The Very Important Difference Between A Target And A Signal

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The Very Important Difference Between A Target And A Signal

There are four categories of chemical signaling found in multicellular organisms: paracrine signaling, endocrine signaling, autocrine signaling, and direct signaling across gap junctions (Figure 1). The main difference between the different categories of signaling is the distance that the signal travels through the organism to reach the target cell. Not all cells are affected by the same signals.

Figure 1. In chemical signaling, a cell may target itself (autocrine signaling), a cell connected by gap junctions, a nearby cell (paracrine signaling), or a distant cell (endocrine signaling). Paracrine signaling acts on nearby cells, endocrine signaling uses the circulatory system to transport ligands, and autocrine signaling acts on the signaling cell. Signaling via gap junctions involves signaling molecules moving directly between adjacent cells.

Paracrine Signaling

Figure 2. The distance between the presynaptic cell and the postsynaptic cell—called the synaptic gap—is very small and allows for rapid diffusion of the neurotransmitter. Enzymes in the synaptic cleft degrade some types of neurotransmitters to terminate the signal.

Signals that act locally between cells that are close together are called paracrine signals. Paracrine signals move by diffusion through the extracellular matrix. These types of signals usually elicit quick responses that last only a short amount of time. In order to keep the response localized, paracrine ligand molecules are normally quickly degraded by enzymes or removed by neighboring cells. Removing the signals will reestablish the concentration gradient for the signal, allowing them to quickly diffuse through the intracellular space if released again.

One example of paracrine signaling is the transfer of signals across synapses between nerve cells. A nerve cell consists of a cell body, several short, branched extensions called dendrites that receive stimuli, and a long extension called an axon, which transmits signals to other nerve cells or muscle cells. The junction between nerve cells where signal transmission occurs is called a synapse. A synaptic signal is a chemical signal that travels between nerve cells. Signals within the nerve cells are propagated by fast-moving electrical impulses. When these impulses reach the end of the axon, the signal continues on to a dendrite of the next cell by the release of chemical ligands called neurotransmitters by the presynaptic cell (the cell emitting the signal). The neurotransmitters are transported across the very small distances between nerve cells, which are called chemical synapses (Figure 2). The small distance between nerve cells allows the signal to travel quickly; this enables an immediate response, such as, Take your hand off the stove!

When the neurotransmitter binds the receptor on the surface of the postsynaptic cell, the electrochemical potential of the target cell changes, and the next electrical impulse is launched. The neurotransmitters that are released into the chemical synapse are degraded quickly or get reabsorbed by the presynaptic cell so that the recipient nerve cell can recover quickly and be prepared to respond rapidly to the next synaptic signal.

Endocrine Signaling

Signals from distant cells are called endocrine signals, and they originate from endocrine cells. (In the body, many endocrine cells are located in endocrine glands, such as the thyroid gland, the hypothalamus, and the pituitary gland.) These types of signals usually produce a slower response but have a longer-lasting effect. The ligands released in endocrine signaling are called hormones, signaling molecules that are produced in one part of the body but affect other body regions some distance away.

Hormones travel the large distances between endocrine cells and their target cells via the bloodstream, which is a relatively slow way to move throughout the body. Because of their form of transport, hormones get diluted and are present in low concentrations when they act on their target cells. This is different from paracrine signaling, in which local concentrations of ligands can be very high.

Autocrine Signaling

Autocrine signals are produced by signaling cells that can also bind to the ligand that is released. This means the signaling cell and the target cell can be the same or a similar cell (the prefix auto- means self, a reminder that the signaling cell sends a signal to itself). This type of signaling often occurs during the early development of an organism to ensure that cells develop into the correct tissues and take on the proper function. Autocrine signaling also regulates pain sensation and inflammatory responses. Further, if a cell is infected with a virus, the cell can signal itself to undergo programmed cell death, killing the virus in the process. In some cases, neighboring cells of the same type are also influenced by the released ligand. In embryological development, this process of stimulating a group of neighboring cells may help to direct the differentiation of identical cells into the same cell type, thus ensuring the proper developmental outcome.

