I have spent years critiquing and editing marketing copy, and there is often one mistake that the majority of people make – they assume their audience cares.
Now, I’m not saying that your audience doesn’t care. Maybe they do, maybe they don’t. But in a crowded marketplace, where on average readers are bombarded by 5000 marketing messages per day, you’re gonna’ have to work hard to get them to invest in your product or service.
So how do you do it?
Features vs. Benefits
We’re going old school now. As any good salesperson will tell you, getting the right balance between selling the features and benefits of a product or service is the key to a getting that sale. We’ve all heard the cheesy phrase “You’re not selling a product, you’re selling a lifestyle.” but there’s some truth in those words.
The first thing I want you to do is to list the features and benefits of your products/service.
For those of you who don’t know, what do we mean by features and benefits?
Features are exactly that. They are facts about your product or service. For example,
This car features child safety locks
This cooker features an electronic timer
Batteries are included
The website gives you the ability to schedule social media posts when you want
A benefit tells your potential customer why your product’s features are worth investing in. For example,
The benefit of child safety locks is safety.
The benefit of an inbuilt timer is to avoid overcooked food.
The benefit of batteries included is you don’t need to buy anything else.
The benefit of scheduling media posts is to save time.
But looking at those descriptions above, doesn’t it feel like something is…well, missing? They certainly lack a little punch. And that’s because it’s missing a key ingredient.
The 'So What' strategy
To be honest, I can still look at the phrases above, shrug my shoulders and say the words, ‘so what?
Remember, you have to make your readers care! And how do we do that?
By speaking directly to them of course!
Once you’ve wrote down the key features and benefits of your products/services, I want you to look at your target audience. What feature and benefit will appeal most to them? How could you communicate the benefits to them? How might you re-word your benefit to appeal to them on an emotional level?
This is where you get into the real nitty-gritty fun stuff!
The most famous example of this comes from Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple. He was responsible for releasing the iPod. At the time, numerous businesses were offering similar(ish) products. But what made Apple so successful?
All other companies positioned their products like this…
“1GB storage on your MP3 player.”
But Steve Jobs positioned the iPod like this…
“1000 songs in your pocket.”
Most people make decisions based on emotions. They then use facts (or the features of your product/service) to back up their emotion-based decision. Features and benefits should be used to support one-another. I would never recommend discarding the features entirely.
Your target market must inform how you communicate your products features and benefits. Because what’s the point in harping on about how cost-effective a product is when your audience is time-poor and money-rich? Or what’s the use of talking about keeping your family safe, when your target market is single males aged between 19-25?
Your audience informs everything.
Features and benefits of the service-based industry.
There’s one common error I see time-and-time again from organisations who offer a service. They don’t stop talking about themselves!
I get it. We all do it. Talking about ourselves is easy. It’s the one topic we pretty much know everything about, and we don’t even have to do any research. Hurrah! But seriously, when there’s no tangible product, it’s all-too-easy to fall into the trap of proclaiming how good we are instead.
But falling into this trap can turn your reader off. Why? Because they’re not interested in you! They’re interested in how your service can make their lives easier, save them money, earn them money, or make them look or feel better!
Take the examples below. Which ones do you think are more compelling? Which ones do you think will appeal to your audience?
Before: I have five years’ experience as a fitness trainer
After: Imagine fitting back into your favourite pair of jeans…
Before: I have entertained at over 5000 children’s birthday parties
After: Making memories your child will never forget
Notice the difference between the before and after? The before features the word I, the after features the word you.
The word you is a powerful word. It automatically gets the reader to think about themselves, to imagine the scenario you are presenting them with. To invest emotionally in what you’re saying.
Exercise: I want you to go through your website/marketing material and look at all the instances you have said the word I. Can you change this to a ‘you’? Can you flip what you’re saying to make it a benefit to the customer and not just a statement about yourself?
When talking about yourself works!
There is one instance whereby talking about yourself works – when your story can highlight the features of your product.
I am a copywriter. I began writing fiction from a young age and naturally progressed into business copywriting. Except my about me page, I barely touch on this. Why? It’s of no interest to you, my lovely reader.
However, if say I was a business owner, who set up a website, found my web traffic was good but my conversions were bad, taught myself copywriting, changed my copy and ta-dah! My sales shot through the roof; then that might be a worthwhile story to tell. Why? Because it supports the benefit of my service - good copy = an increase in sales.
Similarly, if you’re a fitness trainer, who failed to see results until you developed your unique programme, then that’s a good story that supports your service.
You get the picture.
If you’ve got a great, visual story that links to your product, then don’t be afraid to use it!
If you know of any great examples of how to use features and benefits in your writing copy, please comment below. I would love to take a look!