This summer, my company had a major product launch. It was an exciting event. The Evinrude E-TEC G2 is a revolutionary new direct-injection two-stroke outboard engine. My fellow engineers and I had been working on this project for more than five years so it was gratifying to see the overwhelmingly positive response from marine dealers and OEMs.
As part of the event, I was asked to attend sales training seminars for Evinrude dealers. The purpose of these seminars was to provide dealers with tips on how to sell the new product. My role was to answer the dealers’ technical questions.
As much fun as it was to educate dealers about the exciting work my fellow engineers and I had done over the past five years, the seminars turned out to be an educational experience for me, too. A major theme of the seminars was “feature-advantage-benefit” selling.
This technique is already well-known to many sales professionals. However, as an engineer, it was the first time I’d heard of this approach. As I learned more about it, I realized that this technique could help engineers in how we approach design problems, how we sell our ideas to management, and how we market ourselves when it comes to jobs.
Features are the detail-level characteristics of a product. For example, one feature of the Evinrude E-TEC G2 is a new combustion chamber design. Computational fluid dynamics (CFD) software was used to optimize the thermodynamic performance. In fact, two of my fellow engineers, Paul Westhoff and Justin Johnson, received an award from the Society of Automotive Engineers for their innovative work on the intake porting design.
As engineers, we tend to get excited about features. However, features only matter to the extent that they can be translated into advantages. Advantages are what differentiate the new product from existing products. For example, the advantages of the new combustion chamber design are that it produces 20% more torque, 15% better fuel economy, and 75% lower emissions than the best outboards in its horsepower class -- two-stroke or four-stroke.
Advantages, in turn, are only meaningful when they can be translated into a benefit for the consumer. Benefits answer the question, “What’s in it for me?” In the case of the new combustion chamber design, the benefit to boaters is the ability to spend more time on the water and less money at the fuel pump, while enjoying world-class performance.
Features describe what’s new about a product, advantages describe what’s better about it, and benefits explain why it matters. Understanding the difference between features, advantages, and benefits allows us to make the connection between innovative engineering designs and customer needs and desires.