When writing copy, which features should you focus on?

Types of featuresLike any copywriting trainer worth his salt, I teach the importance of stressing benefits in marketing copy. After all, it’s the benefits of a product or service that the customer is truly buying.

However, during a recent workshop a participant asked, “Do we need to connect a benefit to each and every feature? Our services have dozens of features. If we explain the benefit to each one, the copy is going to be a mile long!”

Good point.

Of course, you don’t have to “benefitize” every arcane feature of your product or service. That would be like dramatizing the benefit of a gas pedal. “As you press your foot down on this lever, the car will begin to move forward, magically transporting you to…”

The trick is to focus only on those features that are important to the prospect – those which are most likely to motivate him or her to take action.

How do you figure that out? The simplest way is to organize features into three categories.

1. Common features.

These are features that your product or service has in common with the competition.

For example, if you (or your client) offers an in-house sales training service, then the fact that the training is done live at the client’s location is a common feature. Most, if not all, of your competitors can claim the same thing. Touting the benefits of that would be a waste of copy space.

That doesn’t mean you don’t need to list “me too” features. Often, you do. You just don’t have to emphasize them nor connect them to benefits.

2. Superior features.

These are features that are common, but better.

Say, for example, your company sells forklift trucks. The trucks come with forks that are capable of lifting skids. That’s obviously a common feature. You probably wouldn’t even mention that in the copy. However, what if those forks have a self-adjusting-length feature to accommodate various skid sizes? Now that’s a superior feature worth talking about!

When you have a feature that’s common but superior to the competition, highlight it in your marketing copy and vividly paint a picture of the benefits.

3. Unique features

These are features that are exclusive to your product or service. Few, if any, of your competitors offer the same thing.

Say, for example, your white paper explains a 5-step strategy used by Wal-Mart, Target and Home Depot to lower procurement costs by at least 12%. That’s a unique feature – and a powerful one at that. Who else can offer such a strategy, endorsed by marquis clients?

When writing about a unique feature, I’ll often highlight it in the opening or even the headline. If you can make a strong claim that your competition can’t touch, shout it from the rooftops!

So the next time you’re writing marketing copy, follow this rule of thumb:

  • state the common features (if prospects need to know them),
  • highlight the superior features, and
  • showcase the unique features.

As a marketing guru once told me, people don’t buy the similarities. They buy the differences.

5 Comments

  1. Excellent and concise explanation. My favorite point: “When writing about a unique feature, I’ll often highlight it in the opening or even the headline. If you can make a strong claim that your competition can’t touch, shout it from the rooftops!”

    Reply
    • Thanks for the feedback, Wilton. (That’s my favorite line, too!)

      Reply
  2. This makes so much sense! Software companies, in particular, love to focus on the features because they’re “so cool,” and to them the benefits are obvious. I often have to remind clients that the general public cares less about bells and whistles than about getting their work done, solving problems, and saving money.

    Reply
    • I often need to remind clients the very same thing! As you know, the benefits to “common” features are often obvious. It’s the superior and unique features that you need to “benefitize”.

      Reply
  3. This is a great example of an implied benefit, “5-step strategy used by Walmart, Target and Home Depot”. Did I work for Walmart, Target and Home Depot? Maybe, maybe not. But it sounds like I did because my white paper talks about the 5-step strategy used by these major retailers.

    Reply

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