Should you still place more emphasis on benefits than features?

Piranha Designs - Tuesday, November 21, 2017

One piece of sales copywriting advice that has long prevailed among marketers is that of the importance of outlining a given product or service’s benefits, rather than its features. It’s much more crucial to tell your target audience about how the product or service in question actually helps them, than to simply list its properties – or at least, that’s what we’ve long been told.

Widely accepted advice, and not entirely wrong

It’s a mantra that seems logical enough. After all, if you simply tell prospective buyers that your product or service has a certain feature – for example, that a given health supplement contains vitamin A – the buyer may be simply left asking, “so what?” But if you then tell them that vitamin A could have real benefits for their health, including for their skin, vision and immune system, their imagination is much more likely to be captured.

It can sometimes be worth mentioning even obvious benefits – such as that a given flight will take the buyer to a particular sunny resort – if it helps to transport the prospective customer’s mind there. That’s simply the way our brains work.

However, it doesn’t always hold fast

There are, though, times when it can actually be detrimental to even mention benefits. That could include when the benefit is unimpressive or obvious, such as if you are a new or used car dealer mentioning a given car’s 0-60 figure or top speed.

While it may be worth mentioning such features of the car, you hardly need to then explain what the benefit is of the car being fast, especially if the vehicle in question is a city runabout.

Nor should you avoid all mention of features...

So often, a marketer’s well-intentioned words to a client to “talk about benefits rather than features” is interpreted as meaning “don’t refer to features at all”, which is evidently ludicrous.

For example, stating that a given smartphone’s camera produces “really sharp and vivid images” isn’t enough, as the customer will also want to know what features – such as optical image stabilisation or the number of megapixels the camera has – actually make that the case.

Listing features alone may leave the reader asking “so what?”, but stating only benefits may have them thinking, “yeah, right”.

...save for certain circumstances

Can you get away without mentioning features in certain circumstances? Yes, you can – such as if the stated benefit is so obviously true that it doesn’t need to be backed up with any mention of a specific feature, or if there isn’t much space and it would be best to provide an alternative form of proof for that claimed benefit.

A good example of the latter is a fitness video, where endorsements by celebrities and testimonials from past customers who have actually used the product will probably be much more persuasive than a mere explanation of the various exercises or chapters covered in the video.

Both features and benefits can have their role in sales copy

When you are next writing web copy and you need to consider the vexed matter of ‘features vs benefits’, it’s best to put the oft-stated ‘rules’ to one side and instead consider how your readers will respond to certain content.

If you are listing a feature that will cause the reader to ask, “so what?”, you should go on to describe the benefit. If, though, you are describing a benefit to which the reader will inevitably say “yeah, right”, it’s important to back it up with a specific feature or another form of proof.

Grasping the respective functions of features and benefits, and how these can be explained in web copy, will help you to determine when a feature should be stated, when a benefit should be stated and when both should be stated.

Why not take a closer look at our extensive search engine marketing (SEM) services here at Piranha Designs and how they can assist your efforts to boost your online business’s sales throughout 2018 and beyond?

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