Understanding Feature, Benefit, & Sales-Based Copy: Writing Stellar Website Copy, Parts 4–6
This article is an excerpt from “The 8-Part Guide To Writing Stellar Website Copy”—you can download the full guide here. (It’s free!)
Confession: Even though I’ve written a lot of website copy, I still have to revisit the differences between “features” and “benefits” every time I sit down to do a new set. I don’t think I’m alone—search “features vs. benefits,” and you’ll get about 7 million results!
So, why is it important? Because understanding the difference between these two kinds of statements is the difference between connecting with your persona or not. Below, we’ve described feature copy and benefit copy as well as outlined a number of helpful tips and tricks to help you differentiate between the two.
A benefit describes how the customer or client should feel—or how their life will be different—after using your product or service. Benefit copy is more about an actual change or feeling the persona will experience, whereas feature copy discusses the functionality of your product or service.
Example: “Take back 20 hours a month” is a benefit; it’s something you derive from a product or service. “Project management analysis” is a feature; it’s a function of the product or service.
Here are two things to remember while writing benefit copy:
1. A benefit should cheer the persona on.
If you’re a human resources software company, one of your customer’s biggest pain points might be dealing with the frustration that is HR! You need to identify this pain point, and then cheer your personas on.
- Good example: “Take 10 hours of your life back each week.” That is a wonderful feeling for your persona! Who doesn’t want to save precious hours of their work week?
- Bad example: “We’re going to handle payroll for you and make sure you don’t get sued.” Womp womp. Your persona expects this from your software, but isn’t going to be excited by it.
2. A benefit should speak directly to the persona.
Those personas you worked so hard to figure out? Keep them in mind! Don’t get halfway through your copy and forget your focus. You should approach benefit copy with a “here’s what’s in it for you” attitude.
- Don’t speak in generalities. Instead of saying, “Our customers feel wonderful,” you’ll want to say (in so many words), “You’ll feel wonderful! You deserve this!”
- Demonstrate how the product or service will directly impact the persona. There are very few of us who have greater motives outside of how a product or service impacts us personally. We want something that will appeal to our company and suit their needs, but will first and foremost suit our individual needs. Example: If you’re writing about technology an engineer will use for her company, speak directly to her. Express how this technology will make her look really good when she presents a new prototype to her committee.
Here’s one example from one of our clients’ homepages that does both of these things well.
A feature is something the client will have through the use of your product or service. If a customer asks the question, “How will this be done using your product?” a feature (or multiple features) will be the answer.
Example: “Export your data” is a feature. A data export is something you can do with a piece of software, not a benefit of using that software. “Share your reports in any format you choose” is a benefit. It’s an advantage given to the user of this product.
Here are two things to remember while writing feature copy:
1. Follow your benefit statements with features.
Set up your copy by first writing a benefit statement. Then follow it by a sentence (or some bullet points) that explain the features that go hand-in-hand with that benefit. Take a look at the following example:
The headline is a benefit—it’s advantageous to know if you’re spending money in the right places! The subheadline echoes the benefit, and then proceeds into some bullet points that describe the features of the product that lead to that particular benefit.
2. Know your audience—and know them well.
This makes a huge impact on how many specific features you should tout.
If your company is very spec- or numbers-oriented—say, you manufacture radio hardware—your persona going to need to know every product feature and detail.
If your company is service-based, you may not need to include so many detailed feature specifications. Again, this all comes down to knowing your buyer personas.
This recommends some steps on how to get from features and specifications to benefits—and is worth the read.
“Wait—isn’t all website copy ‘sales-based’?”
If this was your first reaction, you’re in good company. This argument can certainly be made, in that website copy is meant to lead a persona down the sales funnel.
But today, we’re talking specifically about writing product or service pages with a direct call-to-action to purchase something—not just take another step toward becoming a sales- or marketing-qualified lead. This kind of web page is meant for immediate conversion.
With that in mind, we suggest the following practices:
- Condense the formatting. Sales-based copy takes into account all other best practices for website copy writing, but presents it in a more concise way.
- Don’t forget the specifics. You’ll need to demonstrate the benefits, but will have to list all of the major features of the product or service as well. Your persona still wants to know what’s in it for them, but before they’ll convert, they need to ensure that this “thing” will really work well in its intended role. The features should be short and informative.
- Look at page organization. Organize the page in this order:
- The challenges the persona is facing.
- The solution you’re offering.
- The benefits of using the solution.
- The features of the solution.
- Default to “you” instead of “we” or “us.” Don’t say, “We built this”—say, “You’re facing this challenge, and this is the solution.”
Download Now: The 8-Part Guide To Writing Stellar Website Copy
Writing website copy is tough. And unfortunately, there’s no single formula you can use to guarantee great results. But there are a number of best practices you can put into place to ensure that your ideal customer is nodding their head, eager to keep reading.
Understanding and knowing how to write (and differentiate between) feature copy, benefit copy, and sales-based copy are just three of eight critical best practices for writing great web copy. Want to see them all? Download the free guide below—it will help you hone in on what’s important so you can write copy (for any industry) that gets results.