Benefits and Features

The most important question to answer in this stage is “What benefits will your product deliver to the customer?” To answer the question you must know what is a benefit. A benefit is what the product does for the customer. Since benefits are described from the customer’s point of view, benefits are solution neutral. Customers buy benefits! This may be hard for engineers to accept but most customers do not care how the product works! Therefore the description of a benefit must not include any mention of how the product works. For instance, teenagers who purchase a mobile device care about portable communications not the sophisticated technology that enables the communication.

Customers talk in terms of benefits, but engineers tend to talk about features. Features are the technologies, parts and subsystems that deliver a benefit. You can touch a feature of a product. The features of the mobile device purchased by a teenager may include some of the following; touch screen, antenna, camera and speaker. These features enable the benefit of mobile communications.

Let’s look at another example. A typical clothes washer is shown in figure 1.

 Figure 1. A typical washing machine.

The core benefit of the washing machine is clean clothes. The core benefit is the most basic or fundamental benefit the customer derives from the product. There are other benefits that the product delivers to the customer. In the case of the clothes washer the other benefits may include energy savings, water savings and time savings.

The features that deliver the benefits include motors, pumps, agitators and timers. You can touch each of the features! Compare the features and benefits of the clothes washer to the clothes washer shown in figure 2. Note that the core benefits of the two products are the same.

Figure 2. A hand clothes washing basin.
The TIMES Model

The times model can be helpful when you are trying to determine the benefits a product delivers.

T = Time
I = Information
M = Money
E = Energy
S = Space

Time, information, money, energy and space are broad categories that include many of the benefits that product provide. However, every product does not deliver a benefit in each category. Figure 3 shows a product called the “Mouse Minder”. What benefits does it deliver to the customer? How do these benefits fit into the TIMES model. What are the benefits of the product shown in figure 4? How much would you pay for these benefits?

Finally developers of new product must determine how much money potential customers are willing to pay for the benefits.Before you can determine this, you must figure out who is a potential customer. Learn this in the next section entitled “Target Market”.

Figure 3. The Mouse Minder product.
How does this apply to new product development?
Customers buy benefits. Therefore, before launching a product development effort you must determine what benefits your customer wants and how much the potential customer will pay for the benefits. Some companies develop features to deliver benefits that customers are unwilling to pay enough money for to allow the company to make a profit. The products that deliver those benefits quickly disappear from the market. Anybody remember the cars that used sophisticated sensors and software to parallel park without the driver intervening?
What is the core benefit of the product you are designing? Are there other secondary benefits that people in your target market would be willing to pay for?

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