blog, Sales and Negotiations, Trainers Blogs • 3385 Views • 2 Comments on Understanding the differences between ‘features’ and ‘fluff’

Source: Ambernectar 13 @Flickr

“XYZ IS THE LEADER IN THE INDUSTRY!”

Every time I see this in a company’s brochure, website, or on a business card I cringe. This expression has to be the most commonly used cliché in marketing, having as much value as a used-car salesman adding ‘trust me’ at the end of his sentences. But there it is, time and time again. This is what I call marketing fluff, and the customer can see right through it. Customers don’t believe your opinion (that’s right, ‘…the leader in the industry’ is only an opinion), we want to know the facts! Hard substantiated facts.

Another word for a ‘hard substantiated fact’ is a ‘feature’. It could be as simple as ‘colour blue’ to more comprehensive as ‘ISO 9001 certified’. A feature could even be the fact that your general manager is ‘French’ or ‘German’ …or from ‘Shandong Province’. All of these are features, because they are true. There is no argument.

Of course, not all features are valid. Take, for example, a discussion between a customer and sales person. The sales person has discovered, through the act of funnelling (to be explained later), that the customer is risk averse, that is, that their ‘need’ is to reduce risk in their decision making. The fact that the widget is ‘coloured blue’ and that the general manager is ‘French’ would not necessarily make the customer feel less anxious (unless, the French have a reputation of being extremely trustworthy *cough* Which they don’t! *smirk*). No, rather it would be the feature of the ISO 9001 qualification that would match this customer’s need. So ‘Needs + Features’ would then equal a ‘Benefit’; A benefit that could ultimately lead to a sale.

A simple concept (in theory), but one harder to master in person. And sadly most sales people don’t; rather returning to the cliché of being a ‘leader in the industry’ or worse still, a leading anything! If you want to give yourself praise, make it a substantiated fact – such as ‘Training Firm of the Year‘ (or similar) – or shut up. Otherwise you are just talking fluff.


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2 Responses to Understanding the differences between ‘features’ and ‘fluff’

  1. I like your words here and I agree with this in principle, but it’s becoming more well known among salespeople that the part of the brain that makes decisions (like the decision to pay money for a good or service) is the part of the brain that controls emotion and feelings. Then there’s the part of the brain that controls rational thought, which is also the part of the brain that is responsible for speech and listening. Translation? Make a customer “feel good” about something and they’ll bite. Facts are here or there at the sales level. Though I despise that this is the truth, I recognize that I see it all the time and that’s why “LEADER IN THE INDUSTRY” is still around… because it works! Tell the average customer that they can buy a service that is better than the one they use now, is easier to use, and will save them money, and it will go nowhere unless they feel good about the purchase.

    What I think is funny is this mixture of fluff and features. Last time I went to buy a washer and a dryer, the appliance sales people got so caught up in saying, this model has 2 more different cycles than other brands. That works on people! It doesn’t matter that they will in fact only ever use but 2 or 3 of the 12 cycles the machine offers. I am not sure if there even is an industry term for “a feature that exists merely to get people to feel good about buying it, but with no intention that it will actually be used,” but I see it all over the place, especially in technology, and it is this funny mixture of fluff and features.

  2. Morry Morgan says:

    Thanks for the comments Michael.
    I absolutely agree with you that we buy because of emotions and feelings. A ‘Need’ is exactly that. Needs are feelings, that include ‘risk aversion’, ‘urgency’, ‘reliability’. To check whether a word is in fact a need then just combine it with the word ‘feel’. For example:
    1. I feel that this project is risky.
    2. I feel urgent to get this task completed.
    3. I don’t feel that our current vendor is reliable.
    Matching that need to a ‘Feature’ is then the job of the salesperson.

    As for the industry term for “a feature that exists merely to get people to feel good about buying it, but with no intention that it will actually be used”, that is called “bells and whistles”.

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