Website Copy with Benefits: James’ Take

“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.

Wrong.

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.

Wrong.

“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?

Post by James Chartrand

James Chartrand is an expert copywriter and the owner of Men with Pens and Damn Fine Words, the game-changing writing course for business owners. She loves the color blue, her kids, Nike sneakers and ice skating.

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  1. David B says:

    Ok interesting take James, but again I can’t help but feel the nail has not been quite hit on the head. You are right that benefits outstrip features in the majority of cases, though I can mention a number of cases where people have been far more interested in buying a product or service weighing up features over benefits, in fact the sad truth may well be that the purchase, though fulfilling desire, has limited or no benefit at all. Gamers buying the latest and greatest console for example, or smokers continually buying cigarettes.

    I know the last example given has added dimensions such as addiction. But could this not be mapped to ones own desires to do other things? Such as a keen golfer wanting the ‘best’ golf clubs he can get his hands on, no matter the cost? Possibly.

    Yes, we need a picture painted. Yes, we need a vision and, yes, we need a reason. But to really sell, the method must involve a long term view as to how you can continually sell back into the customer. You don’t want to realise all their dreams in one foul swoop. How do you retain the customer? Do you offer them exemplorary service? Do you entice them back with discounts? Or do you sell them an idea, a method maybe? Then gradually enable the tools to fulfil the idea they are now bought into.

    You are talking how to sell tactically. To continually succeed to must sell strategically.

  2. @ David – LOL… I’m talking features versus benefits and the difference therein. That’s all – this post isn’t about tactics or strategies.

    Many writers get stuck on features and don’t even know what benefits are. Many more write in false benefits and leave it there. To write well, you have to know and understand the difference between a feature and a true benefit.

    You named one yourself: A golfer doesn’t want a club. He doesn’t even want the best club money can buy. The money and the club are just means to and end.

    That golfer wants a better game, to consistently lower his score, hit true and be the Club Eagle. Woot.

    Addicts want something too – that feeling. I smoke, and I consistently pay more for duMauriers, considered the cigarettes of the elite and high class.

    If all I wanted was to smoke, I’d go buy the ‘kawish’ cigarettes at $13 a carton. I pay $80 a carton because I want to smoke, but deep down I want (stupidly, I know) to feel like a rockstar smoker, the guy who can afford luxury and literally burns it away. I want to feel exclusive, special and sophisticated.

    (All anti-smokers, please realize this is just an example and I know damned well I look like a stupid idiot sucking back cancer air that’ll kill me young. I know, I know.)

    So if I had to write website copy for duMaurier, you can bet I’ll play up that painted image of my future with their smokes between my fingers.

    I’m sure there are cases where people buy based on features, but I can bet that the percentage who do so is very, very small – and if a researcher digs deep enough, I’ll bet that the features really didn’t have anything to do with it. Logic isn’t the decider in a human brain. Emotion is.

  3. @James: Touche! Take this from a fellow smoker *cough* I understand exactly where you are coming from! 🙂

    Yes, I do agree that the benefit from buying the club is with an aim to ultimately improve his game and become the clubs golfing guru. But don’t you think that there is more to the sale than the benefit that you’re implanting? Ultimately if the benefit can’t be realised without a high investment in other areas (Pro Lessons for example) are you painting a picture that may put you in a position where a customer may disregard your opinion / expertise or (god forbid it) your entire brand in the future?

  4. @ Dave – Totally. If your product or service doesn’t deliver on everything it promises, then you’re so screwed, because you’ve broken the bond of trust – and trust and desire is everything.

    I’m right with you, you know. I’m discussing one feature in a whole, encompassing area of sales and marketing. There are plenty of factors that go into “what gets a sale”, and it’s not just copy.

    But! Copy is one element of landing the sale, and so, I must discuss it 🙂

  5. @James: Ah so you admit you’re discussing features!!! 😀

    Sorry, I had to!

    I get ya James, I’m talking about the bigger picture rather than just copy. As a salesman, coming to think of it, I take copy for granted too often!

  6. @ David – Trust me, I appreciate your two cents and perspective (not just because it supports my own… !)

