Today I wanted to talk to you about a copywriting trope that often gets trotted out when giving advice to newbie copywriters – that is sell on benefits, not features! It’s so cliché, but only because it works!
What Are “Benefits and Features”?
In order to proceed, we first need to define the two terms. Features are the cut and dry facts behind your product or service: size, speed, colour, capacity, number of hours service – the precise description of what a customer can expect. Benefits however, are a little more touchy-feely. These tend to be the more emotional reasons that we buy a product or service: peace of mind, saved time, saved money, reliability, security – entertainment, even.
We’ve all bought things in our personal lives that we don’t really need – emotionality and impulsivity is usually why!
Why Should We Sell on Benefits Rather Than Features?
Though features are far easier to write about, it’s the benefits you really need to focus on in your copy. Even in professional B2B environments, people still tend to buy for emotional reasons. So whatever it is you sell, you need to frame your copy around the softer benefits that your product or service provides: allaying worries, wants, and fears.
This isn’t to say that benefits should do all of the legwork, though. Once you’ve captured the reader’s attention and got them invested emotionally through the benefits, that’s the time to back up what you’ve promised with facts and figures. Features help to qualify a purchase in the buyer’s mind, putting logical meat on the bones of their emotional investment.
For example, people don’t buy a circular saw because it goes up to 9000 RPM. That may help their decision because it means they can cut certain materials if the need arises, but they’ll generally be in the market for a circular saw to cut stuff.
People won’t buy a certain piece of software simply because you interface with it securely through the cloud. The pervasive, always-on access of the cloud may sway the reader to prefer it over more static options, but in the absence of emotional investment, it’s unlikely to be the single thing that tips the scales in that organisation’s favour.
People don’t buy a pair of curtains because they’re an easily washable poly-cotton blend. That may help their decision because they’ll know the product is easy to care for, but they’re generally buying them to keep their home stylish and private.
It’s this delicate balance between features and benefits that people are referring to when they say things like “sell the hole, not the drill” or “sell the sizzle, not the steak”. Benefits are essential to draw people in, but being upfront with your product’s features should be a priority too.
On the flip side, being transparent about your product’s abilities can help disqualify buyers who are specifically looking for something else, saving them disappointment.
So when you’re putting your marketing copy together, sell on the benefits that your solution provides and the role your products or services play in your customers’ lives. Once you’ve got them reeled in, then you can qualify their desire with the specifics.