Forget the “What” – Focus on the “How”

    June 16, 2004

If there is one thing copywriters love to talk about it’s “Features vs. Benefits.” To us it makes all the sense in the world. However, many business owners who want to learn to write their own powerful copy struggle with the concept.

Features are the properties of a product or service. The features of a car might be anti-lock brakes, leather seats, or rear-window defrost. Benefits, on the other hand, show how those features will actually be of benefit (hence the name) to the user. Anti-lock brakes keep you safe if you have to stop quickly. Leather seats are more durable and luxurious than cloth. In copywriting, benefits are much, MUCH more important than features. Let me show you a real-world example.

Stainless Steel Shaft or Priceless Cooking Tool?

Have you ever read a product brochure or Web page that sounded something like this?

The Braun Multiquick Hand Blender offers a 200-watt motor, stainless steel shaft, five-blade chopper attachment, and aerator head.

How do you feel when you read that description of the hand blender? You’re probably thinking, “Well, OK. That sounds all right.”

That’s how most people feel. It’s not very exciting, is it? The thought of a stainless steel shaft doesn’t really get your heart pumping and instill the thought that you *need* one of these hand blenders, does it? That’s because the copy above focuses on the “what” of the product. Now read this version:

The Braun Multiquick Hand Blender is a priceless tool for any cook with a busy schedule. Its powerful motor enables you to chop, whip, puree and blend with lightning speed. Its stainless steel shaft holds up to years of use without bending or breaking. The Multiquick’s five-blade attachment gives you the ability to finely chop or grate even the hardest cheeses and nuts with ease. And the specially designed aerator head incorporates air into the liquids and sauces you blend, making them light and fluffy. You’ll create delicious meals with ease and be out of the kitchen in record time.

The first example focuses on the “what” of the product the features. It simply lists the nuts and bolts of what the physical product offers. However, the second copy example focuses on the “how” of the product the benefits. These benefits show the reader how this product will make his/her life easier or better.

Focusing on the “what” and not the “how” of a product or service is a common mistake novice writers make. It is also a deadly mistake that can cost you sales. But how, exactly, do you create benefits out of features? Easily!

Five Easy Steps to Creating Powerful Benefits

Here’s my five-step process for turning boring features into eye-popping benefits. Let’s use the example of a marketing e-book for this practice session.

1. List the features of your product or service. (Created in PDF format, information on email marketing, search engine optimization, PPC ads, etc.)

2. Next, list the concerns or needs of your customers. If you don’t know ask them. (Finding affordable ways to promote their websites to bring in the most qualified traffic and increase sales.)

3. Next, ask yourself, “Why does this feature matter to my customer?” Write your answers on the list. (PDF format means both PC and Mac users can view the e-book. Search engine optimization is one of the most effective, highly targeted tools there is and it costs nothing once you learn how to do it.)

4. Finally, take it one step further. Ask yourself, “What problem or concern can this feature address?” (Getting more qualified buyers to the reader’s website so they can buy!)

5. Write down the benefit and you’re all done!

So, instead of writing copy about a marketing e-book that reads like this:

“Move It or Lose It” is an e-book for beginners that was created in PDF format. It covers the details of email marketing, search engine optimization, and PPC ads in order to bring you affordable marketing tools you can use.

you can write copy like this:

“Move It or Lose It” was created especially for new online business owners and covers – in great detail – everything you need to know about the three most popular, economical, and effective marketing methods:

  • Search engine optimization: one of the most effective, highly targeted tools there is and it costs absolutely nothing once you learn how to do it.
  • Email marketing: extremely targeted this marketing method brings in consistently high returns on investment.
  • Pay-per-click (PPC) ads: not only inexpensive, but also quick and easy to set up.
  • “Move It or Lose It” is available for immediate download as a PDF file, meaning both PC and Mac users can take advantage of this powerful information.

    Which one sparks your interest more? I thought so!

    When it’s time to write your next piece of advertising copy, take some time to develop a solid list of benefits. Focusing on the “how” instead of the “what” will practically guarantee a better response and more sales.

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