  7. Okay, but the reason I get frustrated with people is their lack of imagination. It’s not even imagination, it’s simple understanding of how their lives work. If that guy has constantly needed stuff at three in the morning, the reason he should frequent the 24-hour store is patently obvious. I have to remind him that come THIS three in the morning, he’s liable to have the same problem? This guy is an idiot if he can’t figure that out. I’m sorry, but he is.

    Same deal goes for a whole slew of other benefits. I understand not stopping at presenting a feature, that makes perfect sense. But if you can’t understand “shop whenever you want” and realize that you DO, in fact, occasionally need to shop at weird hours, then I am frankly befuddled.

    I think a lot of this has to do with the way I have always responded to advertising. The car salesman can tell me this sexy new car will make me the freakin’ belle of the highway all he wants. He can tell me it will make me better in bed and that only convertible drivers get the secret map to El Dorado. But until I am actually in the market for a car, I will not give a damn. I only buy a car when I need a car. At which point I want someone to explain the features. I know benefits are bullshit.

    Benefits ARE bullshit. The best product in the world won’t actually change your life unless you use it properly. Advertising for years has banked on the idea that people are so stupid they will believe you when you tell them your product will completely transform their lives. You mean if I use this new laundry detergent, suddenly I’ll have a happy, smiling family and a clean house? Really?

    No. Not really. And if you believe that, you are stupid. You just are. What will happen with the new detergent, at best, is that your clothes will be cleaner. And that should be enough of a reason to buy it. That’s why you wanted detergent in the first place.

    If you want something that will actually change your life, go shopping for a fairy godmother. Make sure she explains the features first, though. You don’t want to get the wrong one.

  8. @ Tei – When you want a car because you need a car, you know the features you want, yes. And you’ll go shopping for them.

    But you will invariably buy the car you WANT, not the car you need. Logic is a passenger. Emotion is sitting square in the driver’s seat, calling the shots.

    Laundry detergent? Why are we not all buying no-name brand, if emotion and future vision of ourselves has nothing to do with it? We should, according to your line of thinking, know that X cleans better.

    Yeah, okay. Big deal…

    … and you’ll look damned nice when you go out – and you didn’t need a dry cleaner to get rid of that stain.

    OH! Well, THEN! *buy*

  9. Yeah, but see, that’s still where I get all messed up. Because presumably, I wanted to look nice when I went out, but my favorite shirt had a stain on it. And so I went shopping for a detergent that could get it out because I didn’t have time to dry-clean it.

    Never in my life have I been shopping for a detergent and thought, well, since you mentioned THAT possibility of my future, I’ll buy it. I shop for features. I shop for “it’ll get that stain out.” I don’t shop for “and then I’ll look nice.” I know I look nice when I don’t have stains. That’s why I want the stains gone. If I didn’t give a damn about looking nice, I wouldn’t be shopping for stain remover in the first place.

    Now, I get that this is a valuable copywriting tool, and that many people are in fact swayed by these kinds of benefits. But this strikes me as again, having to explain it to a three year old.

    “Why do you need stain remover, mommy?”

    “So we look nice when we go out.”

    “Ohhhhhh . . . ”

    That’s what I’m talking about. I don’t really think anyone’s stupid. I just think that we should all have a little more awareness of why we buy things. Because, you know. That would make my job a hell of a lot easier.

    Really, it comes down to “I don’t WANNA.” Because I don’t need it. I don’t need the benefits. A lot of people do, so I’ll write for them. But it will continue to baffle me.

  10. Heh, Tei gettin’ feisty there!

    I think you’re both right.

    Yes, people are sort of stupid. Or at least, for some weird reason, they just don’t/can’t connect the dots. Maybe it’s ADD or the rotten education system or we’re just all so distracted that we’ve lost 30 IQ points. As painful as it is, yes, I think most folks need you to connect feature A to benefit B so they get it.

    One thing to keep in mind, too, is that people aren’t giving us their undivided attention. At all. So you have to be a bit ridiculously clear, because their heads are someplace else.

