“Benefits over features” is one of the most important lessons we learn in Marketing 101. But does that mean we should set aside features altogether? Is it even right to say that benefits are more important?
I was motivated to write this article after coming across a passage written by the legendary copywriter, Joseph Sugarman:
“[Explain your product.] You’ll be amazed at how many ads leave out the simple step of explaining what the product does...always check your copy to make sure you have explained all of the features.”
This passage surprised me. I used to think benefits are more important because it explicitly shows the results to the reader. However, after further reading and much reflection of my past experiences, I must admit Sugarman was right.
But what exactly is a feature? For our purposes here, let’s define a feature as something your product does. On the other hand, a benefit can be expressed as a result customers get from the product—including the outcomes that happen indirectly.
This is NOT to say we should neglect benefits. Doing so will be a terrible mistake. What I’m only trying to convey here is that features back your product’s benefits.
In this blog post you will discover that features, when written properly, actually strengthen your claims and the benefits of your product or service. You will uncover the reasons why you should include features. By the end of this article, you will be able to identify what is the most important element of a feature, and how to write them effectively in your copy.
Imagine writing copy without features. It’s like selling a great snack without including nutritional facts and a list of ingredients.
By failing to include those, we “open pandora’s box”. What if the person has an allergy to one of our ingredients? What if the person faces dietary consequences? Or if the person loves the product, but wants to know what’s in it?
So by excluding features, customers will not have enough information about your product. All they’ll see are claims and benefits—with a lack of backing information.
Remember, people purchase with their emotions, but justify those purchases with logic. You might be able to emotionally compel your readers with your copy. But if you’re not able to write how those results are created, you might lose readers who are more skeptical or more curious. So help your customers justify their purchases by adding ammunition for them. And features are a great way of providing that.
There are also a couple of deeper reasons why you should include features.
First, by writing them into your ad, email or sales page, you’re actually establishing authority. You can (and should) write a brief technical explanation of how your product or service works. This will be one of the very few times when you can “go fancy” with your words.
As Sugarman writes:
“Providing a technical explanation that the reader may not understand shows that we really did our research and if we say it’s good, it must be good. It builds confidence in the buyer that he or she is indeed dealing with an expert.”
Simply put, by showing your reader how your product, service or program works, you’re conveying to your reader that you’re an expert in your field.
A friendly note however: Readability is still a general rule in writing great copy. The vast majority of your content should still use simple words and adopt a conversational tone. It is only when you’re writing a brief technical explanation that you could use a higher level of diction.
Another major reason why you should include features is to stand out from your competition.
“Highlight those features that make your product or service new, unique or novel.”
By writing a unique feature, you have a chance to show why your product works differently.
But what’s in a feature that makes you stand out? You’ll soon find out in the next section...
There are two things in a feature you should carefully pay attention to.
The most obvious one is the product specifics. As written above, this is as important as including nutritional facts and the list of ingredients on your snack package. This gives them more information about the product. After all, more information generates more trust and perceived expertise. Product specifics also help customers justify their purchase.
The more important one is the underlying mechanism of the product.
But what is a mechanism? Todd Brown defines it as:
“...the thing that is within your product or service that allows it to work. It’s the cause behind how [your] product or service delivers the benefit, the promise, the outcome.”
In other words, it explains how exactly your product is going to deliver the solution.
A note of warning however. You shouldn’t leave features all by themselves. Make it a point to connect the product’s features to the benefits they bring for the customer.
As a matter of fact, if you can write those features effectively, your benefits become much more powerful. The next section shows you one way to write them...
Features strengthen your claims and the product’s benefits. And as we have established earlier, the most useful part behind the product’s feature is the underlying mechanism.
Mechanisms are especially critical when you’re trying to stand out in a dense and highly competitive market. So if you could clearly show how your mechanism is unique in the market (“unique mechanism”), your claims become all the more compelling.
Now before I share you a simple formula to write feature-backed benefits, you‘ll want to know a few important terminologies:
General Problem is the overarching point which your customer is trying to address. A classic example is excess fat.
Specific Problem is a part of the problem which your product is trying to address. For example, slow metabolism.
The Solution is the thing which directly addresses the Specific Problem. This is what your Product is designed to give. For instance, to increase metabolism.
Problem Mechanism (a term I’ve come up with) is the underlying explanation behind the Specific Problem. Some examples are genes, habit or lifestyle.
Product Mechanism, our main focus, is the underlying explanation behind the Solution. For example, it’s the patented thermogenic chemical which contains elements of green tea, caffeine, phenethylamine, etc.
Now that you’re familiar with these terms, here’s one formula you can follow:
“Some people still [general problem] because [specific problem]. And this comes from [problem mechanism/s]. But with [product mechanism], you can [solution].”
In our previous example, we can write something in the lines of:
“Some people still couldn’t lose fat because they have a slow metabolic rate. And this could be a result of different things: suboptimal genes, bad habits or bad lifestyle. But our new patented thermogenic chemical is designed to burn those excess body fat, due to its contents of green tea and phenethylamine (a serotonin stimulant). It increases your metabolic rate, even if you’re staying in bed all day!”
Once you get used to this formula, you can start getting creative. After all, the formula doesn’t have to be explicitly written, so long as you have the answers for the terminologies above.
For instance, you can sporadically place the different parts of your formula throughout your entire copy. You can even split them into different email topics or ads.
Once again, I’m not saying we should neglect benefits. As a matter of fact, we enhance them with features, particularly using the product’s unique mechanism.
Your product’s unique mechanism helps your offer stand out in the market, as well as show how it delivers the specific results your customers ache to have.
This reflects one overarching truth about sales: customers buy with their emotions and justify them with logic and evidence. Losing the second component risks potential business with more skeptical or curious audiences.
Good marketers convey emotionally-compelling benefits. But great ones go further by showing how exactly those benefits will be brought about. Customers nod and say “yes, this makes sense”. They feel more comfortable with, and excited about their purchase.
That’s why it’s crucial for any business to have a copywriter who writes features in a way that makes customers feel they’re being reasonable in their purchase. Consider starting a contract with a professional copywriter on this site now!
Adrian is a copywriter, closer and an aspiring consultant. He's also an international poet and an essayist, his writing background is very diverse, having both a creative and an analytical edge. He is now honing his copywriting skills while traveling around the world.Hire Adrian