Make your product’s benefits SPARKLE!


  • Are “Faux Benefits” killing your sales copy?
  • Why product features are far more important than you’ve been led to believe …
  • The simple secret to exploding your sales results in just five easy steps
  • And MORE!

Dear Business-Builder,

A serious crisis has arisen that must be addressed immediately – before I can crit even one more copy cub’s draft …

The other day, I had the dubious pleasure of reviewing copy submitted by a new group of my beloved cubs – each of whom has read The Masters and even completed courses on copywriting … and each of whom I believe has the innate talent to (eventually) become one of the greats.

Each cub was told to write benefit-oriented headlines for a series of natural supplement products.

The first headline jumped up and shouted …

Get Off The Hormone Roller Coaster!

“Well,” I said to myself, “THAT certainly sucks!” And so I turned to the next one …

Balance Blood Sugar Levels Naturally!

 … And the next …

Flush Deadly Toxins Out Of Your Colon!

“Whoo boy,” I said out loud, “I should be getting combat pay for this!”

See, not a single one of those “benefit-based” headlines contains a single real benefit! Instead, each contains a “Faux Benefit” – a product feature masquerading as a benefit!

Apply my patented “forehead slap” test to each of those headlines and you’ll see what I mean.

  • Have you ever been awakened in the middle of the night … sat bolt upright in bed … slapped yourself on the forehead and exclaimed, “Holy Moley – I gotta get off of the hormone roller coaster?”
  • When was the last time you were jarred out of a deep sleep exclaiming “Jeez Louise – I need to balance my blood sugar levels naturally!”
  • And have you EVER jumped out of a warm bed to holler, “I gotta flush some deadly toxins out of my colon!”

No? Me neither!

Have you ever found yourself feeling eager to PAY for a product that would do any of those things for you?

Nope? Join the club!

I mean – getting off the hormone roller coaster sounds like it might be a good thing. On the other hand, roller coasters are fun. Heck. People pay money to get ONTO them!

I suppose balancing blood sugar levels is good, too. And if you’re making a list of folks who are “all for” flushing deadly toxins out of my colon – or any other part of my body for that matter – put me at the top of it.

But are these really benefits our prospects crave – and are willing to pay for?

Of course not. Our “hormone balancing” prospects want to stop having hot flashes and mood swings and stop losing their libidos.

Why? Well, for one thing, because hot flashes and mood swings are irritating – even miserable. And for another – drilling down even deeper – because all of these things threaten the intimacy and security of their primary relationships. Nobody wants to be a hormone hermit!

Nobody really wants to balance their blood sugar levels, either. But anyone in his or her right mind DOES want to avoid the misery of blindness … cold, numb, painful limbs … amputation … and premature death that go along with diabetes.

And frankly, while “flushing toxins out of my colon” is nowhere near the top of my personal “to do” list, I WOULD prefer not to be constipated, or plagued with uncontrollable diarrhea, or have to poop in a bag for the rest of my life, or die from colon cancer.

The Faux Benefits heralded in these headlines are mechanisms … processes … product features that deliver benefits. They are not, in themselves, real benefits that anybody craves or wants to pay for.

My beloved copy cubs failed to drill down to the real, bottom-line, rubber-meets-the-road benefit each product provides – the tangible, measurable, real value they bring to prospects’ lives: The value that prospects are willing to – once again – pay for.

This is a cardinal and common sin even among more seasoned copywriters – and that business owners and marketing execs too often let us get away with.

Here’s another: Failing to fully explore the benefits that each benefit provides. In short, squeezing every feature until you’ve explored every benefit … and then squeezing every benefit for the secondary benefits IT provides.

Confused? Me too – sometimes, anyway. Let’s work through this together …

Benefits 101

Let’s start with four basic facts …

  1. Every product has features: Features are merely objective facts about a product (or the company behind it). In three-dimensional products, features include size, shape, weight, construction, color options and more.

    In information products, features include number of pages, size, frequency of publication (for periodicals) and the types of information that are presented.

  2. Fortunately, most features are there for a darned good reason: Prospects don’t want features. They want you to change their lives for the better.

    Product features are merely the means to that end. That means features can have a place in ad copy – like telling prospects how many issues they’ll get per year … how many big pages are in your book … or that your widget is made from carbon steel for strength or carbon fiber for lightness.

    Beyond that, features are a yawn because they’re about the product; not about the prospect. Or, as in the examples above, they can help demonstrate how your product delivers a benefit.