    As to the fact that you personally think it’s lame, I can sympathize. Brian Clark wrote something last year, “get over yourself, you’re not normal and you’re not the customer.” I wrote it on a little post-it and stuck it to my bulletin board. If I marketed to people like me, I would be profoundly broke, because I am pretty weird. And in fact, that’s probably why I spent a lot of time profoundly broke before finding some degree of success.

    Sonia Simone´s last blog post…Things You Can Learn from a Nancy Boy

  11. Wow, intense commenting. I better clear this all up… or confuse things even more.

    You don’t tell people to benefits of a product because they can’t figure it out for themselves, you show them the benefits so they can experience them.

    It’s about good salesmanship. If you go to a car dealer, they let you test drive a car not because you’re too dumb to understand what a superiorly smooth ride is, but because it really hits home once you experience it.

    Listing features is forcing your customer to do all the imagining… showing a benefit is putting them in the driver’s seat and letting them go for a ride.

    Henry Bingaman´s last blog post…Why Technology Can Kill A Business

  12. This is fun watching James and Tei battle it out!

    Forget getting that stain out so ‘I’ look nice – tell me a washing powder will get my child’s school uniform back to white and I’m there. Tell me it will remove the grass, chocolate, milk, paint, and whatever else is on there without soaking, scrubbing and great effort on my part, and I’ll buy it. Why? Because that speaks to me where I’m at. I don’t care that it has enzymes in it, I don’t care that it has optical brighteners. I do care that my child will look neat and clean and presentable.

    I’m not stupid, however telling me that product X has a certain feature doesn’t guarantee that I’ll understand what it means. I know what enzymes are, however I associate them with healthy eating. Why do I want them in my laundry detergent? I need you to tell me what the benefit of them is in language that I understand and can relate to.

    I understand where you’re coming from and your frustration Tei. James did this to me too when we were figuring out a tag line. Mind you, I suspect he was just as frustrated with me too! He spent about a week asking “So what?” and “What’s the benefit?” It’s really hard to think true benefits and put that emotional tug in there when it’s so blindingly obvious and self-evident to you!

    I think I learnt more about features and benefits from that experience than from anything I’ve read about it previously.

    Melinda´s last blog post…Monthly Book Giveaway – “Purple Cow” and “The Dip” by Seth Godin

  13. I empathise with you Tei. My scientific brain is also asking “why”. Take long page sales copy. I really cannot fathom why that stuff works. To me it’s spammy and ultra-repetitive (maybe that’s where I got the notion of repetition from).

    I’ve just accepted the truth that it does work, that we do need to focus on the benefits rather than the features. It is all about emotion and not logic.

    This is not an easy thing for me to do. Even now I find myself agreeing with a lot of what you said but ultimately I know James is right.

    @Mel I think you’re onto something there. When learning a concept teachers try to make things as easy as possible for us. Perhaps the examples given here are too simplistic for us to grasp. It’s only when we think of something more abstract such as enzymes in detergent that we see the true nature of benefits versus features.

    @James Does spelling out the benefits have an effect on removing the regret we feel after purchasing something or is that a different aspect of copywriting unrelated to benefits and features?

    Marc – WelshScribe´s last blog post…7 Things You May Not Know About Me

  14. Whoa! *dons armor before wading into the fray*

    @Marc – I’m with you on the long-page sales copy. Everything I’ve ever read says that it works great, but (personal preference) I can’t stand the stuff. I also can’t understand why it apparently converts so well. Every time I open up one of those pages, I instantly feel like I’m being sold.

    @Melinda – It does help a lot when it feels like the sales copy is speaking to YOU, specifically. Take the 24-hour store example. I understand what the benefits are of a 24-hour store without being told. But the harried husband running to the store in the middle of the night because the baby woke up and there’s no milk? Doesn’t ring with me, as I am neither a husband nor a parent.

    Now, if you changed the copy to say something like “For when your final essay is due at 8 a.m. and your printer ran out of ink and paper at 6 a.m.,” THEN you’ve got me, because that is exactly what I think of when I think “sweet, there’s a new 24-hour store on the corner!” The following thought is usually: “I can get printer paper at 2:30 in the morning!”

  15. @Marc @Michelle I completely understand where you’re coming from and why you don’t get long copy. I used to hate the stuff too.

