As a marketer, your ultimate goal (aside from making the world a better place, of course) is to engage your prospects enough to earn their trust and eventually get them to pull out their wallets.
It’s no secret that the key to doing so is to entice them with benefits. (This is copywriting 101, boys and girls!)
Yet too many times when I work with companies or nonprofits, they want to focus all on themselves. They get caught up in the “me, me, me” mindset, and forget that their ultimate goal is to connect with their customers and constituents.
“We’re a nonprofit that helps reduce travel-created carbon by getting people out of cars and instead traveling by walking, biking or public transit.”
“Our company makes technology that turns plastic trash into oil.”
Sure, these are nice statements. And they’ll certainly entice some people to become interested in your cause.
But the truth is, most people are too busy to care about you unless you give them a reason to.
So how do you get them to care? You focus on benefits, not features.
Now let’s go back to the basics. What exactly are features and benefits?
Features = facts.
Features are what copywriter Eugene Schwartz calls your physical product — what your product or service has, its contents and dimensions. For example, if we were assessing the features of a basic #2 yellow pencil, its features would be:
- The pencil is a graphic core surrounded by a wooden cylinder
- One end of the pencil has a rubber eraser
- Pencil is 7 1/2 inches long
- Sold by the dozen
- Pencil is a #2
I could go on, but you get the idea.
Benefits = what’s in it for them.
Benefits, on the other hand, are the functional product — what your product or service actually does for your prospect.
Going back to our #2 pencil, here are the benefits we could say it has based on the features I just named:
- The pencil can be re-sharpened as often as you like to ensure clean, crisp writing
- Its convenient eraser lets you correct any writing mistakes quickly and easily
- The long length of the pencil ensures long writing life
- Sold in a convenient 12-pack so if you lose one, you’ll have 11 others to choose from and won’t have to stop what you’re doing and run to the store for another (and more cost effective)
- Graphite core blend allows for smooth, crisp, easy-to-read writing
Get the idea? Good.
Fake benefits vs. true benefits
Simply fishing out the benefits from your product or service isn’t good enough. Whether you know it or not, many people get caught focusing on what copywriter Clayton Makepeace calls “fake benefits” – and this, in case you hadn’t already guessed, is not a good thing.
To avoid it, Makepeace suggests using the “forehead slap” test to check if your copy truly contains a benefit to the reader.
For example, consider this headline: “Balance Your Blood Sugar Naturally!”
While it does have an implied benefit, it’s not a benefit anybody really gives a damn about. That is, until they learn the true benefits of balancing blood sugar levels.
According to Makepeace: “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.”
The moral of the story: fake benefits can kill your writing.
So how do you discover the true benefits of your product or service? Follow this four step process:
1. Make a list of every feature of your product or service.
2. Ask yourself why each feature is included in the first place.
3. Now ask “how” the “why” you just wrote down connects with the prospect’s desires.
4. Get to the root of what’s in it for the prospect at an emotional level.
Ta da! You now have your true benefits.
By extracting the most emotionally relevant and most compelling benefits of your product or service, you are far more likely to get your prospects to care — making it much more likely that you’ll make the sale (or get the donation).
So… How do features fit in to the equation?
Of course, I’m not saying to leave features completely out of your organization’s marketing message. But use features to support benefits, not the other way around.
As Brian Clark from Copyblogger says, “sell with benefits, support with features.”
Do this well and you’ll connect with your audience better than ever before — and make the world a better place along the way.