The Second Most Widely Committed Sin In Advertising

by Steven Weisenburger

Failure to "sell the benefits" is the second most widely committed sin in advertising. Almost everyone focuses on the features of their product or service, rather than the benefits. And it’s the benefit that give your prospect the reason to buy.

What's the difference? Simple. Features are what you like about your product. Benefits are what your customer likes about your product.

Another way to say this is that a feature is “attached” to your product. It exists as part of or an attribute of the product, regardless of whether the product is ever sold, or used by a customer. Example, “The car is red”.

A benefit, on the other hand, is “attached” to the customer. It is not inherent in the product, it is inherent in people. It is the result of the product’s use by somebody. A benefit doesn’t “happen,” then, until somebody takes the product or service home and uses it. Example, “I look sexy, in my new red car.”

Can you tell the difference between a feature & benefit? Here's a quiz.

• "push-button controls," is a… ______________.

• "ease of use," is a… ______________.

• "21 Investment strategies," is a… ______________.

• "get rich 21 ways," is a… ______________.

• " wool suit coat," is a ... ______________.

• " the suit is warm," is a... ______________.

WIIFM (What’s In It For Me)

That’s what benefits are all about. Customers always want to know “What’s in it for me?” Why should I do business with you?” “What do I get out of this deal?” A feature simply does not answer this question for your customer.

So as you develop your advertising, you should always be thinking, “What’s in it for you, dear prospect?”

People buy to satisfy their needs. They may not always be cognizant of their needs, but needs motivate their buying behaviors just the same. Their need may be pleasure-based (I want that) or pain-based (I want to avoid that). Either way their needs drive their buying choices.

Ultimately, you’ve got to be able to trace your advertising statements back through the advertising motivation to the need it fulfills. Even though the prospect may not be able to do this, you must. That’s because you must understand what it is about your advertising or marketing copy that will compel your prospect to buy.

If you don’t understand these things, your marketing efforts will always be hit and miss. That’s okay when you’re testing everything, but it makes the testing process longer and more expensive. When you understand the buyer’s motivations and can write copy that appeals to those motivations, you can come up with the right combinations more quickly and you are more likely to hit winners faster.

The five basic needs are...
  1. Survival -- We have a basic need to survive. We need food, shelter, clothing, transportation and a job. Once these things are covered, our need to survive takes a back seat to the other needs. But it is, none the less, always there. We may be motivated by security issues that are related to survival. And, of course, if ever our life or health is threatened, by either outside forces or illness, our need to survive quickly rises back to the top of the list.
  2. To love and to be loved -- Not a lot of explanation needed on this one. As you know, both men and women have attempted to move heaven and earth; they have done things they would never have considered doing, if not for the motivation to love and be loved. Love is perhaps the strongest of all human needs, and it can have an incredible impact on our buying decisions.
  3. To feel important -- Akin to our need for love is our need to feel important. Why do you think golfers try to get better at the game. (No, it’s not just to save money on lost golf balls.) It’s because they want the admiration of their golfing buddies, or at least they want to avoid being joked about by their golfing buddies. This need to feel important is close in weight to the need to be loved for most people. Indeed, many people value respect above love. This is a huge human need that demands fulfillment and motivates many buying decisions.
  4. Variety -- True, we are creatures of habit, but we don’t like thinking of ourselves that way, or having others think of us that way. That’s why “variety is the spice of life.” It really is. It is reflected in our tastes and our choices, the clothes we wear, the things we do, our likes and dislikes. Our need to be different motivates our buying decisions.
  5. The LAZ Factor -- We all want our lives to be easier. We don’t want hassle, trouble or even inconvenience. Especially given the fast pace of today’s society, we’re all looking for ways to simplify our lives. This isn’t bad. We may be lazy, but the LAZ Factor is responsible for every technological advance ever invented. And while not all of them worked out the way originally envisioned, making life easier is the aim. It is particularly important in the fast-paced lives we live today. Make life easier or more simple for your prospects, and they’ll buy what you have to offer.

Benefits can be stated in either Pleasure or Pain contexts.

• "Take strokes off your game"(2 &/or 3)

• "Never again be the target of everybody's golf humor" (2 or 3)

Don’t hesitate to use the pain context in your feature/benefit statements. Many times people will act more quickly to avoid a negative than to acquire a positive.

Features are statements of product attributes. They may be seen as desirable only if they are connected to a benefit, either by the ad or the customer himself.
  • "This car has a 2.3 liter engine" (Pure feature.)
  • "This car's 2.3 liter engine is the most powerful in its class" (This is a typical attempt to put a feature in benefit language.)
  • "Feel the exhilaration of acceleration behind the class's most powerful 2.3 liter engine"(Appeals first to the need (4) then backs the promise up with the feature.)
  • "Feel like the 'King of the Road' behind a 2.3 liter powerhouse that leads the class" (Appeals to more than one need --3 &4, maybe even 1 & 2.)

Benefits vs. Compelling Benefits;
Features vs. Compelling Features

There are all kinds of features and benefits. But the ones that count are the compelling features and benefits -- the ones that make people want to buy.

Not all benefits will motivate the prospect to make a decision now. Not that all benefits don’t contribute to that decision, but in most cases, there is one, or several key benefits that touch the primary buying motivation, and several others that may act to “seal the deal.”

Features work the same way. Some are “big deal” features. Others may be nice “icing on the cake” things that people like and that help them take the final steps toward deciding to buy.

Your job is to determine which are the compelling features and benefits and focus your attention on them, without ignoring the less compelling features and benefits.

Remember, people buy with their hearts, they buy with their guts -- those are the benefits. But once they make the emotional decision, they need the features to justify the decision with their heads.

Develop a list of all the features of your product or service, then develop a list of all the benefits.

As you develop your feature and benefit lists, you will find that you can immediately think of a few of each. Those are the easy ones, but they may not be the most compelling. Once you get past the easy list, begin to dig. Look at the details. Really search for what’s important about your product or service. This is worth the time investment because it will enable you to write more powerful advertising and marketing materials.

Be exhaustive with these lists. Think of all the features and benefits you can.

There are three ways to generate your feature and benefits lists.
  1. Simply brainstorm all the features and benefits you can think of
  2. Think of a single feature and then think of all the benefits it might generate
  3. Think of a single benefit and then think of all the features that cause that result

Combine your features and benefits into powerful advertising statements

Once you have a comprehensive list of features and benefits. (And every feature should be linked with at least one benefit.) The next step is to combine features and benefits into advertising statements.

Your tendency will probably be to write the feature and then tell what the feature does for the prospect… the benefit. That’s fine for your first draft. But then take many of those feature/benefit statements and reverse them, so the benefit leads off, followed by the feature that delivers it.

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Finally, list your advertising statements in as compelling language as possible. It’s one thing to talk about ease of use, but it’s far more compelling to say “turns on a dime with no loss of suction!”


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