What to write when features are objectives

Especially in business messages aimed at employees and/or suppliers, there aren’t any features at all to help persuade them to buy into your objectives – at least nothing as easy to identify as an “AL-alloy metal frame with HK-147 PVC compound, polyurethane seat and back rest,” for example.

What to write when features are objectives

We can show the competition how the job really should be done…

Objectives: features that can be persuasive benefits

[Read more…]

How to make benefits your best friends in business writing – 10 Quick Tips

Everyone in business knows – or should know – that benefits are what customers and prospects are interested in when it comes to what you have to sell.

How to make benefits your best friends in business writing - 10 Quick Tips

What if there are so many features that it’s hard to translate them into benefits?

But all too often businesses get stuck on the features of their products and services, without relating them to what’s in them for the customer. Result? Poor  results.

[Read more…]

Do you know what you’re REALLY selling before you write about it?

really selling,writing,Tsufit,blogging,writing

They know what they’re selling–sex.

Heaven forbid that I should harp on about the old features and benefits  number again, but something I read in my fellow Canadian, Toronto-based **Tsufit’s latest email has made me take a look at this issue in a different way. [Read more…]

How do I write benefits into features that aren’t features?

How do I write benefits into features that aren't features?In many types of business message there aren’t any features at all – at least nothing as easy to identify as an “AL-alloy metal frame with HK-147 PVC compound, polyurethane seat and back rest,” for example.

What you do have, though, are objectives. And even those are intangible, to all intents and purposes we can treat those as features, so we can then make the conversion from feature/objective (what something is) to benefit (what it does for you) just as we can when the feature is as tangible as an AL-alloy frame.

Take a look down this list. In it I have identified a range of features/objectives which most of us are obliged to make into messages at some time or another, and I’ve then supplied some benefits – or at least one key sample benefit – to go with each. The feature/objective is in bold with suggested benefit/benefits underneath…

Inform
Increase your knowledge
Make sure you’re up to speed
Give you the edge over our competitor

Sell them a new concept or process
If we adopt this, your job will be easier and smoother to run
You’ll never have to waste time doing tedious (whatever) again
Your job is safe: any redundancies will be covered by natural wastage

Train
Improve their skills and abilities so you are better at what you do
Gain useful transferable skills to further your career
Help you get the best from your job now

Rebuke
Be aware of how serious such a problem can be
Learn from the experience so you’ll see it coming next time
Improve your problem-solving skills

Complain
Help you be instantly aware of a problem
Helps you to raise the standard of your performance and that of our team
Means you’ll give even better service next time

Entertain
Welcome chance to relax and have fun at company’s expense
Opportunity to get to know your colleagues better
Developing work friendships helps your team work more cheerfully and effectively

Calm
Despite these being troubled times we are secure here in this company
Your job is safe
You’ll be relieved to hear that (whatever)

Sympathize
You know that we understand how difficult the business is right now
Your extra efforts are deeply appreciated by management
Thank you for your loyalty – that matters so much to everyone

Reassure
The company is safe and so is your job
You can check for yourself by reading the current company accounts
We have big plans for the future and we want you to share them with us

Energize
Our new orders mean we’re going to be busy – great news for us all
Hope you’re feeling good as we’ve got a lot to do this week
When this rush is over, we’ll all get together for a beer and a breather

Motivate
If we keep going at this rate there will be good bonuses for everyone this year
We can show the competition how the job really should be done
Anyone else is doing the job, but we are all true professionals

Uplift
You are one of our key people and your contribution is critical
Our customers truly appreciate you and your service – read these testimonials
You can be proud of our team – and of yourself

And so-on. My examples may be well off-beam for what you need in your particular business or organization, but at least they will get you thinking in the right way.

So when you need to write the benefits for “you” in features which are intangible objectives, don’t panic … just check out this list!

