One of the most repeated rules of writing compelling copy is to stress benefits, not features.
In other words, identify the underlying benefit that each feature of a product or service provides to the prospect, because that’s what will prompt the purchase.
This is one rule that always applies, except when it doesn’t.
We’ll look at the exceptions in a bit.
The idea of highlighting benefits over features seems simple. But it’s often tough to do in practice.
Writers often end up with fake benefits instead.
Top copywriter Clayton Makepeace asserts that fake benefits will kill sales copy, so you have to be on the lookout for them in your writing. He uses this headline as an example:
Balance Blood Sugar Levels Naturally!
That sounds pretty beneficial, doesn’t it? In reality, there’s not a single real benefit in the headline.
Makepeace advises to apply his patented “forehead slap” test to see if your copy truly contains a benefit to the reader. In other words, have you ever woken up from a deep sleep, slapped yourself in the forehead, and exclaimed “Man … I need to balance my blood sugar levels naturally!”
I think not. So getting someone to pull out their wallet to buy that so-called “benefit” will be difficult at best.
Here’s how Makepeace identifies the real benefit hidden in that headline:
Nobody really wants to balance their blood sugar levels. But anyone in his or her right mind DOES want to avoid the misery of blindness … cold, numb, painful limbs … amputation … and premature death that go along with diabetes.
A high risk person will want to avoid the terrible effects of diabetes. That is the true benefit that the example product offers.
How to Extract True Benefits
So, how do you successfully extract true benefits from features? Here’s a four-step process that works:
- First, make a list of every feature of your product or service.
- Second, ask yourself why each feature is included in the first place.
- Third, take the “why” and ask “how” does this connect with the prospect’s desires?
- Fourth, get to the absolute root of what’s in it for the prospect at an emotional level.
Let’s look at a product feature for a fictional “read later” app:
“Contains an artificial intelligence algorithm.”
Why it’s there:
“Adds greater utility by adapting and customizing the user’s information experience.”
What’s in it for them:
“Keeps the things you read the most at the forefront when you’re in a hurry.”
“Stay up to date on the things that add value to your life and career, without getting stressed out from information overload.”
Getting to the emotional root is crucial for effective consumer sales. But what about business prospects?
When Features Work
When selling to business or highly technical people, features alone can sometimes do the trick. Pandering to emotions will only annoy them. Besides, unlike consumers (who mostly “want” things rather than “need” them), business and tech buyers often truly need a solution to a problem or a tool to complete a task. When a feature is fairly well known and expected from your audience, you don’t need to sell it.
However, with innovative features, you still need to move the prospect down the four-step path. While the phrase “contains an artificial intelligence algorithm” may be enough to get the tech savvy reader salivating, he’ll still want to know how it works and what it does for him. The What’s in it for me? aspect remains crucial.
For business buyers, you’re stressing “bottom line” benefits from innovative features. If you can demonstrate that the prospect will be a hero because your CRM product will save her company $120,000 a year compared to the current choice, you’ve got a good shot.
While that may seem like a no-brainer purchase to you, you’ll still need to strongly support the promised benefit with a detailed explanation of how the features actually deliver. Remember, change scares the business buyer, because it’s their job or small business on the line if the product disappoints.
Sell With Benefits, Support With Features
We’re not as logical as we’d like to think we are.
Most of our decisions are based on deep-rooted emotional motivations, which we then justify with logical processes. So, first help the right brain create desire, then satisfy the left brain with features and hard data so that the wallet actually emerges.
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Reader Comments (30)
My sales training told me about “has, which and so”
ie. The widget 2000 has advanced membranous woohaa which is 10 times faster than traditional woohaa so you can get onto more important things!
Yep… in face to face sales or even conference calls, it’s a bit rude for the prospect to walk off or hang up before you can get to the “so.” So, usually you can take that route to the end benefit.
In writing, it’s so easy to click away or contribute your words to the circular file. Therefore, with a written piece it’s better to go with “so, which, has…”
Duane Christensen says
There’s a lot of wisdom here…and some good examples to help drive home your point.
Steve Place says
Yup. I’ve got features instead of benefits on my sales page.
I’m currently going through this exercise and writing down the needs, connection, and root emotion.
Here’s what I’m finding: if you write down the “root emotion” sentence, use first person and lace it with profanity. If you understand the wants of the customer enough to throw and f-word in there, then you’re pretty close to the true benefit.
Okay… OLD information. Nothing new here…..
What’s old is new.
“Huh, whatcha’ babbling about yah’ crotchety withered old coot?”
Tarnation’ ye young rapscallion!!!
1. Get offa’ me lawn
2. Pay attention
3. Respect yer’ elders
Okay, listen up ye likely hoodlum.
Brevity and conciseness; exactly what this comment is NOT.
The above essay is concise, gets to the point and… is written an a logical easy-to-understand manner/style that grabs the reader’s attention and holds on akin to a hungry pit bull and a medium-rare steak.
If that analogy doesn’t work for thee consider the youngun’ and his portable game device or cell phone texting device head down, interacting with the beloved device forcing all present within the store, mall or whatever where ever to engage in avoidance maneuvering to avoid an impact with the youngun’ when, in actuality factuality should be drop-kicked, punted off the 3rd-floor onto the hard surface below.
Comprende, kid? (stated with an evil hiss and a glare of disgust).
Nick Cobb says
Thanks Brian. Some great examples there for young copywriters like myself.
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