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Donna Gunter
Internet Marketing Strategist & Online Business Coach
Orange, Texas

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Copywriting Tips: How to Market Benefits vs Features

One of the most difficult concepts to grasp for online business owners who are writing their own sales copy is to write about the benefits of your product/service, rather than the features.
Written Jan 20, 2010, read 2112 times since then.
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One of the most difficult concepts to grasp for online business owners who are writing their own sales copy is to write about the benefits of your product/service, rather than the features. Even though this skill is critically important, I would guess that less than 10% of business owners truly understand it. Not surprisingly, it's also the primary reason that so many marketing campaigns fail.

Think about the products and services that you buy. Why did you purchase them? One of the reasons I go to the local Firestone auto servicing center to buy my tires and get my oil changed and my car maintained (despite the fact that it's 30 miles from my house) is because Dale, the customer service manager, told me when I first visited this center, "We take care of you so you don't have to worry about breaking down on the side of the road." That sealed the deal for me -- no other explanation was necessary.

I'm no different than you are. It's taken me a long time to begin to write about the benefits of what I offer, because, like you, I always assumed that prospects will understand why they should buy the product or service just because I've told them about it. After all, isn't listing the marvelous features of what I'm offering enough? Unfortunately, the answer is no.

When you try to sell the features of your product or service, you're making the customer do all the work to figure out why they want the feature. As the seller of your products and services, it's in your prospect's best interest to draw the connection for them. In order to do that, however, you have to know the results yourself.

So, then, what's the difference between benefits and features? A feature is a factual statement about the product or service being promoted. However, it's not the features that entice customers to buy. That's where benefits come in. A benefit answers the question "What's in it for me?"

The best way to understand the true benefit that your product or service offers is to focus instead on the results that your customer will receive when using said product of service. It is the customer's perception of each feature's result that will attract a prospect to buy a particular product or service.

So, for example, if you were selling a car, one of the features might be "all wheel drive". While your advertising might include that information, you'll fare better in your sale when you focus on the benefits of that feature, such as greater safety when driving on poor surfaces, ability to drive places other vehicles can't, and minimizing the likelihood of getting stuck in the winter. If the prospect says "so what?" when hearing of an aspect of the product, then that aspect is a feature. The answer to the "so what?" question is a potential benefit.

Let's play this out:

Car ad says: This car has all wheel drive.

Customer reads and says: So what?

Salesperson responds: This means that you're much less likely to get stuck in the snow in the winter.

Ideal customer response: I hate when that happens! That's something I need!

If the response to the answer is another "so what?" or a shrug, then the answer did not nail a benefit for that customer (maybe they live in an area of the country where getting stuck in the winter isn't an issue). Perhaps they would respond better to the "ability to drive places other vehicles can't" or something else. The key here is knowing and understanding your customers and what they need.

To help you create your list of benefits for your product or service, create a Features and Benefits Sheet. Take a piece of paper and draw a line down the middle. On the left hand side write a list of the features of your product or service. On the right side write the corresponding benefit that goes with that feature. answering the "so what?" question (what problem are you solving) in the process. Once you have completed this exercise, share the sheet with colleagues who will give you honest feedback about your benefits listing.

Remember, success in sales and marketing in your business is all about the benefits to your audience rather than the features you're going to deliver. It's all about selling the sizzle, not the steak.

Members of OnlineBizU.com can download the Features and Benefits worksheet here.

Learn more about the author, Donna Gunter.

Comment on this article

  • Graphic Designer 
Maple Valley, Washington 
Amy Wheeler
    Posted by Amy Wheeler, Maple Valley, Washington | Jan 20, 2010

    Hi Donna: How very true. I am always trying to get my clients to understand the difference between benefits and features, particularly the smaller ones who are writing their own copy for brochures. This is a very good explanation and example. The "so what" is a great way to get them to understand the thought process--Amy Wheeler

  • Internet Marketing Strategist & Online Business Coach 
Orange, Texas 
Donna Gunter
    Posted by Donna Gunter, Orange, Texas | Jan 20, 2010

    Hey Amy--

    Glad to see that it helps you help your clients make the distinction! :)