Selling With More Than Features And Benefits

January 3, 2008

"You really mix it up, Robbin, don’t you?” Jason Green joked as he unpacked box after box of Melitta’s Breakfast Blend javapods.

“Well, that’s what you guys drink,” I answered. But in fact, that wasn’t the main reason that I bought all Breakfast Blend. Melitta just didn’t have the information that I needed to distinguish between their products. And I saw the same problem with the user tests we did in December, for a completely different kind of customer.

The problem was that the Melitta site made it too hard for me to buy anything else. I would have loved to try some new stuff, but all those coffee words didn’t mean anything to me.

For example, one of the flavors was, “A Cafe Kind of Day.” The description is, “The forecast calls for smooth and satisfying. The 100% Colombian brew delivers a subtle, wine-like overtone from daybreak to nightfall. Each box contains 18 pods. Fits all Coffee Pod Brewers.”

Seems simple? Not to me. I want to hear, “This is the perfect cup of coffee when you have that mid-afternoon sleepy feeling.” Or, “Just awesome when you crave something as dark as espresso, but can’t get to your machine.” I need some way to differentiate this kind of coffee from “Breakfast Blend.” With Breakfast Blend, I understand one important feature: it is for drinking in the morning. All those other blends — I just couldn’t tell the difference.

This is the same issue I saw last week in user testing. We had a site with product after product, and they were so similar. The owner certainly understood how and when to make a selection, because he knows the product selection intimately. Some of the users, however, were overwhelmed. He needed to tell them when to choose each one — just like Melitta needed to tell me how to choose a flavor of coffee.

Next time, I am going to find a site that has compatible coffee pods, and that tells me what to buy, and why. And we’ll try something new.