Direct Signaling Across Gap Junctions

Gap junctions in animals and plasmodesmata in plants are connections between the plasma membranes of neighboring cells. These water-filled channels allow small signaling molecules, called intracellular mediators, to diffuse between the two cells. Small molecules, such as calcium ions (Ca 2+ ), are able to move between cells, but large molecules like proteins and DNA cannot fit through the channels. The specificity of the channels ensures that the cells remain independent but can quickly and easily transmit signals. The transfer of signaling molecules communicates the current state of the cell that is directly next to the target cell; this allows a group of cells to coordinate their response to a signal that only one of them may have received. In plants, plasmodesmata are ubiquitous, making the entire plant into a giant, communication network.

Difference Between Nervous System and Endocrine System

The significant difference between these two is that the nervous system uses electrical signals or impulses to send the signals through neurons, while the Endocrine system uses hormones acting as the chemical messenger to send signals to the target cell through the blood stream in the body.

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However, both are the regulatory system allows the communication between the tissue, organs, and cells. These systems have the responsibility to control and coordinate the signals given to the body, internally or externally. This regulation helps in maintaining the homeostasis and other activities of the system.

It is important to know that both the system are regulated by the negative feedback mechanism. Though their mode of transfer and time differs but chemical messengers plays a major role in both the systems.

Content: Nervous System Vs Endocrine System

Comparison Chart

Basis for Comparison Nervous System Endocrine System
Definition The complicated network of nerves that carry messages or signals from and to the spinal cord and brain to other parts of the body. The collection of glands, which produces hormones, function in regulating the body’s growth and development, metabolism, tissue function, reproduction, sleep, anger, emotions and other internal functions. They work in sending signals to various parts of the body with the help of hormones and act as the chemical messenger.
The rate of response The nervous system shows the quick response to the stimuli, by the action potentials and neurotransmitters. The endocrine system responds slowly by secreting hormones, traveling through the circulatory system to the target tissue.
Kind of response Localised response. The response is spread widely.
Duration of response Temporary and reversible. Permanent response.
Mode of transmission of signal Neurotransmitters along neurons transmit electrochemical signals. Hormones are the kind of chemical signals used to transmit the signal to the target tissue through the blood stream of other body fluid.
Signals are transmitted by The neurons. The hormones flow through the blood stream or other body fluid.

Definition of Nervous System

One of the most important system of the body, which responds to the stimuli by sending the electrical signal along the neurons, and then these electrical signals or action potentials are transmitted to the target cells with the use of neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are said to be the chemical messenger of the nervous system.

The primary control system of the body is the nervous system only. The nervous system is made up of numerous nerve cells, which are found in the brain. Likewise the nervous system, the spinal cord plays the important part in transmitting the signals. The spinal cord work as the main path, from where these electrical signal transmitted from the brain to the outer part of the body.

The nervous system is divided into two parts- the Central nervous system (CNS) and Peripheral nervous system(PNS). The Central nervous system includes the brain and the spinal cord, although the peripheral nervous system consists of the Autonomic and Somatic nervous systems.

The brain is situated in the skull, and its shape looks like a mushroom. It weighs approximately 1.3 to 1.4 kg, having the neurons and the glia. The neurons are the nerve cell, and glia is the supporting cell. The brain is further is divided into four parts: the cerebrum, the cerebellum, the brain stem, and the diencephalon.

The Spinal Cord is the tube like structure, composed of the series of the 31 segments and each segment contains the pair of spinal nerves. The motor nerve and the sensory nerve are located in the region of the spinal cord only. The spinal cord is the collection of bones (back bones) and weighs up to 35-40 gram. It measures around 43 cm in length.

In case of the Peripheral nervous system (PNS), the autonomic or involuntary nervous system regulates the processes like the breathing rate, the blood pressure, on the other hand, the somatic or voluntary nervous system connects the brain and the spinal cord with the sensory receptors and muscles in the skin, with the help of the nerves.

Nervous system helps in taking the quick decision, and how to respond to the different things, it controls the emotions also. This all works through the electrical signals that run through out the body from the brain.

Although the nerve disorders result in functional difficulties and result in the condition like Epilepsy, Alzheimer disease, Parkinson disease, Multiple Sclerosis, Huntington’s disease and other vascular disorders such as subarachnoid hemorrhage, transient ischemic attack, and stroke.