Now, write yourself some benefits from all  your writing:

“How To Write About Yourself”…how to make the most of yourself, whatever you need to write

“Business Writing Made Easy…everything you need to know about writing for business in English

“Banana Skin Words and how not to slip on them”…over 1,500 spelling and grammar tips to perfect your written English

 

photo credit: Mara ~earth light~ via photo pin cc

Marketing writing: why features smell and benefits sell

Time and time again I look through all my posts here on HTWB and see references to the old “features and benefits” issue in marketing and commercial business writing. But still, people ask me what I mean, how it works, why it matters, etc.

A long time ago in one of my earlier books, articles, blog posts et al about marketing writing (and in subsequent ones) I came up with this rather clumsy phrase which despite it containing a rhyme – surprisingly – many people have taken up with a smile and much gusto:

FEATURES SMELL. BENEFITS SELL

Why is this so relevant when it comes to writing for marketing or even other, less sales-focused business writing?

Because it’s true (OK, metaphorically.)

In many ways I feel guilty even posting about this topic on here when the “features versus benefits” issue has been wallowing around in marketing and advertising circles for not only years, not only decades, not only generations, but probably not short of centuries now, too.

But still, there are some people who don’t understand the difference. And many of these are people who are trying to market products and services into an increasingly complex and, indeed, overworked marketplace in which folks are so bloody tired of hearing about features, they just want to scream. Why?

FEATURES ARE WHAT A PRODUCT OR SERVICE IS.

BENEFITS ARE WHAT IT DOES FOR YOU, THE PURCHASER.

BENEFITS SELL IT. FEATURES ON THEIR OWN DO NOT.

Easy. Yet why are so many marketing exercises blighted by the features virus, when it ain’t so hard to turn a feature into a benefit which actually does stand a cat’s chance in hell of selling your product or service fairly and squarely?

Here’s how to do it

I’ll go back to a pretty basic example, once again extracted from one of my earlier books (I don’t do complicated, OK?) Here we’re talking about a garden chair:

Feature: AL-alloy metal frame with HK-147 PVC compound, polyurethane seat and back rest

Benefit: You can relax in comfort knowing that its sturdy frame and durable seat back are not only comfortable, but also that they’ll last for many years

Feature: Fade-proof coating withstands sun and heat up to 35°C constant for 72 hours. Factory tested for efficacy

Benefit: Looks good for years to come even in strong sun and sizzling summer temperatures, thanks to fade-proof, factory-tested coating

Feature: Delivered in flat pack with full assembly instructions. Pack suitable for long-term storage prior to assembly.

Benefit: Arrives in convenient pack for you to store for the winter… then assemble in minutes, ready for spring!

But what if features are objectives, not nuts and bolts?

No problem. You simply apply the same criteria to the objectives as if they were nuts and bolts: what’s in it for the recipient? Some examples…

If you want to inform people (feature), their benefit is that they increase their own knowledge resource.

If you want to train people (feature), their benefit is that is improves their skills and abilities to do their jobs better and gain skills which will be useful for them in their future.

If you need to rebuke people (feature), their benefit is to understand that no-one’s perfect but you can learn to overcome a problem and so be better at your job.

If you want to entertain people (feature), their benefit is to feel appreciated and valued.

If you want to energize/motivate people (feature), their benefit is to see why it’s worth their while to go the extra mile and be recognized for it.

And how does this fit in with current 21st century “marketing think?”

Answer: it fits right in there so tight it can’t even squeak. Just as it always has where marketing and – let’s face – a great deal more in the way of business communication is concerned. No matter how much old advertising and branding strategies have been dissolved by the here, now, up-your-nose (and very welcome) nature of online marketing in particular, the old features versus benefits issue hasn’t changed one tiny jot.

So if you need to write for marketing or even more general purposes, remember my clumsy little mnemonic

FEATURES SMELL. BENEFITS SELL.

Make sure your marketing writing sells, not smells:

“Super Speeches”…how to write and deliver them well

“How To Write About Yourself”…how to make the most of yourself, whatever you need to write

“Business Writing Made Easy”…everything you need to know about writing for business in English

Marketing writing: the benefit of the benefits

Often within a marketing mission you’ll be dealing with what appears to be dozens of features which turn into at least several benefits. Usually that is an illusion, because even an apparently unrelated selection of benefits will probably have a common denominator, and it’s the common denominator that’s going to get – and retain – your audience’s attention, not a shopping list of different, lesser benefits.

