One of the most basic concepts in copywriting are “features” and “benefits”. When I first started learning copywriting, I was told that I had to be able to list a product's features and its benefits.
As I became a more experienced copywriter, I found out that most people – including other copywriters – have a hard time distinguishing between a feature and a benefit. So I thought I'd share my thoughts here.
Features Are About The Product
Features are tangible, observable facts about your product (and when I say “product,” I mean anything you offer in exchange for money. It could be a product or a service.). It's what anybody, looking at or examining your product, would be able to say to describe it.
Thus, a physical product's features, would include its:
Let's say you're selling an acne cream. Its features would include that it's white, comes in a tube, is unscented (no yucky, medicinal smell), does not stain clothes, and contains salicylic acid.
If you're selling a digital product, then its features would be:
So if you're selling an Ebook about affiliate marketing, its features could be that: it's 250 pages long, is in PDF so your client can read it online or download it into their computer or digital reader, and gives a step-by-step approach to optimizing their website for the search engines.
Now that you've got your product's features, let's move on to…
Benefits: They're All About Your Customers
A benefit is what happens to your customers as a result of consuming your product. It is a state or a change in status that they experience because they've used your product.
In our examples above, the benefit of your acne cream is that your customers will have clear skin without staining their clothes, smelling like a pharmacy and over-drying their skin.
Your Ebook readers will increase the number of unique visitors coming into their website from the search engines, without paying for advertising.
And there you have it – your product's features and benefits. To summarize: features are about your product; benefits are about your customers.
And Then, There's What They REALLY Want
Now, if you really want to get into your target market's brain, you have to find out what they really want. Sure, they want clear skin and more traffic. But why?
If you ask Frank Kern, it's because we all want easy money and to live beside the beach.
He may be right, but let's be more specific than that. Perhaps your customers want clear skin because they want to be admired, to be socially accepted, to find true love and live happily ever after.
This is why it isn't enough to show white teeth in a toothpaste commercial. You have to show the model being surrounded by attractive members of the opposite sex.
On the other hand, your Ebook clients want huge amounts of free traffic because they never want to get a job every again. Instead, they want to sip margaritas in their beach house while their websites create passive income. See? Frank Kern is always right. And you wonder what his surfing pics have to do with mass control!
It helps to know the underlying desires of your target customers. Think of these as the underlying benefits or motivations they have. You can use this very subtly in your copy, for example, by using photographs.
Definitely, by being conscious of your customers' true motivations, you'll be communicating with them on a deeper level. It'll happen automagically when you really understand them.
Lexi Rodrigo is a communication and marketing professional for multimillion-dollar businesses, co-author of Blog Post Ideas: 21 Proven Ways to Create Compelling Content and Kiss Writer's Block Goodbye, and host of "Marketing Insights LIVE!." Connect with Lexi on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn.