language of new product development processesYou may have the greatest new product or service in the world, but if you can’t get buyers’ attention and communicate in their language, you will struggle with accelerating new product development.

Here are four levels that your marketing and sales must follow to effectively capture customers’ attention and lead them through the buying process.

1. Strong Benefit
Research shows that multiple benefits weaken the effectiveness of a benefit statement. A single strong benefit is always more compelling.

What is the primary way your product or service benefits the customer? What problem does it solve? Does it helps them sell more, free up working capital, or reduce operating expenses?

In consumer markets, convenience and stress reduction are hot benefits. What can you do to free up time for your customers?

2. Unique Advantages
Why is your product or service able to deliver those benefits better than the competitive alternatives? How is it both different and better than everything else out there?

If your product creates a new category, you must also explain how your product relates to the old way of doing things and what”s different that makes it better. For instance, a smartphone is like a cellphone but more convenient because it integrates your calendar, contact manager and email.

3. Features
What creates the advantages of your product? Features drill down into the advantages showing how they are achieved. Customers buy benefits, but features help them understand how you achieve an advantage in delivering the benefits.

4. Functions
How do users interact with the features of your product? What will it be like to do their job using your product.

You can tell them, but it’s always better to show them. This is the role of demonstrations, pilots, or test drives. Social media is becoming increasingly important here as more and more users share their experience.

How all 4 of these relate to the buyer’s problems

It’s critical that you articulate any of these 4 levels in a way that resonates with what the buyer is paid to manage and the problems they experience in doing it. So if you are selling at the executive level, that means problem/benefit statements must be related to corporate measures like net profit, earnings and shareholder value. Start talking to them about reducing cost per unit and you’ve lost their interest.

On the other hand, middle managers’ pain is focused on the line items in their budgets. Start talking about increase in earnings per share and you won’t connect with them either. It’s all about tailoring the message to the audience.

As a rule of thumb, the higher your product is sold in the organization, the less deeply your marketing should go into features and functions. That doesn’t mean the information shouldn’t be communicated. You just shouldn’t lead with it.

Simple Bottom Line

For maximum impact, build your marketing message around customer benefits and then offer the ability to drill down layer by layer into advantages, then features, and finally functions. Also, speak in the buyers language meaning that benefits might be at an executive or middle management level, but features and functions should be directed towards the users and other functional experts that will interact with your product.

This article appears by permission of the author and was originally published on his Simplifying Innovation blog.

Dalton on Innovation

Mike Dalton is the author of Simplifying Innovation: Doubling speed to market and new product profits – with your existing resources