Definition of Endocrine System

It is the network of glands that secrete chemicals in response to the stimuli. Hence hormones are called as the chemical messenger. The endocrine system depends on hormones to evoke the response from the target cells. These hormones are secreted by special glands at near-by or distant from their target cells and then gradually travel through the blood or other intercellular fluid.

As said earlier, this process takes a long time to respond, as hormones are first synthesized, ultimately sent to the target cell, and then it performs its function inside the cell. In simple language, they provide the signal to the cell of the target part, and the action remains for a long period.

All the glands are the part of an endocrine system only, which includes: Hypothalamus, pituitary gland, thyroids and parathyroid glands, pineal gland and the pituitary glands are some of the important parts of the endocrine system, present in the head portion of the body. The pancreas, kidneys and the adrenal glands are found in the stomach part while the ovaries and the testes are present in the abdominal part of the body.

By maintaining the functions of the organs present in the body, these glands help in regulating the homeostasis. For example, the growth hormone secreted by the pituitary gland are responsible the growth of the body, especially during childhood, but along with that heart rate, breathing, cellular metabolism is also maintained simultaneously.

Key differences Between Nervous System and Endocrine System

Following are the points to distinguish the nervous system to that of the endocrine system:

  1. Nervous system can be defined as the complicated network of nerves that carry messages or signals from and to the spinal cord and brain to other parts of the body, whereas Endocrine system is the collection of glands, which produces hormones, function in regulating the body’s growth and development, metabolism, tissue function, reproduction, sleep, anger, emotions and other internal functions. They primarily work in sending signals to various parts of the body with the help of hormones and act as the chemical messenger.
  2. The rate of response of the nervous system is fast and early to the stimuli, by the action potentials and neurotransmitters, while the endocrine system responds slowly by secreting hormones, travelling through the circulatory system to the target tissue.
  3. The nervous system creates the localized response which is temporary and reversible, while the endocrine system response is spread widely and is permanent.
  4. Mode of transmission of the signal in the nervous system is through the neurotransmitters which along neurons transmit electrochemical signals, but in a case of the endocrine system, the hormones provide the chemical signals are used to transmit the signal to the target tissue located at any part of the body.
  5. Signals are sent by use of neurons in the nervous system, these are the electrical signals, while in an endocrine system the hormones are transferred through the blood stream or other body fluid to send any messages or signals.


We can say that both the systems are used to give signals to the internal body parts, both types use the source as brain but in different ways, the one (nervous system) respond quickly to the stimuli, while the another (endocrine system) send their signals using different pathway and slowly as compared to the nervous system.

The Single Most Important Difference between an Audience and a Target group, and what you should do about it

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I recently posted about how to rethink our definition of tacticians and strategists into pre-thought, thought-thought and post-thought people. I am a thought thought person and as such, I feel the need to perhaps explain what value I would bring to the table once the pre-thought people are done.

Below is a typical example of how you go from a vision of growth, to setting up the rules you need in order to do it within a set of circumstances. I chose this topic as I hear a lot of confusion and mix up between these two very different concepts.


A target group is a set of people you believe that you are solving a problem for with your product or service. This means that you have identified a problem that exist and have found a solution for that problem by using your product. This might be a set of different problems that the same product or service can solve, but a target group cannot exist without a problem to solve.

You generally define a target group using demographics, function, problem and interests.


Your audience on the other hand is a subset of your target group that focus on the message you need in order to convey your solution to a portion of your target group, based on how they think and make decisions.

You generally define an audience using psychographics, recorded behavior and hypothesis testing.


Growth comes by increasing your target group, or get your audiences to buy at a higher rate, or at a higher frequency. You can only change the size of your target group by either innovating your offering or by gaining insights about new problems you can solve with your existing solution. Your audience has to change constantly as a result of the optimisation you do.

You don’t have to change your target group. Especially not if you have a product or service that allow for repeat purchases.

You don’t have to change your target group. Especially not if you have a product or service that allow for repeat purchases. You should only change it if you find insights that expand your target group (ie. find new problems you can solve) or innovate your product to solve new problems.