    The good news is, just about every product fact – every feature – is there to provide a benefit that your prospect IS willing to pay for.

  3. There are more benefits associated with each product feature than are dreamt of by most copywriters: Benefits are like bunny rabbits: Give them a little time and they’ll begin multiplying – each benefit or combination of benefits producing one, two, three or more new benefits you never thought about before.

    The secret to kick-butt sales copy is to identify each and every benefit a product provides – and then to look at each benefit and ask, “What does THAT do for me? What additional benefits does that benefit provide?”

  4. Your prospect has strong feelings about every dimensionalized benefit you present: Connecting each fully dimensionalized product benefit with a strong emotion that your prospect already has about the benefit (or the lack of it in his/her life) makes sales copy irresistible.

Benefits that sing and soar
– in five simple steps

Here’s a little exercise to help you drill down to the benefits prospects are willing to pay for … fully dimensionalize those benefits … and then connect those benefits with powerful response-boosting emotions that your prospect already has about those benefits (or the lack of them) in his life.

By the time you’re through, you will have a complete list of company and product features … you will have squeezed every possible benefit out of those features … you will have fully dimensionalized those benefits … and you will have connected each one to a powerful emotion your prospect has about each one of them.

In short, you’ll have a comprehensive “features/benefits/dominant emotion” inventory you can refer to as you write your copy.

I do NOT suggest that you do this on every project. After a while, this kind of thinking comes naturally. But even for more advanced writers – and especially for folks who supervise writers – going through this exercise can go a long way towards finding new themes and adding power to your promotions.

To begin, create a spreadsheet with these headings:

Feature Why? Benefits Dimensionalize Dominant
Emotions
Rank

Step #1:
Create a Comprehensive FEATURES Inventory

If you’ve read any books or taken any courses on direct response copywriting, you’ve probably learned that features are immaterial. Only benefits matter.

Only problem is, that’s just horse-pucky.

Features are the fathers of each benefit your product provides. And if every product benefit has its roots in a product feature, identifying and fully understanding each feature is essential to identifying all the benefits your product provides.

And so, if features are the fathers of benefits, it makes sense to begin at the beginning – by listing all the key facts about 1) The business and 2) The product or service you’re promoting.

Start by answering the following questions about the company and the spokesperson behind the product in the first column of your table …

  1. “What are your qualifications?” What degrees or certifications have you earned in your field of endeavor? From which institutions? What associations are you a member of? How many years have you provided this product or service?

    How many customers (patients, clients, etc.) have you served? Are you the largest or oldest in your area of expertise? What specialties do you offer that your competitors don’t?

  2. “What resources do you use to produce a superior product or service?” How large an army are you putting to work on the prospect’s behalf? Who are the stand-out players? What unique or proprietary tools do you use to produce the desired result?

    Do you have custom computer programs or hardware that nobody else has? How many customer service reps are available to make ordering comfortable and easy? How many service techs are on your payroll who can respond when the product needs service?

  3. “How is your location a factor?” Are you closer to your prospects than your competition? Are your headquarters impressive-looking? Is your office close to a major intersection or freeway off-ramp? Do you offer plenty of free parking?

    Or, if you’re promoting a product for a national company, how does its location help you produce a superior product? Are you offering an investment product that’s produced on Wall Street or anywhere in New York, for example? Or are you selling a politically oriented product that’s produced in or near Washington D.C.?

  4. “What’s your reaction time?” Are appointments readily available? Do you perform your service faster than your competition does? If I order this product, how fast will I get it?
  5. Inventory: How many different products do you have available? How does that compare to what your competitors offer?

Product or Service Features

Now, it’s time to really start digging – with answers about the product or service you’re offering …

  1. Purpose: What, exactly, does your product or service do? If it accomplishes several things, great – list everything you can think of!
  2. Physical dimensions: How does your product compare to competing products? Is it smaller? Bigger? Lighter? Heavier duty?

    If it’s a published product, how many pages are in the book or the regular issues of the newsletter or magazine? Is the page size larger that what the prospect may be used to?

    Are there illustrations, charts, or graphs? Is it written simply – in a way that’s easy to understand? Does it give clear, concise directions that anyone could follow? How many times do customers hear from your client each year (count regular issues, bonus issues, e-mail alerts, web site updates, etc.)? What regular features are included?

    If you offer nutritional supplements, are your pills smaller than the competition’s? Does the prospect have to take fewer of them, or take them just once a day? What are the ingredients? Are they fresher than those used by some other competitors? More absorbable? More potent?

