A Simple Trick to Turn Features Into Benefits (and Seduce Readers to Buy!)

Henrietta in front of bikeshopYou love what you’re doing, don’t you?

When you talk about your business, you have a sparkle in your eye.

You love sharing your knowledge. And your enthusiasm is contagious. That’s what your friends and clients tell you.

But are knowledge and enthusiasm enough to sell your products or services?

Imagine you haven’t cycled for years

And you really don’t know much about bikes.

But you want to get fit again, and biking seems fun.

You go to your local bike store and tell the super-sporty-looking shop assistant you’re looking for a bicycle to tour around the area. Leisurely.

He tells you full of enthusiasm a hybrid would be ideal and shows you a few popular models. This one has 24 gears and it has cantilever brakes. That one has a Shimano drivetrain and disc brakes. And here’s a model currently on offer – it has an aluminum frame and hydraulic disc brakes.

Huh?

You have no idea what the guy is talking about. He makes you feel stupid. You feel like running home and giving up your plan about getting fit again.

Sounds strange?

It happens all the time on websites.

Websites are full of features, specifications, and technical details. But quite often they forget to tell readers what’s in it for them.

What’s your website like? Full of features? Or are you telling your readers what these features mean for them?

Use the So What? trick to evaluate your website

Features are facts about your products or service. Benefits are what your product does for your readers.

Imagine you’re selling an oven. One of its special features is a fast preheat system. Fast pre-heating is a feature, because it’s a fact about the oven – it explains what the oven does.

To define a benefit you ask yourself So what?

The oven preheats quickly.
So what?
It’s quickly ready to start cooking your lasagna.
So what?
Your food is on the table sooner.
So what?
Life is less stressful. There’s less hanging around the kitchen waiting for the oven to get ready. And you don’t have to worry you might forget to preheat your oven.

The So what? trick works in any industry:

  • Our doors have strong hinges. So what? They won’t bend when the door is slammed shut a thousand times.
  • We monitor your servers. So what? Your servers won’t go down, so you and your staff can continue working.
  • I write high-converting web copy. So what? You can convert more web visitors into leads and business.

Read through your website and ask for each statement So what? Keep asking So what? to find real benefits.

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Real benefits connect to your customer’s desires, such as saving time; reducing costs; making more money; becoming happier, healthier, more relaxed, or more productive.

Let’s say you design beautiful kitchens. You can answer So what? in different ways:

  • You’ll have a kitchen where you can relax and feel at home.
  • You’ll enjoy your cooking more.
  • You can impress your neighbors with the latest kitchen gadgets.

What do your clients really want to achieve? What are they dreaming of?

You can only sell with real benefits if you know what your audience wishes, desires, and secretly dreams of.

Features and benefits are boring

Let’s go back to the local bike store.

The super-sporty-looking guy is now explaining both features and benefits of the bike on offer: These brakes are good, so even in the rain they brake well. The bike has 24 gears, so whether you go uphill, downhill, or cycling on a flat surface you’ll be able to find the right gear. The ergonomic saddle remains comfortable even after a couple of hours of cycling.

You now get what each feature means, and his pitch is far more persuasive than when he was simply rattling off features. But, while the sales guy keeps talking about everything that’s so good about the bike, the brand, the warranty and so on, your mind is slowly wandering off.

An abundance of positive information is rather monotonous and dull. It lulls readers to sleep. To keep your reader’s attention, you need to introduce a problem now and then.

People want to avoid problems and glitches. They don’t want to get any hassle.

So rather than be positive all the time, you introduce a problem, and you immediately draw your reader’s attention.

Almost any feature can be translated into a problem you help avoid:

  • These disc brakes won’t slip when they get muddy.
  • The bike has 24 gears, so you don’t have to worry about struggling uphill – you can use the lowest gear.
  • The saddle is comfy, so you won’t get a sore butt after cycling 20 or 30 miles.

Should you mention a straightforward benefit or the avoidance of a problem? That depends on your reader. What interests her more — gaining a benefit or avoiding hassle? If you’re not sure, ask your customers or test different web copy.

How to describe features and benefits on your website

Your readers are in a hurry as they still need to write a blog post, catch up with the latest news, and cook dinner for tonight.

You have to grab their attention quickly while their cursor is hovering over the back button.

  • Highlight a key benefit (or problem you avoid) in your headline or subhead
  • Use bullet points to list a series of features and benefits, because they’re easy to scan; mention the most important points first
  • Avoid technical language your reader doesn’t understand

How to seduce your web visitors

Your biggest asset as business owner is empathy.

