If you want to make your copywriting more effective – more click throughs, enquiries and sales – then you need to be selling benefits, not just features, in your content.
The concept of selling benefits as opposed to simply talking in features is Marketing 101, but it’s amazing how often this rule is overlooked by marketers and writers… everywhere.
Every feature has one or more benefits and, if you don’t share these with your audience, you’re probably not communicating in a way that is appealing to them.
Features and Benefits Overview (skip ahead if this is telling you to suck eggs)
For the record:
- A feature is a descriptive phrase about a product or service. Normally it contains ‘we’ or ‘our’. Eg: ‘Our new car has a push button start.’
- A benefit is what the client/buyer/reader will get as a result of the feature. It normally contains ‘you’. Eg: ‘You’ll love the classic feel of starting your new car with just the push of a button.’
Copy that tells readers about the benefits of product or service features is more effective. So says, well, pretty much every single source out there.
That’s Not so Hard to Understand. So Why the Big Fuss?
Understanding this concept is simple. Remembering to put it into practice is another story. Every copywriter or marketer has fallen into the trap of writing only in features, because that’s what comes naturally to us all. We tend to assume that benefits we understand will intuitively be recognised by our audience.
This is a huge trap to fall into. Web writers, sales writers, tender writers… every single marketing writer needs to remember that just because we understand something doesn’t mean our readers will make that link as well. At least, they may not make the link quickly enough to prompt a call to action. Even the most obvious benefits need to be communicated, because by not doing so you are potentially creating a psychological barrier to a sale. If your customers have to connect the dots to understand the benefits of your product or service, you are limiting your potential.
Sometimes talking only in features not only limits the impact of your copy but promotes negative thoughts. For example, if you are a window installer and you mention in your ad copy that a ‘Clean up service is included’, it implies that you will be making a mess. Instead, turn that on its head and say, ‘Clean finish guaranteed – any dust or dirt will be removed up without fail’. By starting with the benefit, you promote a positive outcome.
Be careful not to confuse ‘advantages’ with ‘benefits’
There’s features, benefits… and ‘advantages’. Advantages are like false benefits – they are a benefit of sorts, but still too technical or generic to be understood by all of your audience
A good way to work all this out (and, incidentally, a good writing strategy to pull benefits out of features) is the ‘has, which and so’ method. For example:
“The 123 Widget has an advanced thermal core (feature), which provides improved temperature control (advantage) so you can use your widget for longer, in all climatic conditions (benefit).”
Match Benefits to your Audience
The other thing to remember is to keep your audience in mind. Talking in benefits comes back to understanding your audience – who they are, what motivates them and what they need. Knowing this will help you promote the benefits that are important to them. For example, if I am a business customer I may not care if a new phone has neat filters for photos which will make me look cool on Facebook… but I probably do care about whether I’ll need to charge my phone or not before a 4 hour flight.
Practical examples – pulling the features out and putting them in front of your audience
The following examples show you how to turn feature-laden copy into more effective benefits-focused copy:
|Job||Feature-only version||Feature+benefits version|
|Tender submission or proposal to a client who values service||Our client liaison department has three Client Managers who work on a 24-hour roster. We provide a weekly progress report with information on feedback and changes from that week and an online reporting system where users can log in to track progress.||ABC Company will receive outstanding product support at all times, with our three dedicated Client Managers available 24 / 7 for any enquiry. What’s more, ABC Company will be kept up to date at all times, with our weekly progress reports communicating providing full transparency on project progress and our online system enabling users to access status reports with only one click of a mouse.|
|Product description content about waterproof shoesWe can assume readers will have interest in the outdoors but it doesn’t hurt to hint at this in the copy.||WYZ shoes have a patented waterproof sole, sealed seams and full leather lining.||Dry feet – wherever your shoes take you. Our patented waterproof sole withstands all but an ocean underfoot, while we combine full leather lining and sealed seams to give you the ultimate combination of breathability and water resistance up top.|
|Blog post description about…. The difference between features and benefits||Talk about benefits, not just features, when copywriting.||Talking in benefits, not just features, is a proven way to increase the effectiveness of your marketing.|