    But it’s not just some strange fluke that long copy works…

    Actually, most long copy doesn’t work at all. It’s usually written by someone who really doesn’t get why they should be writing long copy (they just heard it converts better) so it loses most readers by the end of the first page.

    But good long copy is ultra-effective because it’s essentially a salesman in print.

    If you ran a business that required selling something, would you tell your salesmen that they only had five minutes to close a deal or they should let the customer go?

    Of course not. You tell them to give the customer every reason under the sun to buy RIGHT NOW. The same is true for your sales copy.

    But, you can argue, you’ll lose people after they’re convinced just because the letter is too long.

    That’s the reason you see so many order buttons in every good long sales letter. You give enough reason for some people to buy, then include a buy button. Some people aren’t convinced yet so you keep going. You keep piling on the benefits until you have the next round of people convinced then you add another buy button.

    Michelle, you said you feel like you’re being sold every time you open a long sales letter. It’s a valid point and even some good sales copy feels like it’s selling too hard. But most likely, you’re just not the intended audience. You’ll only ever sell something to people that already have a problem that they need to fix. You’ll lose everyone if you have to convince them they have a problem first.

    Good sales copy should read like a “greased slide” (John Carlton’s phrase, not mine). Once you get the reader/customer on the page, you should write so she won’t be able to sleep at night if she doesn’t know why you just said what you said. She naturally has to slide down the rest of the letter because you keep making over the top promises and proving they’re true.

    It doesn’t matter how long it is because the reader has to find out what happens next…

    I better cut this off before it becomes longer than the post itself.

    Basically, long copy works because the more reasons you give someone to buy… that they’d be crazy not to buy… the more likely they are to buy.

    Henry Bingaman´s last blog post…Why Technology Can Kill A Business

  16. @ Henry Thanks for the quick lesson. As I said I’m not denying they work I was just unclear on the psychology behind it all. Thank you for clearing it up somewhat.

  17. I think it’s really important for people to realize that there is a LOT of BAD copy out there. Like Henry says, long doesn’t make it good.

    It’s also important for people to remember that if you’re not the target audience, the copy won’t resonate with you. Good marketers and writers know who they’re writing for, and it isn’t everyone. (I think Henry said that too.)

    Actually… what Henry said, yeah?

    @ Marc

    @James Does spelling out the benefits have an effect on removing the regret we feel after purchasing something or is that a different aspect of copywriting unrelated to benefits and features?

    If the copy upholds the promise of the product, and if the product upholds the promise of what it delivers, there is never regret. You bought what you believed you’d get and you got it.

    Can’t ask for better.

  18. Hey I’ve got to run out with the dog but I couldn’t resits adding my two cents…

    “Take a snapshot of the future, and hand it to your potential customers.” is brilliant. I am going to use it a lot.

    Corollary is:
    First ask, probe, ferret, dig, mine to get an accurate picture of the potential customer’s present, so you know where to aim the camera.

    This is the law and the whole of the law.

  19. @Elizabeth: Absolutely, the products potential is what you should always sell! Understanding the customers need is as important in most situations, you’re spot on if you’re selling conventionally. There are schools of thought that promote other methods such as provocative selling that have proven highly effective in the current market conditions. This is bypassing the customers understood need and playing on what they don’t understand about their industry and competition. This is where effective sales literature is incredibly important. By doing this some companies (and we are assuming that the product/solution is worth it’s salt) have convinced potential clients that they won’t be succesful for much longer if they don’t buy into their latest product/services.

    Big picture again… but hey, that’s how I see it. 😉

  20. “You don’t tell people to benefits of a product because they can’t figure it out for themselves, you show them the benefits so they can experience them.”

    Brilliance in a nutshell!

    Barbara Ling, Virtual Coach´s last blog post…Are YOU this insecure about Mooses?

  21. Michelle touched on what I was going to say. How do we know what’s in it for them if we don’t know who they are?

    Not all convenience store customers are guys with cranky wives and babies who wake up thirsty at 11 PM when there’s no milk in the house. That’s awfully specific, and it won’t apply to most potential customers. Will this benefit work on someone who can’t relate to that story?

