“Wrong.” My mouth curved in a smug smile as I hit enter, sat back and watched the screen light up.
Taylor is typing… “Look, I get that but then this and that and it really makes no sense and why do I have to do this again and you’re not paying me enough to put up with this. People are stupid!”
Alright, that wasn’t exactly what my compatriot with a pen actually wrote, but the sentiment blasted at me was close to it.
Features versus benefits, the crux of good copywriting, and here I was resting sublime on my knowledgeable laurels. I was right, she was wrong, end of story. My attitude frustrated her. It frustrated her so much she wrote a post about how people are stupid when it comes to marketing.
Now, I love Taylor dearly, but she’s still wrong. People aren’t stupid – I’m not, she’s not, none of you are. They’re tired and busy and hurting and worried and frazzled and feeling like they need something.
They know what they need. This isn’t the problem. They need a solution. And good copywriting gives them not only the solution, but all the reasons why this solution is better than the next guy’s solution.
That’s important, too, because everyone is offering a solution. If whatever you’re hawking isn’t a solution, then you really have nothing at all to sell. You could be offering a product, a service or an experience – but it had better solve someone’s problem, and not your problem, either.
Your copywriting has to use the right words that get people interested in the solution – and ultimately, take action. That’s why you need to understand features and benefits.
A feature (as defined by the web) is “a prominent attribute or aspect of something” or “a characteristic”. Brown hair is a feature. Fluoride in toothpaste is a feature. 5x zoom is a feature. Action-packed is a feature. Red is a feature.
A feature tells the person what’s offered in a product or service. Features don’t sell. They describe.
A benefit is “something that aids or promotes well-being”. Freedom is a benefit. Less stress is a benefit. A happy smile is a benefit. A saved marriage is a benefit. An empty credit card is a benefit.
A benefit is a result. Benefits sell – and they sell really well, too, because we all like results.
One of the biggest issues with finding the right benefits is that most people make assumptions. They assume that potential customers understand why they should want the product or service. People are smart, right? They know why they should buy.
Let’s use the example of “open 24 hours”. That’s a feature – it describes a characteristic of a store, a prominent attribute that the store offers to patrons. Nothing about that feature entices a buyer, so the writer has to make “open 24 hours” sound appealing.
That writer needs a benefit.
“Open 24 hours so you can buy when you want.” There! “Buy when you want” is a great benefit, thinks the writer, brilliantly pleased with himself.
“Buy when you want” isn’t a benefit. It’s just an elaborated feature. So what? Why should the customer care? What’s in it for him?
Nothing, really. This false benefit of “buy when you want” doesn’t aid or promote well-being, and the potential customer doesn’t feel compelled to take action. (Remember, that’s the ultimate goal of copywriting.)
The potential customer wants to know how this 24-hour convenience will change his life. He wants to see the future so clearly he can touch it. He wants to know – beyond a doubt – that choosing this store over the next is going to impact his well-being positively (or even negatively) in some way.
He wants to know that when his wife is cranky because she’s tired and the baby woke up thirsty at 11pm and there’s no milk left in the house, he can just zoom over to the store and grab what he needs. It’s open 24 hours. He’ll come home with milk – a hero! – and save his child from certain dehydration, his wife from bursting into tears and his marriage from definite divorce.
Saving marriages and the lives of small children, all because of being open 24 hours. Now that’s one powerful corner store.
Adding benefits to copywriting doesn’t mean repeating what’s already been said. It doesn’t mean changing words to say them in a different way. It doesn’t mean spelling it out step by step as if your reader was an idiot.
People aren’t stupid. But they sure do wish they could see the future.
They want to see a picture you’ve painted that lights up in their mind. They want to watch themselves in that picture, enjoying a better well-being than they have now. They want to touch it, taste it, smell it… they want to be that person.
But if they can’t imagine being that person, they have no good reason to take any action at all.
Give them good reason. Show them results. Take a snapshot of the future, and hand it to your potential customers. “Here,” you’ll say. “Here is your life after you buy this solution. See? Look at you, right there.” You’ll point. “Look how happy you are, how much better it is. All you have to do is…”
Get the point?
Don’t worry too much, though. You’ll find elaborated features all over the place, now that you see them for what they are – just extended features that don’t paint a picture of the future.
Take some of our copy, for example. Go on, have a read around the site. Like most writers, we neglect our own copy sorely. Can you pick out elaborated features and true benefits from our copy?