If you don’t change your audience constantly on the other hand, your cost per acquisition will increase as a result due to the nature of the different platforms algorithmic determination of relevance.


Let’s say you are a company with a target group (ie. you are solving some kind of problem to a defined group of people). You create a series of audiences and messages that you believe will attract those audiences. You start your campaign and you see your cost fall if you have managed to create quality ads, generating clicks and other such signals to the platform algorithm.

After a while, your ad has been shown to your full audience and about 5% of it has made a purchase based on the messaging you created. The quality metrics for that specific ad, targeting that specific audience starts going down. As a result the cost per action (view, click, purchase) will start to increase as your ad will send the wrong signal to the platform who will believe that your ad or audience isn’t relevant.

Because of the fact that your ad spend is a function of relevance and competition, your cost will go up. As a result, you have to optimise your audience and your messaging to maintain the lower cost.

Because of the fact that your ad spend is a function of relevance and competition, your cost will go up. As a result, you have to change your audience and your messaging to maintain the lower cost.

You should do this by separating the people who made purchases using the initial messaging into a bucket that you remarket at a time you believe they are ready for their next purchase. The rest of the audience goes into a test bucket where you try new messaging to try and convert them using insights that are specific to them (ie. minus the people who made a purchase).

Remember that you have to analyse whether exogenous (things outside your model) is affecting the motivation of your audience. Such might be differences in salary pay-outs or media attention that is affecting them alone. If you find such differences, you should make sure to either build those into your audiences by periodicity or by messaging.


Some brands have difficulties in innovating their product, and lack the competence to find messages that relate to their audiences. Usually this is because their product or service is a commodity and usually doesn’t bring any or very limited utility to the table. These products and services will all disappear as new and better products and services will replace them as a result of the transparency on the Internet or as a result of the even more transparent the Blockchain.

However, for those of you struggling with ROI and ROAS metrics right now, it might be helpful to separate your target group and audiences as suggested above as it might increase your profitability and thus your ability to innovate at a higher rate, and thus grow your target group over time.

This is especially true if your business is mature and your market is saturated. In that case, it might also be important to look at all the “rest products” your production process or service delivery generates. Anything that can solve a new problem should be added to your list of products and services. If it doesn’t make sense to combine with your other offering, then launch it as its own brand.

Be open minded in that process. The data you don’t use might be someone else’s gold mine and that excess cloth you throw away might be perfect to plug a leak on a boat. Either way, you shouldn’t leave any money on the table.

Jesper Åström is the author of the book The System. The book is about how to reverse engineer viral growth in networks and introduces activation tactics for how to do this for virtually any message. The book can be downloaded for free from his website.

Features vs. Benefits: Here’s the Difference & Why It Matters

Think about your last few marketing campaigns. Look over some of the emails you sent to prospective customers, or the social media updates you made promoting your brand-new product or service. Read over some of the blog posts you published.

How much of this promotional content focused on what your product does?

When it comes to marketing, there are two primary approaches you can take. The first focuses on what your product or service is or does – including all the shiny bells and whistles you’ve worked so hard to develop. The other focuses on how your product or service will improve users’ lives.

Which of these approaches do you think is more effective?

In today’s post, we’ll be taking a look at features versus benefits. Although closely linked, these two concepts are completely different animals, and if you don’t consider user intent from the outset, even the most innovative, revolutionary products will fail to hit the mark.

We’ll be looking at real-world examples to highlight the often-subtle yet crucial differences between features and benefits, as well as several important considerations you should bear in mind before launching your next campaign. For the sake of ease, we’ll be focusing primarily on product-based marketing, rather than marketing a service-based business, although many of the concepts covered will apply equally to both.

So what’s the difference between features and benefits? To get started, let’s take a look at the definitions of what features and benefits actually are.

Features vs. Benefits: What’s the Difference?

What is a Feature?

Simply, a feature is something that your product has or is. For SaaS companies, this is typically functionality offered by a software program that enables users to do something. Other examples of product features might include razors with five-blade heads, power drills with interchangeable bits, fridges that can make crushed ice etc. You get the idea.