    Is the assumption that the guy with the cranky wife and thirsty baby is the ideal customer, so we’re going to customize the benefits for him and ignore the other people, hoping some will become customers anyway? Or are we counting on transference – people see the benefits for someone else and apply them to themselves, replacing “baby” with “dog” and “milk” with “medicine,” or whatever applies to them?

    It’s funny that laundry detergent came up. I’m out, and tomorrow I’m going to buy some…the no-name brand kind.

    Hunter Nuttall´s last blog post…The Complete Akashic Records

  22. @ Hunter – If you don’t know who your customer is, your business will fail. Market research of who buys and building a profile of the ideal customer is imperative. Sure, some get lucky, slap up a store or business and away they go – most know exactly who comes to their store and why.

    There’s a Couche-Tard near here (a depanneur, and yes I’ve been there at 11pm). That Couche-Tard knows the full demographics of this town. How many women, men, where they work, what their income is, where the roads are, when they travel them most, etc.

    They also know who lives in the AREA of the location they’re eyeing. Who’s north? What kind of people are they? And to the west? Are they likely to shop here? Why? What might they buy?

    That depanneur has been there for over 30 years. They run a BRISK business selling smokes, beer, coffee, milk and bread. Typical of all depaneurs? Yes – but not for 30 years, and not enough to require over 8 full-time employees to keep the place humming.

    They know who comes, who buys and why. There is no assumption. There is research and study. You know the saying: Assuming makes and ass out of u and me.

    Grocery stores, gas stations, bookstores, websites, blogs… each has a target market, and you’d best know who might be likely to drop in and buy.

    James Chartrand – Men with Pens´s last blog post…Website Copy with Benefits: James’ Take

  23. Hoo-WEE!

    Whoda thunk ad copy could generate such impassioned responses?

    Way to get the dialogue rolling here, Mr. James.

    I don’t think I would have anything outstanding to ad to the discussion, so I’m popping some corn, getting a brew and settling in for some good old fashioned lurking.

    George

    Tumblemoose´s last blog post…An Ebook service that’s just write for writers!

  24. I slog with my blog with the clear benefit that it would fetch me a bit of recognition for what I stand for. I go the extra mile to benefit from the features and attain my goal. It’s to satisfy the winner in me, besides the actual person literally. The benefits of it, that is.
    For me benefits are those that drive people to achieve more and dream more. It may offer solutions to some who look for some guidance and where to start from. After all, man lives by his/her dreams.
    Of course, all the benefits advertising offer may not fit the bill; but if carefully done with integrity and welfare of the customer in mind sure excite the individual.
    The post is hundred percent bang on. The 24 hr shop sure will bring happiness to those who need someone to look up to in trouble.
    The discussion that unfolds here too is exciting by the moment. Thanks James for this good post!
    Solomon

    Solomon´s last blog post…How do our mindsets play a role in writing killer copy?

  25. @ James, BTW, although I’m being a little argumentative, I really liked this post. Elaborated features vs. true benefits is a huge point to ponder.

    By “assumption,” I meant “Are you assuming for the purposes of this example that the store has determined that the fellow you described is the most likely customer?”

    I’ve never liked the “ass out of u and me” saying because without assumptions, nothing gets done. In order to talk to someone, I have to assume they speak English. That assumption might be wrong, in which case I just take it from there. But it would be pretty silly to start off with hand signals just so I don’t have to make assumptions.

    OK, back to the point, have you seen the “I’m a Mac, and I’m a PC ads?” Apple is saying that Mac users are a certain kind of person. Let’s assume(!) they know that for sure, based on their market research. In that case, their ads are very well targeted to their ideal customers.

    Microsoft responded with an ad showing a very diverse set of people saying “I’m a PC.” Their market research probably showed that PC users don’t fit neatly within a narrow demographic. So even if white American 20- and 30-something males are their biggest customer group, they don’t want to say that their products are only for those people.

    And they do some targeting, for example by having “Windows XP Home” and “Windows XP Professional” for different types of people (or for the same person in different situations). But there’s a limit to how targeted they can get. There’s no “Windows XP for guys with cranky wives and thirsty babies who wake up at 11 PM without milk.” It would pigeonhole people way too much.

