Benefits vs. Features: Understand the Difference, Boost Sales

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published by Web Marketing Today.  Practical Ecommerce acquired Web Marketing Today in 2012. In 2016, we merged the two sites, leaving Practical Ecommerce as the successor.

If you want to increase your sales without investing more in driving new customers to your website, then you need to boost your conversion rate, the number of website visitors who make a purchase.

There are many ways to do this, but one frequently overlooked method is just to rewrite both your ad copy and your landing page copy to focus on benefits rather than features. Like many other areas of marketing, the concept is simple, but the execution can be confusing.

What Are Benefits?

When a prospect is considering a purchase, she wants to know the answer to one fundamental question: What’s in it for me? Or, how will your product or service improve my current situation?

You might recall that one of the secrets to writing excellent copy is to focus on solving a problem or fulfilling a need for your ideal customer. To write benefit-oriented copy, focus on that solution.

For example, someone searching for a portable phone charger has the problem of suddenly not being able to use her cell phone. She might want to know how quickly your charger will fully recharge a cell phone. She may also want to know how easy it is to carry because of its compact and lightweight design.

What Are Features?

Many business owners are enamored with the features of their product or service, and devote the majority of their copy to explaining them. Features are all the fun things that products or services do. For example, a portable charger manufacturer might highlight capacity in terms of milliamp hours (mAh) and charging speed in terms of amperage (A).

The Problem with Features

To someone who is highly familiar with the product or service, it is easy to make the mental connection between a feature and a benefit. If you tell a cell phone expert that your new charger packs 5,600 mAh and 2 A, he will immediately understand that it will quickly charge a drained cell phone and have enough capacity left to do it again one or two more times. However, the average cell phone owner will only see a confusing list of numbers and letters.

Since you are highly familiar with your product or service and surround yourself with those who also have expert knowledge, it is easy to forget that average consumers do not know the jargon, industry standards, and other details. They are not subject matter experts, and they typically have little interest in researching features to connect them to benefits. Instead, they will likely move on.

Identifying Your Ideal Customer

To fulfill a need or solve a problem, you need a clear idea of what that need or problem is. Different people use various products and services in different ways. Rather than trying to be all things to all people, drill down to decide exactly who your ideal customer, sometimes known as your avatar, actually is.

Attempt to describe that person in as much detail as possible. What is her age bracket, gender, income level, career, family size, and shopping habits? Where is her life right now, and what is the specific need that your product or service fulfills for her?

Writing Benefits-focused Copy

To switch your copy from features to benefits, think of features as what your product or service does, and benefits as the result. Make a list of the features that you currently highlight in your ads and landing pages or those that you think might be important to include. Then, next to each feature, write down the result.

For example, a 5,600 mAh portable charger can charge an average cell phone (battery capacity 1,500 mAh) at least three times. The feature is the 5,600 mAh capacity. The benefit is the number of full charges the user can put on her cell phone before she needs to take the time to charge the portable charger again.

Writing Excellent Copy

After compiling a list of the top five or six features and their benefits, you are ready to rewrite your copy. Begin by deleting everything in your copy that describes a feature and replacing it with an explanation of the associated benefit. Then, draft a new version of the copy that incorporates all of the best practices for website copywriting:

  • Attention-grabbing headline. Which of your listed benefits is likely to be of top priority to your ideal customer? Does he care most about speed, capacity, or something else? Identify the most important benefit on your list and craft a compelling headline that clearly highlights that benefit. Keep the language clear and avoid technical jargon.
  • Use a simple layout. Website readers tend to scan and prefer small chunks of text. Use short paragraphs, streamline your message and avoid unnecessary decision points. Describe each benefit in a few sentences, and be careful not to stray into technical details.
  • Write conversationally. Tailor your copy to your avatar, writing as if you were having a one-on-one conversation with that person. Some marketers find it helpful to print out a photo of someone who represents the avatar and post it nearby. In clear, concise language, explain the benefits of your product or service.

Of course, you should not forget about the other factors of a great website, such as an irresistible offer and a unique selling proposition (USP). When it comes to boosting conversions, however, merely recasting features as benefits and explaining what you can do for your prospect exactly is a vital first step.

Phil Frost
Phil Frost
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