Going back to software, a feature of WordStream Advisor, for example, is the 20-Minute PPC Work Week, an intelligent system of unique, personalized recommendations based on users’ account data that identifies areas of AdWords and Bing Ads accounts in which immediate improvements can be made.

WordStream Advisor’s 20-Minute PPC Work Week

Features often directly address common problems experienced by users in a company’s target market, in WordStream’s case, streamlining the paid search workflow for busy small-business owners.

Product features have to be planned, built, and executed. The 20-Minute PPC Work Week didn’t build itself, nor did WordStream’s engineering team create it accidentally – WordStream identified a common pain-point among its target market, and intentionally set out to implement a feature that addressed this problem.

So what about benefits?

What is a Benefit?

Benefits are the outcomes or results that users will (hopefully) experience by using your product or service – the very reason why a prospective customer becomes an actual customer.

Image via WebEngage Monk

Although it might seem counterintuitive, consumers rarely want to buy things for the sake of buying them – they want to solve their problems.

To borrow from the example above, a feature of this particular umbrella might be its unbreakable spokes or wind-resistant construction – the benefit of which is staying dry even in strong winds that might break lesser umbrellas.

Admittedly, the waters can get a little muddy when it comes to aspirational or lifestyle-based products or services, as the “problems” that drive motivation to purchase such products are often less tangible (think “being perceived more favorably” by purchasing clothing or accessories by a certain designer, for example), but generally this concept holds water.

Image via Help Scout

Essentially, benefits can be thought of as the primary reason a customer would choose to buy whatever you’re selling.

TL;DR – a feature is what something is, and a benefit is what users can do or accomplish with it.

Why Are Features and Benefits Often Confused?

As with so much of marketing, the main reason why so many businesses confuse features and benefits comes back to intent.

Marketers often spend a great deal of time in the weeds examining common problems experienced by their target markets. As such, it’s easy for marketers to forget that, to the layperson, the benefits of using their product may not be immediately obvious.

Put another way, just because you know why your product will make your ideal customer’s life better doesn’t mean they do.

Another common misstep marketers make is equating the time and effort that went into developing a new feature with its importance to consumers. As harsh as it may sound, most people don’t care about you, your company, or how many late nights your engineering team pulled to ship a product – all they care about is themselves.

Sansa Stark, your ideal customer

This is why entry-level salespeople are often told to remember the “five magic words” when cold-calling prospects: What’s in it for me? This question is never far from a customer’s mind, and it should inform almost every single aspect of your marketing strategies.

Using a Feature-Benefit Matrix

If you’re a marketer, the chances are pretty decent that you’ve come across the term “feature-benefit matrix.” Despite sounding suspiciously like one of those godawful buzzwords that so many marketers are seemingly obsessed with, feature-benefit matrices are actually really useful documents.

Feature-benefit matrices help marketers ensure their messaging is consistent, relevant, and accessible to end-users. These documents are often formatted as grids, with one column for features, several more for benefits, and additional columns for specific messaging data points or calls-to-action.

This can all sound horribly confusing and abstract if you’ve never seen one, so let’s take a look:

As you can see, there is space in the left-hand column for the various features of your product, in this example listed 1-5. Next, we see three columns (“Benefit A”, “Benefit B” and “Benefit C”), where you can then add three benefits of each feature. Finally, in the right-hand column, there’s room for your various calls-to-action.

Using this format of feature-benefit matrix can help you quickly and easily identify each of the unique benefits offered by your product’s features. This, in turn, can make overall message mapping a lot easier, and ensures that not only marketing but other teams such as product are on the same page in terms of what is being communicated to end-users.

There are plenty of other feature-benefit matrix formats, but the example above is a great place to start if you’ve never used one before.

Examples of Feature-Driven Marketing

So, with all that tiresome theory out of the way, let’s take a look at some examples of marketing messaging from both a feature and benefit perspective. First up, feature-driven marketing.

Automotive Marketing

Ads for new cars are about as aspirational as it gets. With big-ticket items like new cars, it’s little wonder – after all, the benefits of owning a vehicle, such as reliable transportation, aren’t terribly sexy or persuasive, regardless of how important they are. This is why so many car ads and marketing campaigns are inherently feature-driven (pun most definitely intended).