    Now, they can target different segments of people by running different ads in different places. On Oprah, they can run an ad showing how a housewife might benefit. On Star Trek, they can run an ad showing how a gamer might benefit. On CNN, they can run an ad showing how a news junkie might benefit.

    That’s because they’re talking to different audiences. If they’re talking to all their potential customers at once, they can’t assume everyone is a housewife gamer news junkie. They can get all the demographics they want, but they still have the problem that their customers aren’t all the same. And therefore, they don’t know a whole lot about any one of them.

    Hey, I just noticed you changed your tagline. Before I think it said who this site was for. Now it says who it’s for and how you help them. The new one is better because it’s more benefit-oriented, right? 🙂

    Hunter Nuttall´s last blog post…The Complete Akashic Records

  26. @Hunter That Microsoft ad shot itself in its foot. For if it’s a life without walls, why would we need Windows? 😉

  27. @Tei – I tried to comment on your post the other day, but my browser timed out. For some reason it does that with MWM. Anyway, having dealt with the general public, I would say that a certain percentage of them (not anyone I’ve ever MET) can be pretty dense. Whether it’s lack of intelligence or just being too wrapped up in life’s many problems, I don’t know.

    @James – I agree with the distinction between features and benefits. It doesn’t matter how cool it is if you’re trying to sell to someone who doesn’t care about coolness, just getting the job done. However, once you tell people what this widget can do for them, why do you then have to tell them to buy it, and tell them when to buy it (i.e., now)?

    Dot´s last blog post…Silva CDs 7 and 8

  28. I meant MWP. not MWM.

    Dot´s last blog post…Silva CDs 7 and 8

  29. @ Dot – Yup, there’s a logical progression of any website copy that should encourage people to buy. Otherwise, confusion, uncertainty and no sales!

    @ Hunter – LOL, that tagline has been there for months, but exactly. A tagline should state clear benefits that encourage people to stay and read!

    I think that your example simply brings up another point: That when you’re trying to reach various target markets, you need to gear your marketing message to each group separately. One big message doesn’t cover it.

    That doesn’t mean, though, that they don’t know who they’re targeting. Mac knows exactly who buys. They don’t have one ideal customer – they have a few. And they reach out and talk to those people individually 🙂

    @ Solomon – Yeah, this is a great discussion, and the comments show just how much people want to know about this topic and how they perceive it differently. It’s great!

    @ Moose – Pass the popcorn, bro.

    James Chartrand – Men with Pens´s last blog post…Are You A Big Spender or a Cheapskate?

  30. Again, I am not choosing a side on this, but I really like James’ delineation of features vs. benefits.

    Catherine Cantieri, Sorted´s last blog post…Introducing my free eBook: "How to Harness a Hobgoblin"!

  31. @James I know you might have been exaggerating here with this example: Saving marriages and the lives of small children, all because of being open 24 hours. Now that’s one powerful corner store. but too often advertising goes to that extreme and I laugh but others seem to lap it up and then I end up agreeing with Tei that people are stupid.

    A child handing his arguing parents a cookie will not suddenly solve all their problems.

    A deodorant will not suddenly make pimple 12 year old boys sex magnets (to both sexes).

    Buying insurance will not send your children to private school and get you a top of the line BMW.

    Yet people eat all that stuff up. So while they may not be stupid, they are certainly uncritical and unthinking.

    And given that my business is all about getting people to use critical thinking about their own lives, how can I not see 99% of benefits-based advertising and say “bullshit!”?

    Alex Fayle | Someday Syndrome´s last blog post…The Courage to Try: The Jamie Grove Interview

  32. @ Alex – So what you’re saying is that 99% of all marketing doesn’t work on you?

    You can say it, but I ain’t believing it… 🙂

  33. @James
    You exaggerated so I decided I could do the same. Isn’t that how it works? No? 😉

    I’m a sucker for advertising like everyone else. After all like everyone in our generation I was culturally indoctrinated, but I got a Zen instead of an iPod because it held 8 times as much for the same price. I bought an Echo instead of a hybrid because the mileage on the Echo was better. Clothes brands have never impressed me – it all depends on the way clothes are made and how I look in them. I make an effort to focus on getting past the benefits. But yeah, the picture of the hot guy wearing a pair of underwear makes me want to spend the money – however nine times out of ten I don’t.

