In a recent PFRE poll, readers were asked which topics would be most useful to them in future posts. The results of the poll found that one the dominant wishes was to get more info on “the business of RE photography.” When I read that, the first thing that came to mind was the day-to-day challenge of working in such a highly competitive field and the challenges we all have in marketing our photography. Indeed, one of the key questions that we must ask ourselves regularly, is: "How can I stand out in the marketplace?" It’s my strong belief that what ultimately distinguishes a photographer is the connection that s/he has with their customers. Part of establishing that connection is really understanding the customer's needs and wants. Indeed, it’s been said that customers don’t buy products or services, they buy solutions to their issues. In a recent marketing article that I was reading, the author referenced a great line from Theodore Levitt, a professor at Harvard Business School, who once said: "People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole."
Distinguishing Features & Benefits
This wonderful quote underscores the need to understand the difference between features and benefits. To highlight this, let’s say you’ve given your mom a lovely framed photo of your baby daughter. She wants to hang that photo on a particular wall in her home but that wall is made out of brick. To do so, we need a drill bit that can make a hole in the brick without cracking it. The drill bit’s capacity to do so, it’s length, tip-style and tensile strength are all simple facts that describe it -- these facts are features of the drill bit. The benefit of using it, though, is that it can drill the required hole into the wall without damaging it. We can even say that once the photo is properly hung, the ultimate benefit of using that drill bit is that your mom can enjoy viewing the image whenever she likes. You could talk to your mom about the features of that drill bit all day long but she’d likely tune you out. All she wants is to be able to enjoy the photograph of her baby grand-daughter!
One of the dangers of us always speaking to the features of our work, is that not only will our customers tune us out, they’ll also likely be hearing our competitors making virtually the same statements. If photographers are always talking about their use of high-end cameras, lenses, lighting equipment, editing software, etc., all of them end up sounding the same. When a client perceives all vendors as being the same, they tend to make their selection based on price and, as we all know, no one wins in a race to the bottom!
How to Determine a Benefit
Probably the simplest way to get to the heart of a benefit is to list a core feature and keep asking the question, “So what?” In the world of RE photography, it might go something like this:
• I use a the Canon 5D, Mark IV. It has a 30 mega-pixel sensor (feature) … So what?
• It allows me to capture 67% more detail in a photo than my last camera, the 18 mega-pixel, Canon 6D (feature) … So what?
• Getting more detail in an image gives me greater latitude in my editing (feature) … So what?
• Getting more latitude in my editing allows me to deliver better images to my client (benefit) … So what?
• Giving my client better images allows her to have tangible evidence that she’s living up to her brand of “doing whatever it takes” to sell her clients’ homes. (ultimate benefit.)
Benefits Satisfy the Client’s ‘Wants’
One of the bits of psychology that great salespeople know, is that most people tend to make buying decisions based on their underlying wants (the ultimate benefit) and then justify their purchase with the facts (features.) The only way to know what those wants are, of course, is to make an effort to get to know our clients. We may find out, for example, that a particular client’s underlying want is to get highly creative and distinctive photos as a means of distinguishing his MLS listings when compared to other realtors.
With this knowledge in hand, we can describe to that client that we use lenses that allow us to create a very soft, blurry background, called “bokeh” (a feature) that gives us the ability to deliver a handful of detail shots at every photoshoot that satisfies his underlying want for creative and distinctive images for his listings (his ultimate benefit.)
In closing, while it’s relatively easy to wrap our heads around the importance of distinguishing features and benefits, the truth is, actually doing so is easier said than done. I hope this article will be helpful in your thinking through the particular benefits that you bring to your clients!