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




  1. […] where are the benefits? And is all that detail […]

  2. says:

    Marketing writing: the benefit of benefits…

    Often within a marketing mission you’ll be dealing with numerous features which become several benefits.Here’s how to distill those into a single, powerful, marketing message….