    And in the ebook online world quite honestly, every time I’ve bought based on the hype of benefits, I’ve felt I’ve wasted my money. When I’ve bought solely for research purposes (checking out what others do) I haven’t been disappointed because I wasn’t looking for the benefit the books were promising. I was solely interested in the features.

    Now, how that does affect my own products? Well, I’ve loaded my services with a whole lot of practical information and opportunities to measure progress along the way. I know that others buy through benefits, so I hire you to give those benefits some sizzle, there’s a damn good steak cooking away causing that sizzle.

    And my forthcoming ebook? It’ll be priced to something comparable in print, rather then what ebooks tend to go for. And people will be able to consult an extract to see if it’s exactly what they want or not, just as Amazon now does with many of their books.

    I always love these posts because you force me to think things through.

    PS Escaping marketing messages is like trying to escape cultural religious conditioning. I don’t consider myself a Christian, but put me in a stressful situation and I start praying to whatever/whoever might be listening. Religions and sales people rely on this indoctrination to sell to the masses. 😉

    PPS In Spain they call selling pretty much any type of service based business “selling smoke” – they highly distrust the service industries like coaching, consulting and psychology. But when they find out I sell my coaching to English people around the world, they say “oh, well you’ll do well then. The English buy anything [silly] like that.”

    Alex Fayle | Someday Syndrome´s last blog post…Wealth is Attitude, Not Income

  34. @James
    Just to agree with you on the no-hard-sell here.

    I’m sure I’ve looked at your hire-us page, but I can’t for the life of me recall what any of it says. I hired you because, as you know, you drew me in with an offer of assistance and then your knowledge and the testimonials cinched it.

    Oh, epiphanic moment… brain now hurts – must go away and consider what just popped into my head…

    Alex Fayle | Someday Syndrome´s last blog post…Wealth is Attitude, Not Income

  35. Men With Pens has a Hire Us page? Really? I don’t think I’ve ever looked at it! Still hired them…. Off to look at it now.

    Melinda´s last blog post…Free Blogathon April 2009 – Come Join Us!

  36. @ Mel – I cry. You’ve never seen our ‘Guns for Hire’ pages? (Makes me wonder how many other people haven’t either… oy!)

    @ Alex – You get one Get Out of Jail Free card. You don’t have to remember what I wrote – just that we were awesome 🙂 And good plans. Glad I got you thinking!

  37. Sorry James, didn’t mean to make you cry! I realised I had seen at least some of your Guns for Hire pages, however not from the link in the navigation. I’ve followed links in posts instead.

    After I posted the previous comment I realised that I had to have seen at least the Drive Through Shooting page because that’s where the payment method for it is.

    Melinda´s last blog post…Free Blogathon April 2009 – Come Join Us!

  38. To me, your post comes down to once concept: Convince your prospective customer that this is what they want.

    Bamboo Forest – PunIntended´s last blog post…How to Make the Choices You Really Want to Make in Life

  39. I’m not going to correct the above typo.

    Bamboo Forest – PunIntended´s last blog post…How to Make the Choices You Really Want to Make in Life

Trackbacks

  1. King’s Corner » Blog Archive » Thinking in terms of benefits says:

    […] and PR students, listen up: “Website Copy with Benefits: James’ Take” gets at a critical component of persuasion concretely. Unsurprisingly, it gets at audience […]

  2. […] Right now, the way your site is…getting traffic is not the main issue. Right now, the main issue is to fix your sales page. You can have a bazillion people visit but if none buy, that's pretty useless. Once your page is fixed, you can think about traffic. Your sales page first needs a catchy title, something that keeps visitors ON the page to learn more. Something like: Save your sanity and make your family life run smoother…all for less than it would cost you for a lunch for 4 at Mcdonalds! Then you could write your sales copy that extols what your product delivers to people smart enough to buy. Website Copy with Benefits: James’ Take | Men With Pens […]

  3. […] what does a compelling, clear benefit look like? Let’s use my teen as an example and see what we can come up […]

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