Why you need to love your features

in Top copywriting tips

One of the first things you learn as a copywriter is the concept of features vs benefits.

The features are the facts about your product; the benefits sum up why those features add up to give your customers exactly what they’ve always wanted.

It’s clear you need to include the benefits of your product or service when you’re writing – it’s the benefit that brings them alive and does the selling.

But a couple of things I’ve come across recently have made me think that we’re in danger of focusing on benefits at the expense of features. And I think that’s a mistake. Features are vital.

The first thing I encountered was a talk by Steve Harrison at #writerscrawl. In it, he argued that as advertising has fallen out of love with copy in advertising material, so we’ve seen a rise in review websites because, at the end of the day, people what they want to know about a product they’re thinking of buying.

The second thing was an article on entrepreneur.com on five writing mistakes and how to avoid them. In it, the writer was explaining the need to use benefits in your copy. He said two things that set alarm bells ringing. The first was this:

[people] don’t care about the amperage of the motor in a vacuum cleaner. They care that the product will last longer than its competitors and do a better job at cleaning.

The second was this:

Avoid merely listing features; instead enumerate the benefits that the customer will get, the problems that will be solved and the desires that will be fulfilled by using this product or service.

You see, I’m not sure I entirely agree with him.

I agree that good copy has to include the benefits. It makes readers’ lives easier. We could all probably work out that a high amperage in a vacuum cleaner is A Good Thing, but by sharing the benefit that it makes it more robust and better at cleaning we don’t have to waste time thinking or guessing (or feeling stupid because we don’t really know what amperage is).

But let’s just imagine the information on that vacuum cleaner for a second. Imagine that all the information you could find on it was:

Our vacuum cleaner will last longer than our competitors’ and do a better job at cleaning.

Some people might well believe that and rush out to buy it. Others (me included) would think: Why? Where’s the evidence? I don’t believe you.

I’d argue that people want to know that the vacuum is much better but they also want to know why so they can evaluate the claim for themselves. Without the evidence of the features there’s a sense of exaggeration and we’re less likely to believe the claims, which means the copy isn’t doing its job.

So yes, you definitely need to focus on the benefits when you’re writing copy. But the features aren’t boring things that can be left out to no detriment. They’re a vital component of your copy too.

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