  3. Performance metrics: How quickly can your product be delivered, installed and/or begin producing results? How fast does your product complete the desired task? How thoroughly does it do its job? How long does it last? How do your product’s performance metrics compare to similar products offered by your competitors?

    For investment products, what results has it produced for investors in the recent past? How did it perform at key turning points in the economy or markets – the tech wreck of 2000, or the gold price explosion of the 1970s, for example? How and when did it help prevent investors from making major blunders?

    For health products, how fast does it work? How can I know it’s working? What studies have proven that it works? Or for information merchants, what health breakthroughs were you the first to publicize? How else does the past performance of the author, editor or the product itself demonstrate the superiority or indispensability of the product?

  4. Credibility: What have customers, subscribers, peers and others said about your product or service? What guarantees and/or warranties come with it? How do they compare to what the competition offers?
  5. Available options: What choices does your product offer to prospects? What colors or sizes does it come in? How do your terms make ordering the best fit possible for customers? Is it customizable in any way? How do these choices make your product superior to the competition?
  6. Timeliness: How quickly can your product be delivered and/or installed? How does this compare with the competition?
  7. Pricing: What are your prices? How do they compare to the competition? Do you deliver more for the money? Or does your product’s quality demand a higher price?

    If applicable, divide your price by the numbers 12, 52 and 365 – and then write down the product’s cost per month, week and day.

These are just a few idea-starters – please do not stop here!

Use this opportunity to think through every step of the process that your prospects experience when shopping for, buying and using your product or service.

Step #2:
Attach a “Why” to Each Feature

The next step is to figure out why these features are included in the product or service, and then to turn those reasons into tangible benefits that will bring value to the customer’s life.

So now, in the “WHY?” column next to each feature, enter the benefits each feature provides.

Example: If you’re selling a high quality drill bit, your entry might look like this:

Feature: Constructed of carbon steel.

Why: Never wears out.

On the other hand, if you’re promoting a dentist, your list might look like this:

Feature: A TV in every exam room.

Why: More comfortable for the patient and time passes more quickly.

The “why” for an investment newsletter might go like this …

Feature: Daily e-zine included with subscription to monthly newsletter.

Why: Stocks move fast; opportunities could be lost without split-second updates.

Or, if you’re writing for a book on health, you might write …

Feature: Specific prescription for each age group on each supplement recommended.

Why: To eliminate reader confusion.

Attach as many “whys” to each feature as you can.

My guess is that as you review your completed list, you’ll be getting pretty excited. And for good reason: Your brain is already beginning to take the next step – visualizing how these features improve your customers’ lives!

Step #3:
Turn Features into Benefits

The simple act of completing Steps #1 and #2 above could easily multiply sales and profits at tens of thousands of businesses from coast to coast – merely by shifting the spotlight off of the advertiser and his product or service and on to why their features are important to the customer.

But still, we focused entirely on a company and a product or service. Now, we’re going to bring your prospect into the picture – and answer the question, “What’s in it for me? How does each of these features – these facts about the business and product or service – directly connect with and improve my life?”

Think about how each feature and “Reason Why” benefits your customer, and list every possible way each one of them brings value to your prospect’s life.

We’re going to ask the one question that’s constantly at the forefront of your customer’s mind: “What’s in it for me?”

And we’re going to answer by listing the problems your product or service solves … the desires it fulfills … and the future disasters it will help your customers avoid.

Be sure to think about immediate benefits as well as those the customer will experience later on.

If you’re selling one-hour oil changes for example, you can save your customer oodles of time right now, today. But you also make it easy for him to properly maintain the family chariot, thereby helping him avoid an inconvenient or even dangerous breakdown and costly repairs later on.

Write each benefit as a “you” statement – as if you’re talking face-to-face with your prospective customer, patient or client.

Then, go back over your list of benefits … look at each one … and ask yourself, “What additional benefits does this benefit bring to my life?” Keep drilling down until you hit the Mother Lode – the benefits that mean the most and bring the most value to prospects’ lives.

Step #4:
Dimensionalize each benefit

I don’t know who first coined the word “dimensionalize.” I do know that it drives my spell-checker bonkers, so it’s probably not in any dictionary you’ll ever see.

But the word “dimensionalize” does a great job of describing what “A” level copywriters do – the extra mile we travel to make sure each benefit in our copy is as compelling as possible.

