Lurching into a feature-heavy diatribe is an age-old pitfall. And not just for copywriters – for salespeople across all sectors.
It's easy enough to do. Even the most experienced of writers unknowingly get suckered in now and then. So much so, I've dreamt up my own moniker for this affliction...
It’s sales 101, but frequently overlooked by many copywriters.
Feature blinkers are particularly prevalent in specification-heavy sectors, like technology, manufacturing, etc., where marketing or sales content is often littered with data-led bravado. In my experience, tech copy is particularly prone to this affliction.
A server manufacturer might quote its uptime rate.
The description of a computer display might centre on its resolution.
Or a mobile phone brand might focus fervently on the power of its processor.
These all have a place in your prose. In fact, they can be really useful at a specific stage in your prospective customer’s journey to purchase.
What they’re not going to do, however, is engage your reader at the beginning of your copy.
"A benefit-first syntax helps you emphatically answer that perennial question:
'what’s in it for me?'"
To grab your reader, you need to focus on benefits first, and use features to fortify your copy later. In other words, sell the outcome, not the product or service.
Bene-fit for purpose
A benefit-first syntax helps you emphatically answer that perennial question: “what’s in it for me?”
The challenge for a copywriter is often translating a feature (or specification) into an advantage. And then turning that advantage into a benefit – one which will appeal to (and persuade) your reader.
Let’s look at an example. Say you’re a mobile phone manufacturer. Your handsets are built using premium materials, but that makes them the most expensive. How do we uncover a benefit?
Well, we might say:
The phone is made with the highest quality components – feature.
This means it lasts longer, and is more resilient – advantage.
It won’t let you down. You can rely on it to keep performing – benefit.
So, we’ve identified an appealing benefit. Now it’s time to talk copy structure.
The fact that the phone offers the highest build quality is interesting, but not particularly persuasive (from the outset, at least).
By leading with a benefit, one that can solve your reader’s needs, you’re building a more persuasive and punchy case.
And that leads us neatly on to the next point…
Humans are emotional beings, and they react according to sentimentally-driven psychological triggers. So, it follows that benefits are most effective when they create an emotional response.
That means you need to employ a suitable emotive catalyst. That could be envy, laziness, love, greed, even jealousy. Think of all the emotions that stir you – the list is probably close to endless.
Whoever your target customer, and whatever the differentiator of your product or service, construct your copy so that it generates an emotional reaction, and it will be more persuasive.
This article appears in our free guide to copywriting. If you're interested in learning more about high-performing copywriting...
Review your copy and highlight any features, facts or specifications that sit independent of a benefit.
Rearrange your copy so you kick off with a benefit. And preferably tie this to an emotional thread.
Then explain how that benefit is uniquely enabled by your product or service (the advantage).
Finally, round off with the feature that backs up your promised advantage.