Features Vs Benefits – Do You Know The Difference?

Features Vs Benefits – Do You Know The Difference?

I have been talking quite a bit on copy recently, from the importance of having headlines that sell, avoiding copy that sounds too good to be true to how to brief a copywriter to get the best work accomplished. Today, I’m inviting Ms Laura Spencer, a professional copywriter, to share her views on the differences between “features” and “benefits” of a product and how such differences can impact the ad copy or sales letter. Let’s welcome Laura and let’s learn from her on how to write great copy.

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Features Vs Benefits – Do You Know The Difference?

By Laura Spencer, Guest Blogger

Do you know the difference between writing about features and writing about benefits? If you don�t, then your copy might not be accomplishing what you want it to accomplish.

Consider these two descriptions of a product. Can you tell which description is based on features and which description is based on benefits?

Description 1
Model XYZ is the car that you need. Standard XYZ features include remote keyless entry, anti-lock brakes (ABS), an electronic stability/skid control system, telescoping wheel/adjustable pedals, and side airbags. For a low additional cost, you may add an OnStar System and Roadside Assistance.

Description 2
Do you worry about your family�s safety when you drive? Enjoy peace of mind with Model XYZ. When you drive XYZ you know that your family is protected from crashes with side airbags. XYZ�s anti-lock brakes and electronic stability/skid control system reduce the likelihood that your family will even experience a crash in the first place. With XYZ�s add-on features such as OnStar and Roadside Assistance, you can even protect your family from getting lost. That�s real peace of mind!

Did you see the difference between the two copy blurbs? Both blurbs describe a car, Model XYZ. Description 1, however, is nothing more than a list of the car�s features. Description 2 jumps right into a problem that the consumer may be experiencing and explains how Model XYZ solves it. That�s right, the second description is benefit-oriented while the first description is feature-oriented. Even though the second description covers less of the car�s actual features than the first description, it is likely to be more effective.

Why is benefits-oriented copy better? While it�s true that some savvy consumers deliberately look for lists of features to compare, most consumers don�t take the trouble. They won�t immediately connect a benefit to a feature. Without the connection to benefits, a feature really has no meaning. What the consumer wants to know is how a particular feature can help them.

Look at the list of features in the first description and pretend that you don�t know what some of the terms mean. If you didn�t know what anti-lock brakes did would you care whether or not they were on your car? It�s quite likely that you wouldn�t care whether or not your car had them if you didn�t know what they were. However, when you understand that they make your car less likely to skid on slippery roads, suddenly the anti-lock brakes feature becomes more important to you. In a nutshell, that�s what benefit-based copywriting does. It makes the product much more important to the consumer by showing the consumer how the product helps them.

If benefits-based copywriting is so much more effective why aren�t more copywriters doing it? I think there are at least three reasons:

1. Target Audience.
To effectively determine how a product will benefit a consumer you must first identify who that consumer is. Finding the target audience of your product can be challenging. For example, if I knew that the target audience of Model XYZ was young singles without children would family safety have been the right benefit to stress? Of course not. If that were the target audience I might have created copy based on how �hip� and �in� the car would make the driver feel.

2. Understanding What Features Do.
It�s easier to list the features of a product. They can usually be found in the engineering or design specification. In fact, features can be listed in ad copy even if the copywriter doesn�t totally understand what they do. For benefits-based writing, however, the copywriter must not only know how the feature works, but they must also be able to determine the feature helps the consumer.

3. Customer Pressure.
Let�s face it. Most companies are proud of their product�s features and rightfully so. They spent a great deal of money and months (perhaps even years) designing and developing the product. This causes some management teams to feel cheated if marketing copy doesn�t include every last feature of the product. However, savvy managers will understand the edge that benefits-based copy will give their company.

If you write marketing copy, consider giving your clients an edge by highlighting their product�s benefits instead of their product�s features. In the end, your clients will thank you.

Laura Spencer is a freelance writer and a WAHM. Laura blogs at www.writingthoughts.com.

Check out related posts on the Importance of Copy:

How to Write Headlines That Sell
How to Select and Brief a Copywriter?
Sales Copy That Is Too Good To Be True
4 Tips to a Great Ad Copy

Or Get a Free Report on Successful Entrepreneurs:
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[tags]copy writing, copy writers, features and benefits in ad copy, importance of copy[/tags]

5 Replies to “Features Vs Benefits – Do You Know The Difference?”

  1. Wonderful post Laura – such good advice, and something that really wouldn’t have occurred to me had you not pointed it out.

  2. Point #3 is so real! Not just customer, I remember when I worked in Marketing Communications, the bosses pressured me to list ALL the 20 great features when I had only room for 5!

  3. Thanks Yvonne!
    Hi Randa! I did marketing communication before technical writing. Focusing on benefits was drummed into my head.
    Hi Calvin! I’m glad that you enjoyed #3. Companies can be VERY proud of their features.

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