When you “dimensionalize” a benefit, you give it added dimension by painting word pictures of all the ways the prospect will enjoy that benefit. You compare that benefit with those offered by others. You add specifics that demonstrate all the ways the benefit will enrich the prospect’s life.

When you’ve finished, your list may look something like this, for example:

Feature: Constructed of carbon steel.

Why: Never wears out.

Benefit: The last drill bit you’ll ever buy.

Dimensionalized Benefit: You can save up to $75 a year in broken drill bits … hours of unnecessary trips to the hardware store … and hundreds of dollars in lost income!

Or in our hypothetical promotion for a dentist, your list might look like this:

Feature: A TV in every exam room.

Why: More comfortable for the patient and time passes more quickly.

Benefit: Your appointment is over before you know it!

Dimensionalized benefit: Great for fidgety kids: The time zips by. In fact, just last week, littlie Jimmy asked if he could stay longer.

The benefit drawn from a feature offered by an investment newsletter might go like this …

Feature: Daily e-zine included with subscription to monthly newsletter.

Why: Stocks move fast; opportunities could be lost without constant updates.

Benefit: You’ll never get caught wondering what to do when major events break!

Dimensionalize: You’ll lock in your profits when the market sags and go for even greater profit potential by getting into each up-move on the ground floor.

Or, if you’re writing for a book on health, your list might look something like this …

Feature: Specific prescription for each age group on each supplement recommended.

Why: To eliminate reader confusion.

Dimensionalize: You’ll always know precisely what you should be taking … how much you should be taking … and even when to take it.

Step #5:
Connect each dimensionalized benefit
with a dominant resident emotion

I’ve already written reams about this – and this issue is already running a bit long, so there’s no need to go into great detail at this time.

The point is simply to identify how your prospect is likely to feel about each of the dimensionalized benefits on your list.

Do NOT stop at listing just one emotion per benefit. Think about how the prospect feels about the lack of this benefit in his or her life now. And about how the prospect will feel as he or she is enjoying that benefit. And about how they’ll feel as others see them doing things better … being healthier … richer … happier.

One last thing: When you’re done, review your inventory and rate each benefit/emotion combination on a scale of one to five.

As you assign each ranking, think about three things:

  1. The relative importance of the improvement each benefit brings to prospects’ lives: A benefit that can prevent cancer would be scored higher than one that merely produces sweeter breath, for example …
  2. The relative number of prospects most likely to covet that particular improvement: More people are likely to have arthritis than cancer …
  3. The relative intensity of the emotion(s) connected to each benefit.

Finally, sort the entire spreadsheet by these rankings in descending order.

When you’re done, you’ll have systematically created a comprehensive inventory of features, benefits and dominant emotions for your product.

Then, USE your inventory to make sure you press every possible hot button as you begin writing your copy – and please, for mercy’s sake – to get real, dimensionalized, emotionalized BENEFITS into your lead copy!

More next time!

Yours for Bigger Winners, More Often,
Clayton Makepeace Signature
Clayton Makepeace
Publisher & Editor
THE TOTAL PACKAGE

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21 Responses to Make your product’s benefits SPARKLE!

  1. Finally, a clear explanation and formula along with examples of how to come up with the benefits based on the features! Thank you! Today, I will look over some copy I’ve created which I know has not been effective and use this methodology. I know it will take a little practice but I can see how I can come up with better copy – some days I’m so happy I turned on my computer!

  2. I’ve read this article before – and printed it up. Bravo! It’s a superb explanation of a not-obvious point element of crafting effect copy.

  3. Susan Jaeger says:

    Clayton,
    Thanks for the detailed benefits of writing a benefits package!

    Even after takinig several copywriting related courses the differentiation between features and benefits was still a vague cloud of generalizations in my mind.

    I’m learning so much from The Total Package. Thank you again for all your help.

  4. Clayton, thank you so much for this insightful post.

    Do you have any examples for the non profit market?

    It’s a little bit harder to come up with since it tugs
    at the heart and not the wallet, but I am working hard
    to give it my best.

    Thanks,

    Lawton

  5. Jeff K says:

    This is a condensed and slightly updated version of Chapter 4 (of 22 total chapters) from Clayton’s Quick-Start Copywriting course. For anyone who hasn’t already bought this course, it’s expensive but invaluable!

    Since it does have some slight updates and some different examples, I’ll be printing this and appending it to my original Chapter 4. Thanks Clayton!

  6. James Early says:

    Clayton,

    This is VERY concise and helpful for me personally and for a new copywriting client as well. It has given me some new insights into how I can change some headlines in sales letter I am working on.

