For years, I’ve used a simple Features vs Benefits exercise to avoid one of the most deadly copywriting pitfalls: writing about features, not benefits.
First, of course, I needed to understand the difference between features and benefits. Features are mere facts about a product, service, cause, or principle: its dimensions. Its color. Its cost. Its ingredients or contents. Focus on features and your content will snooze.
Benefits, on the other hand, spell out what those facts mean for the reader. They show advantages. When you highlight benefits in your content – no matter what kind of content you’re writing – you connect the dots for the reader and show what’s in it for him.
Focusing on advantages doesn’t sound difficult. All of us want to make choices based on how we will benefit from the facts, right? Yet finding the benefits of a product, service, or principle can be a challenge for the reader if you leave it to him to do intuitively.
That’s why we writers have an important job. We mine the positive, beneficial advantages of a product, service, cause, or principle. And then we use word smithing tools at our disposal to persuade readers to embrace those benefits.
Part of the struggle, I’m convinced, is human nature’s negativity bias – that is, people are wired to use negative information far more than positive information. Humans struggle to find advantages over the disadvantages, benefits over the detriments, the positive over the negative.
Plus, from time to time you’re called to write about a topic that’s decidedly neutral or ordinary. You simply cannot see any advantages to write about. How can you find its benefits as you stare squarely in the face of a list of mundane features (facts)?
Further, research demonstrates that we are more motivated to avoid loss than reach for gain. Trying new things? Taking risk? Stretching ourselves? Considering an option that hasn’t crossed the desk until now? It’s a tough sell. And even if the topic is stellar, you want to emphasize its many positives in a powerful way.
That’s where this nifty Features vs Benefits exercise comes to the rescue.
This exercise helps you turn benefits into features. It is incredibly easy. Use the word “which.” Here’s what I mean.
Finding advantages using this Features vs Benefits exercise is quite fun! Let’s look at an example. Start with the facts (features): Mama Sophie’s is a new Italian restaurant opening on May 1.
You’re assigned to write an article about the opening of this new restaurant. It’s not to be a dining review.But if you’re not careful, this could be a snooze piece if you simply write about Sophie’s homemade lasagna or the restaurant’s red-checked tablecloths.
But not your content. You’ve got a handy tool in your back pocket: your Features vs Benefits exercise.
You list each fact, and follow it with the word “which.”
Complete each sentence, and repeat. Soon you have all kinds of interesting advantages to the new eatery, like this:
I could keep going, but you get the idea.
Showing benefits is THE key responsibility hoisted on a persuasive writer’s shoulders.
It’s not that the reader is incapable of making the connection between the features and benefits. Rather, by listing the facts one at a time and then spelling out the advantages of the piece of information, you do the work for him. You bring the benefit out of obscurity and into the spotlight.
The word “which” helps you to connect the dots for your reader. Try it. And have fun.
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