Features vs. Benefits: “What’s In It for Me?”

As a person with money to spend, your customer only cares about one thing when we boil down the decision to make a purchase of any kind:

“What’s in it for me?”

So when you write an ad for your business (or when you approve one that someone else writes for you), that’s the question you should answer in your copy. If your ad doesn’t address that question, then your customer doesn’t hear your ad, because she doesn’t need to listen. Show the Benefit, and you give her a reason to pay attention.

So how do you get customers to listen? What words should you use? Make your copy customer-centric. Focus your message on them, not you. When you talk about what you have, that’s a Feature. When you talk about what your customer gets when they do business with you, that’s a Benefit. Imagine that with every sentence of copy someone hears when listening to your ad, they’re thinking that question above: “So what? What’s in it for me?”

Let’s look at some examples of Feature-based copy:

A car dealer’s ad might say: “We carry all makes and models.”

An ad for a lawyer might say: “We have over 50 years combined experience.”

A restaurant might tell you: “We boast a delectable array of pastas and salads, with 600 different dressings and sauces.”

You’ll notice a lot of “we have” phrasing in those examples. Now, put our customer’s question, “What’s in it for me?” before any of those phrases, and you’ll see that those copy points don’t adequately address what’s in it for the customer. Yes, Benefits are implied by those points, but by not making the copy about the customer – by not clearly illustrating the benefit – an implication is about as close as you’ll get to a sale. That is, if you’ve even managed to hold the viewer/listener’s attention throughout the spot. Instead, we can make the copy about the customer:

Instead of, “We carry all makes and models,” the car dealer might try something like, “You’ll find the exact car you’ve been dreaming about.” Ooh, really? I’ll find the car of my dreams? Sweet!

Instead of, “We have over 50 years combined experience,” maybe the lawyer says something like, “You can relax knowing our attorneys have won millions in settlements for people just like you.” I can relax? And you’ve gotten millions for people like me? Excellent. I’m interested!

And our restaurant could take their Feature of a huge menu, and turn it into a Benefit by saying, “You could eat here every day for three years, and never have the same meal twice.”

These are just very basic examples of how to turn Feature-based copy that’s about us, into Benefit-based copy that’s about you, and fulfilling a need, and that ever-important consumer question, “What’s in it for me?” If you can answer that question successfully in your ads, you’ll be that much closer to turning that prospect into a customer.

Photo: Danny McL

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