    Thanks,
    James

  7. >> And have you EVER jumped out of a warm bed to holler, “I
    >> gotta flush some deadly toxins out of my colon!”

    Well…there was that nasty chili I had last week…

  8. walter daniels says:

    I have to agree on the “flush those nasty toxins. . .” Many years ago, I had a bad experience with “seasoned fries,” at 3:00 in the morning. They conducted an emergency evacuation of the colon. =8-0
    Last year, Frank Kern had an e-mail about FAB in copy writing. Features are basic, then you talk about how these are an Advantage to the customer. When you have established the Features and Advantages, you point out the Benefits. Leave out any part, and you get a less than FABulous copy. :-)
    Which I think we can all agree is what most copy is.
    It’s almost enough to make me take up copy writing, based on. “I can do better than most of what I see.” I’m too old to start in that, and I’m not passionate enough about it to start.

  9. Manane says:

    Clayton,

    Thanks a million …

    One technique you can use to drill down into more benefits is to keep on asking the question, “So what?” or “Who cares?”

    You’ll reach a point where you can’t answer the objections …

    Try it. It works.

  10. Joe P says:

    Every single fresh post enlightens me, every single re-posts enlightens me further on the nuts and bolts of copywriting and marketing and my career in selling.

    When i started in selling… i was a clueless wanderers, after reading your materials and that of gary bencivenga’s bullets, i have come to a point where i out-sell nearly all of my collegue put togather.

    I have never referred my work collegues to these two sites and probably i shall never will until i retire.

    Thanks for the deep-pocket insights into what makes people buy.

    Regards
    Joe Pulikkottil

  11. Oh, by the way, in your spare time do you think you could run for (and win) President of the United States. You’re our last best hope. sn

  12. Rezbi says:

    I just copied and pasted this into a word document.

    Each time I see a new article by Clayton I think, “That’s the best darned article I’ve ever seen.”

  13. Clayton-

    This post was pointed out on the Warrior Forum. I recently completed John Carlton’s Simple Copywriting System. It was great training…. Thanks so much for these golden nuggets of truth.

    You’ve empowered me to step up my game up.

    Cheers,
    Ramon

  14. Paul Hancox says:

    Wow, this is an EPIC post and pure gold as usual. I just thought I’d add to the well-deserved love fest.

    Thanks, Clayton. You really know how to write ‘em.

  15. Marc says:

    Alas. Once again Saint Clayton of Makepeace shows us the way. If someone can’t write serviceable copy using this easy-to-follow template … well then, maybe they should consider a career in plumbing. Or politics. Oh, wait. Both those gigs deal with the same stuff, don’t they?

    Never mind.

  16. Pingback: How to Create Marketing That Makes You Rich and Famous (Hint: Being Unique Is No Longer Enough)

  17. Manane says:

    Take two …

    About Web copy (and offline too).

    “Conversion isn’t really the biggest problem facing online marketers; PERSUASION (emphasis added) is.” Bryan and Jeffrey Eisenberg(authors), Lisa T. Davis(contributor) in “Call to Action: Secret Formulas to Improve Online Results.”

    What am I talking about here? What Clayton is alluding to, to my mind, is that your headline (and the following content) should be PERSUASIVE, as the above quotation says. Otherwise your efforts will be for naught ….

    Clayton has said it over and over again that internet marketers are only realizing 1 part in 100,000, if not more, of their potential. Simply because they undermine the central role that copy plays. As the late Johny Cochran once said; “If it does not fit, don’t convict.” In other words, if it (copy) doesn’t fit (persuade), it won’t convict (convert into sales).

    Thanks again, Clayton, for yet another riveting post.

  18. julius says:

    I don’t want to say it, but I feel like you should be charging for this information. Please don’t.

  19. JD Maher says:

    Clayton, your posts are always good info, but every month or two you post an absolute mind-blowing goldmine! THIS IS ONE SUCH POST!!! Thank you! Thank you!

  20. Pingback: “Make your product’s benefits SPARKLE!” by Clayton Makepeace » Copywriters Clearinghouse - Articles

  21. Fantastic post. Personally, I have been studying natural gas stokcs for a while now and I see tons of profit potential over the next decade or so. Natural gas is about 10x cheaper than right now, however analysts are predicting that by 2016 we’ll begin to see natural gas prices jump due to increased demand. Ive also been watching much smaller energy companies too like Alon U.S. Energy Partners, whose stock recently soared 56% in a two week period.

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