I once wrote a series of videos for a large chain of real estate agencies which offered numerous attractive features that its competitors couldn’t match. The problem was how to focus those features into benefits, and then into one useful message.

Each of those features was translatable into a benefit in its own right (well trained staff = people who know how to give you the service you want … online mortgage calculator = find out in seconds how much you can borrow … interactive website offering virtual home viewings = potential buyers can log on and tour your home, so you don’t have an endless stream of strangers schlepping around it … etc.)

However, expressing it all that way would not have worked. Lots of benefits amount to just that – lots of benefits – which have a way of diluting each others’ impact.

Look for the umbrella benefit

One key “umbrella” benefit, though, not only gets attention – it also provides a central focus for what your mission and your message are all about.

And in many cases, that represents what the advertising world calls the “USP” – Unique Selling Proposition. The key “umbrella” benefit is what makes your message worth paying attention to – “what’s in it for them.”

In the case of the real estate agency chain, it was the fact that because of all these wonderful features/benefits, they took the stress out of selling your home.

Under the “umbrella” benefit, then, the other, smaller benefits serve to substantiate and support it. And that’s OK. What isn’t OK is when you find that someone has sneaked in and added stuff which has little or nothing to do with the main issue.

What if there are no obvious reader benefits?

Sometimes of course, there are no obvious key benefits for the recipient of the message, e.g. “I need more money to finance my business and I want to borrow it from you.” Here you need to look a bit harder, but usually it’s still possible to drum up something. If you use “Request for further finance” as the subject heading in a letter or e-mail to the finance company then it’s clear there is absolutely nothing in it for them, so you’d better be a good customer and regular payer to stand a chance.

However, what about “Capital required to launch sought-after new product” … or even a play on the heartstrings with “Request for further funding to secure company’s future and employees’ jobs.” Both of those offer the reader something, at least, which is always better than nothing at all.

For example…

Let’s say you need to write an article about your product for a newsletter that goes out to retailer managers who sell your product and others’. Remember, your basic premise is to increase their product knowledge but your key – if subliminal – objective is to increase their enthusiasm for your product rather than your competitors’.

Here’s how to bring out the benefits in relation to the retail managers’ needs:

1. They’re busy and don’t get a lot of time to read. So you need to make your article very crisp, short, sharp and to the point. Whatever you do don’t waffle or you’ll lose them. Respect their time pressures and use this angle in your article. Stress how your product’s ease of demonstration saves counter staff’s time. Point out your streamlined re-ordering facility that just takes one click on the website. And so-on.

2. Their key role in life is to please their customers. So don’t write about your product as if your reader is going to use it. Remember your reader is only going to sell it. By all means tell them how well the product will perform for their customers, but relate that to how pleased their customers will be to have bought it from them. Talk about your product/brand loyalty schemes and how they keep bringing the customer back to their stores. Talk about your direct mail customer follow-ups that mention the retailer concerned. Etc.

3. They’re not the only ones who will sell your product. They are likely to have employees to whom they will need to pass on this information. So keep it simple and stress the ease of demonstration, key points for store employees to point out, etc.

4. They like to go home before midnight. This is related to the time issue, of course, but also means they will dislike products that require a lot of administration, special storage, inconvenient delivery times, etc. So it’s worth underlining the convenience of your company’s way of doing business, as well as the product itself.

5. They are decision makers in terms of how much, but not if. This assumes your product is on their company’s approved list – which for this example we assume it is. So your objective is to encourage larger orders at the same time as a larger volume of sales. Here it would be useful to talk about the high-impact advertising and PR campaigns you’re running to drive customers into their stores.

Easy. Just remember, no-one is going to care how wonderful your product’s or service’s features are until they know its benefits … what’s in it for them.

More benefits for your marketing writing:

“How To Write About Yourself”…how to make the most of yourself, whatever you need to write

“Business Writing Made Easy”…everything you need to know about writing for business in English

“Banana Skin Words and how not to slip on them”…over 1,500 spelling and grammar tips to perfect your written English

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