Forget the "What" - Focus on the "How"

by Philip Webb on 1 December 2005

If there is one thing copywriters love to talk about it's "Features vs. Benefits". To us it makes all the sense in the world. However, many business owners who want to learn to write their own powerful copy struggle with the concept.

Features are the properties of a product or service. The features of a car might be anti-lock brakes, leather seats, or rear-window defrost. Benefits, on the other hand, show how those features will actually be of benefit (hence the name) to the user. Anti-lock brakes keep you safe if you have to stop quickly. Leather seats are more durable and luxurious than cloth. In copywriting, benefits are much, much more important than features. Let me show you a real-world example.

Stainless Steel Shaft or Priceless Cooking Tool?

Have you ever read a product brochure or Web page that sounded something like this?

The Braun Multiquick Hand Blender offers a 200-watt motor, stainless steel shaft, five-blade chopper attachment, and aerator head.

How do you feel when you read that description of the hand blender? It's not very exciting, is it? The thought of a stainless steel shaft doesn't really get your heart pumping and instill the thought that you needone of these hand blenders. That's because the copy above focuses on the "what" of the product. Now read this version:

The Braun Multiquick Hand Blender has a powerful motor enabling you to chop, whip, puree and blend with lightning speed. Its stainless steel shaft holds up to years of use without bending or breaking. You'll create delicious meals with ease and be out of the kitchen in record time.

The first example focuses on the "what" of the product... the features. It simply lists the nuts and bolts of what the physical product offers. However, the second copy example focuses on the "how"of the product... the benefits. These benefits show the reader how this product will make his/her life easier or better.

Focusing on the "what" and not the "how" of a product or service is a common mistake novice writers make. It is also a deadly mistake that can cost you sales. But how exactly do you create benefits out of features? Easily!

Five Easy Steps to Creating Powerful Benefits

Here's my five-step process for turning boring features into eye-popping benefits. Let's use the example of a marketing e-book for this practice session.

  1. List the features of your product or service. (Created in PDF format, information on e-mail marketing, search engine optimisation, PPC ads, etc.)
  2. List the concerns or needs of your customers. If you don't know... ask them. (Finding affordable ways to promote their websites to bring in the most qualified traffic and increase sales.)
  3. Ask yourself, "Why does this feature matter to my customer?" Write your answers on the list. (PDFformat means both PC and Mac users can view the e-book. Search engine optimisation is one of the most effective, highly targeted tools there is... and it costs nothing once you learn how to do it.)
  4. Take it one step further. Ask yourself, "What problem or concern can this feature address?" (Getting more qualified buyers to the reader's website so they can buy)
  5. Write down the benefit and you're all done!

So, instead of writing copy about a marketing e-book that reads like this:

Move It or Lose It is an e-book for beginners that was created in PDF format. It covers the details of e-mail marketing, search engine optimisation, and PPC ads in order to bring you affordable marketing tools you can use. can write copy like this:

Move It or Lose It was created especially for new online business owners and covers - in great detail - everything you need to know about the three most popular, economical, and effective marketing methods:

  • Search engine optimisation: one of the most effective, highly targeted tools there is... and it costs absolutely nothing once you learn how to do it.
  • E-mail marketing: extremely targeted... this marketing method brings in consistently high returns on investment.
  • Pay-per-click (PPC) ads: not only inexpensive, but also quick and easy to set up.

Move It or Lose It is available for immediate download as a PDF file, meaning both PC and Mac users can take advantage of this powerful information.

Which one sparks your interest more?

When it's time to write your next piece of advertising copy, take some time to develop a solid list of benefits. Focusing on the "how" instead of the "what" will practically guarantee a better response and more sales.

This article was written by Karon Thackston. Karon is owner of Marketing Words, a professional advertising and search engine copywriter. You can check out her e-course, the Step-by-Step Copywriting Course. Article originally featured at Successful Sites.

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