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How features, advantages and benefits work. A simple guide

by | Advantages and benefits, Content marketing, Copywriting

Features tell and benefits sell. But can you tell the differences between features, advantages and benefits? You’re not alone.  This guide tells you all you need to know

Can we talk about features, advantages and benefits?

You see, these three words are often confused.

“People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill,” said Harvard Business School Economist and Professor Theodore Levitt. “They want a quarter-inch hole.”

He’s right of course. But why does anyone need a quarter-inch hole? To find the real benefit, and add meaning, purpose and relevance to your messages, you need to dig deeper and ask the questions:

  • What is your intent when you create the hole?
  • What is the result you want to achieve?

My point is this. When your marketing copy:

  • Leads on features
  • Stops at the advantages of using your products or services
  • Worse still, relies on hackneyed phrases (such as one-stop-shop, and describing your efficient and effective services) to explain benefits

Your marketing messages miss their mark.

As a result, you stop your reader in its tracks.

Because you force your reader to work out for itself why your features are necessary when all the reader really cares about is ‘what’s in it for me‘.

Let’s dig a bit deeper into this concept.

So what are features, advantages and benefits?

Features describe what a product has

SEO Copywriting

Advantages describe what the features do

Appeals to search engines and readers alike

Benefits show the reader what it personally gains from the feature in other words how the feature improves their lives.

Get a return on investment from your website and avoid reliance on expensive PPC advertising. SEO copywriting improves your website’s position in a search engine’s natural (unpaid) search results. Not only that, it answers visitors questions and guides decision making, leading to more enquiries and sales.

Why is it important to understand the difference between features, advantages and benefits?

Original Mad Man David Ogilvy put it:

“Consumers do not buy products. They buy product benefits.”

Moreover, neuroscience has proved that sales happen when emotion is backed up with logic.

How do you identify the motives behind a purchase?

Author of Copywriting & Direct Marketing, Robert Collier, told us:

“Before you put pen to paper, before you ring for your stenographer, decide in your own mind what effect you want to produce on your reader — what feeling you must arouse in him.”

First, you aim to understand your customer and identify its common pain-points.

Then you want to dig deep to find situations to which your audience can relate.

Where can you find the information you need?

Take a look at user forums, interview salespeople, customer service representatives and actual customers.

To help you dig deeper into product benefits, Psychologist Maslow identified five needs that motivate human behaviour and decision-making. He put these needs into a hierarchy.

Need 1: Physiological

The most basic requirement for survival. Physiological needs cover food, drink and shelter.

Need 2: Safety

The need to protect yourself, family and society. The need for peace of mind. To avoid pain. Less work, save time, save money, get security, reduce loss.

Need 3: Love and belonging

Defined as peoples’ social needs. In particular, the need to feel connected to others. To have a position in a society or a group. To have loyalty.

Need 4: Esteem

The need for achievement, competence and confidence. The need to feel good about yourself. To feel attractive. To gain praise from others.

Need 5: Self-actualisation

The need for self-fulfilment. Tap into your reader’s need to be the best that they can be. Your goal is to make your reader feel significant, special or indeed unique. Leadership. Improved product offerings. More sales. Beat the competition.

Next, tell your reader how your product/service addresses a problem. Here’s an easy exercise to help you to do this.

With this feature, you get ‘benefit one.’

So that… (benefit 2)
So that… (benefit 3)
So that… (benefit 4)

Keep going until you can’t go any further.

It all adds up to this

Features tell. Benefits sell.

That’s why Apple didn’t sell an iPod with 1gb storage for MP3s. It sold:

1000 songs in your pocket.

Peter Nivio Zarlenga summed the concept up nicely when he said:

“In our factory, we make lipstick. In our advertising, we sell hope.”

And finally

If you would like help uncovering your features, advantages and benefits so that you can write persuasively, then drop me a line to get information about pricing.

Claire Hawes, copywriter and owner of The Content BoutiqueAbout Claire Hawes

Claire Hawes is a marketing communications copywriter. She enjoys writing engaging copy that helps businesses to get noticed and attract enquiries. Claire’s experience mainly lies in the business to business sector. Her clients include both businesses and digital marketing agencies.

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