Using Benefits vs. Features in Employee Benefit Communications

It’s a standard concept in marketing: benefits vs. features. It centers on the idea that when marketing, the benefits of a product or service should be highlighted instead of the features.

When an organization is selling or promoting a product or service they tend to focus on the features of the product versus the benefits. Marketers assume that potential customers will read about the features and understand why they should purchase it. The same idea is found in benefits communications.

Employers will create flyers, posters, emails, newsletters, videos and a host of other communication and marketing tools to entice their employee to take advantage of the benefits they sponsor. However, a lot of the communications designed for an organization’s employees is centered on the features instead of the benefits.

While well-intended, the results are more likely to be favorable in terms of enrollment numbers and utilization when the benefits demonstrated are much clearer than the features.

Take a look at the features below of benefit offerings directly taken from a real open enrollment presentation:

Legal Plans:
• Contracts/Documents reviewed, up to 15 pages

Employee Assistance Plans:
• Child or elder care
• Emotional Issues

Each item listed above is a statement about the service being promoted. But features do not convince someone to sign up for something. Benefits do. Benefits answer the “what’s in it for me?” question. Benefits describe why the employee will find the service useful. Think of benefits as the results of the service being offered. If you can help an employee understand why they need the service, it will be easier for them to understand why they would want to participate.

Legal Plans:
• Contracts/Documents, up to 15 pages becomes:
Hiring a nanny and have an employee contract that needs to be signed, but the legal requirements are confusing? Signing a remodeling contract for your home soon even though you don’t fully understand the terms? Moving into a new apartment but feeling unsure about the lease? Have every document that matters to you reviewed before you sign.

Employee Assistance Program:
• Child or elder care becomes:
Your favorite babysitter is no longer available. It’s been 48 hours and you’re still not sure who is going to be a good replacement. You reach out for assistance and within a couple of days you’re back to work and a babysitter is back with your kids because of the EAP program.

• Emotional issues becomes:
You have a gambling problem, but you can’t tell your spouse. The embarrassment would be too much. Instead you get the help you need because you contacted EAP professionals and were able to get your life back on track confidentially.

Employee Benefits Features Employee Benefits Communications
This image illustrates the benefits vs. features concept for a discounted gym membership provided by a health insurance carrier.

To apply the benefits vs. features model, you should keep these tips in mind:

1. Know your employees
Segment your benefits marketing and communications. E.g., age, lifestyle, family or single.

2. Think about the results
When you are creating communications, ask yourself does this tell me what the result of using this service will be? If not, rethink the messaging.


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