How to Sell: Value, Benefits or Features?

Today marketers shift from using features to benefits to market service. There is much buzz about storytelling, gamification, providing a better customer experience, and creating shareable educational content. These are all part of different tactics to market a product. Why do companies use these methods?

A pragmatic answer is to get more exposure(awareness) engagement and get higher up in the search engine pages to get found. However, a long-term approach is to look at the customer journey and place methods such as storytelling in a framework. Most companies today charge for the goods and services they provide, yet they offer free customer service and educational events.

The Experience Economy

Below is a table with the five economies. Gilmore & Pine wrote a book called ‘The experience economy,’ where they explain the progression of economies through the ages. I don’t entirely agree since all economies were already present depending on industry and country.

experience economy

Each time we customize, the economic value goes up; however, when we commoditize the product, the value goes down. With the industrial economy, it is about controlling the costs of goods and getting the prices down as low as possible to offer them to the masses.

Customizing a good automatically turned it into service because it was done just for a particular person and delivered on-demand. With the service economy, it is about improving quality. Services become commodities when people don’t care who makes them as long as the price is acceptable.

For instance, a good business school like Harvard has many USPs, charges the students(guests) in its care, and transforms the students when they attend. When Harvard would provide classes as a service, such as classes on-demand via the internet, it wouldn’t charge as much because the customer is paying for the activities Harvard provided, not the experiences or setting to transform. Also, the competition is more significant in the classes on-demand sector.

Transformation Economy by Design

Just as goods and services resulting from iterative research, design, and development process, experiences derive from an iterative process of exploration, scripting, and staging.

What does your customer aspire and where are they today? You can script a set of experiences to fill this gap that takes them from where they are, where they want to be, to make that transformation happen. And in the last phase, the company ensures that the customer leaps to transform.


I mentioned a few tactics to increase value in the first paragraph, such as storytelling and educational content. Storytelling makes you feel and perceive the world in a certain way, and running apps started to integrate stories to make running more exciting. Now you probably guess in which economy the other tactics fit. So why aren’t companies charging for them?

Even though companies invest in education content and gamification, they can’t ensure an experience or transformation. If you advertise and charge for offering an adventure, but you can’t deliver, you’re perceived as phony. People buy from people they like; brands they like and are authentic.

For now, the majority of the companies shift gears from acting like a ‘goods’-company to a ‘service’-company. However, you need to move forward and not just stick to best practices but evolve or be commoditized. At the same time, high-speed internet and user experience to a targeted audience are fuelling the ‘transformation’-offerings. For instance, researchers Yee and Bailens at Stanford University discovered that your online avatar influences your behavior and how you perceive yourself and view the world.

Make a list of the tactics you use today to determine if they contribute to your long-term strategy. Gamification may be hip now, but it needs to be meaningful.

About author View all posts

Cindy Crijns

My passion is combining technology and marketing to reach potential clients & retain current customers. Specialities: B2B, B2C, SMB, Social media, demand generation, brand management, analytics & customer insight.

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