Years of Service is a Feature – Not a Benefit

Tell Me Why I Should Care

In introducing themselves via the web, print, email, social communities and in meetings many TPAs and recordkeepers often talk about how many years they’ve been in the business, the certifications or credentials they have, the types of plans they support, and more. All pertinent background information to be sure, but not the kind that’s likely to garner attention, distinguish an organization or help build a brand. In short, these are features. They’re not benefits.

How do you tell your company’s story?

Do you mention plan design and compliance testing and timely returns? Do you speak to the education of your staff or your investment in technology and process? These, too, are features. That’s not to say they are not important. They are, but the key is to effectively translate them to benefits relationship partners and clients will recognize and appreciate. Think about how you might answer the acid test question “So what?” Put another way, it’s essential to put yourself in the shoes of your audience and ask “Why should I care?” “What’s in it for me?” “How does this help solve my problems?” There are two huge reasons to do this. First, the industry is mature and highly competitive and for the most part, pretty level. Many (some might say “most”) TPAs and recordkeepers are now in the business more than 20 years and have experienced people and offer a similar lineup of services. It does not distinguish you to merely have similar tenure and credentials. Second, we can’t expect that visitors will read or hear features and interpret the underlying benefits on their own.

A Couple of Examples

Feature Statement: We offer 401(k) and other defined contribution plans, cash balance, and other combo plans. [Discussing plan types, options, plan features bulleted by the truckload]

Benefit Translation: It’s not a one-size-fits-all world. We specialize in a range of custom plan designs to best match your business needs, tax planning and retirement savings goals.

Feature Statement: We invest in our people, technology, and processes. [Discussing automation, efficiency, web access, credentials]

Benefit Translation: We’re an expert partner you can rely on. We understand the requirements of a complex and changing industry and can help make it easy for you to reach your goals.

Statements about features and benefits take their cues from long standing sales training principles that say “Don’t tell me what it is, tell me why it matters.” Factoids about your size and specs as a firm speak to “what it is,” but not “why it matters.”

Self-Assessment Time

Armed with a clearer understanding of features versus benefits, how would you assess the messages you convey on your website, collateral, PowerPoint decks, meeting handouts, partner Q&As? How about in your recent email communications, newsletters, and social postings?

Ask yourself:

  1. How much of what our organization does do others really understand?
  2. How much do they really need or want to know?
  3. Are we communicating how we help them reach their goals?
  4. Are we communicating how we help them solve their problems?

It’s easy to forget that we retirement professionals live in a specialized world with our own vocabulary, details, and regulatory requirements. If you think about information from your clients ‘and partners’ perspective, you will absolutely become a better editor and critic of your message and in doing so, a better ambassador of your brand. It won’t make you a better writer – that’s another story…