This strategy can work well, if your product’s features are genuinely innovative or exciting. This also works if the benefits of these features are obvious, as they often are in commercials for new cars.

Take a look at the screenshot below, taken from the Infiniti website, which outlines the new motion-detection features of Infiniti’s newer models:

In the above image, you can see how Infiniti describes and illustrates its new camera technology and its applications when driving – but there’s no mention of how this benefits the driver. This is because the benefits of the feature are implied; being able to see the environment surrounding the car from multiple angles makes it significantly easier to parallel park and avoid obstacles, improving overall safety. The reader doesn’t need to be explicitly told how these features will benefit them.

Speaking of aspirational marketing…

Consumer Electronics Marketing

When it comes to “lifestyle” marketing, few industries do it better than the consumer electronics vertical. Mobile devices live and die by their features, and the enormous popularity of “unboxing” videos on YouTube (a surprisingly large online subculture that began with toys before moving on to consumer electronics) tells us that feature-driven marketing can work wonders – if done well.

Few companies in the world understand this concept better than Apple, which has taken the art and science of feature-driven marketing to a whole new level during the past 10 years.

They may be slimmer, lighter, and generally “sexier” (if you’re comfortable applying this kind of label to a phone), but today’s iPhone 7 is largely identical to its much older predecessors. After all, a smartphone is a smartphone – there’s only so much they can do, and genuine differences between iterations are few. However, this is where the genius of Apple’s primarily feature-driven approach to marketing comes into play.

With each iteration of its flagship device, Apple has continually improved the core specifications of the iPhone to make them increasingly powerful without compromising on Apple’s unique design sensibilities. This makes the difference between a dual-core 1.4 GHz ARM v8 Typhoon processor (iPhone 6) and a 64-bit A10 Fusion chip with an embedded M10 motion coprocessor (iPhone 7) a very big deal to Apple aficionados.

Apple may state how much faster its device is in some of its marketing collateral, but generally speaking, it’s the features, and not the benefits, that matter in this business.

Benefit-Driven Marketing

So, now that we’ve seen how product features can take center-stage in a marketing campaign, let’s look at some examples of benefit-driven marketing.

Software-as-a-Service Marketing

The Software-as-a-Service, or SaaS, industry has become enormous in recent years. As software companies have migrated away from one-time license purchasing models toward subscription-based agreements, many developers have also shifted toward benefit-driven marketing messaging.

Slack is an excellent example of this principle in action. The remarkably popular communications platform may offer a range of handy tools and features that streamline team-based communication, but the real selling point is the time-savings it offers.

Some pretty compelling data for people who hate emails and meetings…

Much of Slack’s messaging focuses on how the product can help increase productivity and transparency, a clearly defined benefit-driven approach. Yes, its features page outlines all the cool things Slack can do, but if you’re considering adopting a new communications platform, information like that in the graphs above are what you’re really looking for.

WordStream also uses this principle in its messaging. Yes, we’re proud of the functionality and features offered by our products, but we also know that prospective customers want to know how our software can help them, which is why this messaging features prominently throughout our site.

Many SaaS companies use benefits-driven messaging in their campaigns because, as with all service-based businesses, they know that people don’t patronize these kinds of businesses for its own sake, but because they want to solve specific problems. That’s why you’ll often see SaaS companies combining feature-driven information with benefits-driven messaging. This allows SaaS companies to simultaneously highlight the features of their products and explain how these features will make users’ lives better.

Financial Services Marketing

When it comes to benefits-driven marketing, few industries are more keenly aware of its importance than the financial services sector. Nobody opens an account with a bank because of its branding – they do so because of the benefits they will receive, whether it be cash-back rewards programs or lower APRs on their credit card balances.

Mobile payments company Square (a subsidiary of American Express, an important point we’ll come back to momentarily) exemplifies this principle excellently. Essentially, Square allows small businesses to accept credit card payments – it’s that simple. Of course, this service is positioned in such a way that focuses almost entirely on user-focused benefits, as we see throughout Square’s site:

This is another great example of combining product feature information with benefits-driven messaging. The copy featured throughout Square’s site uses a lot of strong, active verbs, combined with punchy, urgent messaging that emphasizes the product’s ease of use and the benefits it offers.

