I was at a church vision council’s meeting recently. The relatively new group is overseeing implementation of the church's strategic plan and progress on it updated mission. That evening, the group was discussing alternative strategies to improve the church building and grounds. Looking at various plans, their conversation focused on the building activities in each plan:
- The number of meeting rooms
- The number and sizes of offices
- Minimum hallway widths for accessibility
- The types of dividers and doors to provide flexible room sizes
- Which buildings might be torn down to enable new construction
Their discussion turned to how parish members might react to the various options and whether they'd support a building initiative.
My caution to the group was that, from the first stages, members need to be careful about the language they use to discuss the building initiative.
The group faced the classic features-benefits trap; their building project discussion was only about features.
Customers Write Checks for Features, but Buy the Benefits
They were ignoring the benefits: how each plan would dramatically expand the parish’s ability to realize its mission of prayer and service. Beyond the numbers of rooms and wall finishes, THAT is the important benefit from the building initiative. While the parish (and its members) will write a check for buildings and infrastructure, they are buying an experience. They are buying the ability to better help parishioners and all those they will reach out to with assistance to realize a closer relationship with God.
It's easy for any organization to fall into that same features-benefits trap with its marketing and sales messages: While customers pay for features, they are buying the benefits.
That is why it is so vital to make sure you identify and articulate benefits that are clear, vivid, and important for your potential customers. - Mike Brown