A Brief Note on Trust Signals as Benefits

A moment ago, I mentioned that Square being a subsidiary organization of American Express is important. This is because, similarly to the implied benefits of the features highlighted in the automotive ad example above, trust signals can also be extraordinarily effective when positioned as implied benefits.

Think of it this way – would you rather entrust your business’ ability to process vital credit card payments to a scrappy startup staffed by a handful of computer science graduates subletting a basement office somewhere in the Valley, or to a company owned by one of the world’s largest financial institutions?

This principle is often utilized to great effect in the travel and hospitality industries. Name recognition is extremely important when purchasing big-ticket items such as a vacation package, and although brand-name association isn’t a specific customer benefit in itself, it does imply the tangential benefit of the experience and resources that large, well-known brands like airlines and credit card companies can offer that smaller companies often cannot. This is why accreditations from organizations such as the Better Business Bureau are so coveted (even if actual membership benefits vary widely).

Features vs. Benefits in Ad Copy

By now, it should be clear that focusing on the benefits of your products or services can be significantly more effective than highlighting its features. But how does this translate when it comes to ad copy, the vital first step in securing new business for many advertisers?

Let’s take a look at two real ads to illustrate how focusing on benefits can be much more powerful than highlighting features.

Both of the following ads were served to me after entering the search query “bookkeeping software” into Google (using an Incognito browsing session to eliminate as much unique browsing identity information as possible). Here’s the first ad:

QuickBooks is definitely one of the best-known bookkeeping software solutions available on the market. However, there’s very little branding going on in this ad, missing an opportunity to leverage potential brand-name recognition.

The headline also needs work. Personally, I’m not looking to “compare product features” because this immediately suggests that there’s even more work to be done on my part to find a product that meets my needs.

The first line of ad text isn’t particularly compelling, either – I’d expect all bookkeeping software to “manage my business in one place”, at least in this context – nor is the copy urging me to “Get a 30-Day Trial” or “Sign Up Now!” The trust signal in the second line of copy isn’t especially persuasive, either.

Now let’s take a look at another ad:

Paychex is another major player in the bookkeeping software space, something that the headline reinforces by including the brand name in the copy, alongside its promises to help users “Accomplish More”. Also, the inclusion of the adjective “Effortless” in the headline is a very strong start.

However, it’s the actual ad copy itself we’re most interested in. Take a look – six of the eight points outlined in the ad copy are benefits-driven, emphasizing the ease of use that Paychex offers, the availability of its customer support, and the security of the product, among other benefits. In the interests of fairness, the trust signal beneath the main copy of this ad isn’t that persuasive, either, but that doesn’t matter as much in this example, as the ad has already focused on the benefits that could potentially entice prospects into clicking through.

It’s important to note that without actual conversion data, it’s impossible to know which of these two ads is most effective – the ad for QuickBooks may well convert like gangbusters. However, from a purely theoretical perspective, it’s difficult to deny that Paychex’s ad is significantly more compelling because it focuses primarily on the common problems that users are likely looking to solve and uses persuasive language to appeal to users’ desire to solve these problems.

If you’re not sure whether a feature- or benefits-driven approach is right for your campaigns, conduct statistically significant A/B tests and let your users tell you what they want – then act accordingly.

Marketing Campaigns (with Benefits)

As we’ve seen, feature-based marketing can – and does – work well for certain businesses and product lines. However, for many small businesses, identifying and highlighting how their products and services can improve the lives of their customers is often a much more powerful strategy, from the very first ad of a campaign to the copy used on a website.

Regardless, if you remember the Five Magic Words – “What’s in it for me?” – it’s hard to go wrong with your messaging and positioning. As always, get at me in the comments with ideas or examples of campaigns that get this important distinction right.

What Is the Difference Between Leads and Prospects?

Every customer or client starts as a complete stranger. It’s only through a consistent sales process that you can take a stranger and move them down the funnel, from lead to prospect, and into that hallowed place called conversion land.

The terms “ lead ” and “ prospect ” are just two of many terms used to describe the status of a business relationship. A lead is someone who may fit your target market but is not ready to buy just yet. Through your own research, you’ve handpicked (literally, or through automation) a pool of people who may fit your target market. If the lead is responsive to your offer, there’s a good chance they’ve become a prospect.

However, if they don’t respond, or if they’re unwilling or unable to buy just yet, they’ll remain a lead. If they continuously ignore your efforts to get in touch, these leads are sometimes called “cold leads.”

Leads vs. Prospects: Why Does it Matter?

In your sales and marketing, leads and prospects are two different categories of people — who require two different types of communication. Communicating with leads is all about generating awareness of, and interest in, your offering. Communicating with prospects is about turning interest into a relationship, and moving that relationship into the sales funnel.

So, let’s talk about communication. Leads are those you’ve engaged in one-way communication. They are:

  • The strangers on your email list
  • New connections you’ve messaged on LinkedIn
  • Commenters on blog posts
  • People who have liked or shared your social posts
  • Names on a list you purchased from a marketing firm

Leads have the potential to become customers, but they haven’t spoken to you or your sales team yet. Communication is very one-sided.

Prospects, on the other hand, have engaged and indicated interest. For example, a prospect is:

  • A lead you’ve spoken with on the phone
  • Someone who has responded to one of your emails
  • A lead who has clicked a link in an email to visit your website
  • A person who fits your target market, who you’ve chatted with at a trade show
  • Someone who has asked about your product or service in a social media thread

In terms of the sales funnel, prospects are a little farther down than leads.

From Lead to Prospect: Crossing the Line

If you want to attract more clients or customers, you’ll want to transform your leads into prospects. In sales, this process is called qualification , or prospecting . In order for a lead to become a prospect, they need to fit three criteria: they must match your target market, have intent to buy what you’re offering, and have the authority to make a purchase. These are the factors you have to determine in your research and your sales conversations in order to move your leads down the funnel, so let’s look closely at each.

They match your target market.

If you’ve done your marketing right, you’ll know the traits and characteristics of your target market. Historically, target markets were all about demographics — think middle-aged suburban women, millennial gay men, or urban teenagers. But the modern way to think about your target market is that they have a need or desire to buy what you’re offering. Therefore, someone goes from “lead” to “prospect” when you can pinpoint that they have some reason to seek out a product or service like yours.

Example: You’re a sales and marketing consultant for self-published authors. A lead would be someone who was interested in self-publishing — maybe they’re part of a Facebook group for self-pubbed romance authors — but they haven’t released a book yet. A prospect would be someone who has self-published a book on Amazon and wants to sell more copies but needs help with sales and marketing.

They have the intent to buy.

According to research , the thing leads want to discuss most in their first call is pricing. It’s for good reason: your offering doesn’t fall within their budget, it’s tough to convert them into a sale. However, a price-related objection doesn’t mean “no, forever” — it just means “no, for now.” If you nurture these leads over time, there’s a chance you can still transition them into prospects. If you run into this problem repeatedly, however, this could signal a problem with your pricing or your choice of target market.

Example : You run a small digital agency, and you have a lead: a solopreneur launching a new product. After a conversation, you learn that they don’t have the capital to afford your package — so they’re probably better off finding a more affordable service.

The have the authority to buy.

A prospect has to be the decision-maker for purchasing your solution — otherwise, they’re just a lead. In your sales conversation, ask a lead about their role, pain points, and goals are. It should become clear through their answers whether they have the authority to make a buying decision or not.

Example: You’re a freelance marketing video producer for nonprofit organizations. You’re in touch with a marketing assistant at a large nonprofit organization who is very interested in your service, so you schedule a phone call. On the call, you learn that the assistant has done research on the effectiveness of video marketing and really wants to hire someone like you. However, she reports to the marketing manager — who is in charge of hiring contractors. To convert this lead into a prospect, you’ll have to get the contact info of the marketing manager and schedule a call with them.

Moving leads through your sales funnel and turning them into prospects takes a focused approach. When you understand the difference between a lead and a prospect, you’re one step closer to getting inside the heads of your customers — empowering you to customize your communications and ultimately close more sales.

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