Sneak into your client’s minds.

Learn what they secretly dream of. Understand how you can fulfill their wishes and desires. And how you can help them avoid trouble and hassle.

When you connect your know-how and enthusiasm to your client’s desires, the magic happens. Your business will grow. You can increase your fees. You can drop difficult clients. And have more fun.

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Comments

  1. Wow. Perfect timing Henneke. I’ve been on the struggle bus trying to understand the features versus benefits concept. You have made it crystal clear. Off to check my website and begin my blog. Thanks for the timely inspiration.
    Kelly Beischel recently posted…Moving from Overwhelm to Action by Reframing Your ThoughtsMy Profile

    • Henneke says:

      I don’t want you riding on the struggle bus, Kelly :)

      Let me know if there’s anything else I can help you with?

  2. Thank you so much for this enchanting and enlightening article! I´m about to start a blog on my just launched plus size clothing web site. Your advice is really excellent! By far the best of what I´m reading about writing for the web everywhere else.
    Warmest regards from France,
    Beata Debarge

  3. Selling benefits, not features, is the Number 1 rule of good direct response marketing. (“Sell the sizzle not the sausage”). And I love your “So what” question as a way of identifying the benefits.

  4. Jeannette says:

    Thank you Henneke for sharing your easy to read and informative blog post. It makes a lot of sense as at the end of the day your customers don’t care about you, they care about ‘what’s in it for them’ (WIFM)…well written – thanks

    • Henneke says:

      Yep, that’s the harsh truth – customers only care about themselves.

      Thank you for stopping by, Jeannette. How’s your website progressing?

  5. Jack Price says:

    I see you practice what you preach by describing the benefits of the So What technique, from headline to closing paragraph. Nicely said. Nicely done.

  6. Rosanne says:

    Thanks for making this concept so easy to understand, sometimes its too easy just to keep writing your blog from your own technical point of view and forget the customer needs to be pointed to the benefits.

    • Henneke says:

      Yes, the concept is easy, but it can be hard to implement sometimes. I remember writing a me-focused rather than reader-focused email one time. The click-through rate immediately plummeted. That was a good reminder :)

  7. Katharine says:

    Hello, Hennecke!
    What a helpful post! Thanks so much.
    As a retired home-schooling mom, I’ve been trying to sell the WRONG thing on my site: the sausage and not the sizzle. I’ve been trying to sell people their own homes and their own children, instead of the benefits of being there with them–nothing but a long list of “ought-to’s”. And my ideal customer secretly wishes someone would sell them the benefits. This explains a LOT!
    I think the entry into my brain is a long, crooked tunnel, like a maze attached to an igloo, but you finally got through!
    I hope…
    Thanks! I may need a booster shot by tonight, but right now, I get it! Thanks! :)

  8. Caroline J says:

    I’ve used the ‘So What’ trick for a long time…25 years in fact. But you know what? Sometimes when you come online you forget all that (off-line) good stuff so thanks for the reminder.

    Or perhaps it’s just that the old memory chip is getting a bit worn out – that or my age ;)
    Caroline J recently posted…How Do I Create More Professional Images For My Business?My Profile

    • Henneke says:

      Yes, a lot of offline stuff is still applicable online. People’s needs and desires have remained surprisingly unchanged. It’s easy to forget that.

  9. Nanda says:

    Thanks. Now I am going back to my site and edit… :-)
    Your writing reminds me of this quote ,”The writing is for children and the words are for men”. Forgot where I read this.

  10. Randall says:

    Now this I can understand.

    A lot of sites write about value positions, and benefits.

    Leaving you with no idea, how to figure out what the benefits are.

  11. I just taped a piece of paper with the words “so what?” onto my monitor so this concept is front and center when I’m writing product descriptions.
    Carole recently posted…Comment on Vintage Rocker by DianneMy Profile

  12. Great post. I had learned that technique a long time ago, but it is a great reminder and I absolutely love the examples you used.
    Stephanie Calahan recently posted…How to Make Sure You Reach Your GoalsMy Profile

    • Henneke says:

      Thank you, Stephanie. Coming up with fun examples is one of the most interesting parts of writing (and reading!) tutorials. :)

  13. John says:

    I was wondering why my Blog signups are on the ‘strugglebus’. Maybe it’s because they don’t feel like champions. My whole premise is that they *are* champions. I flatter them too much perhaps. Should I make them feel uncomfortable? Should I be reminding them more of their challenges?

    Henneke, your cartoon is *so* good! The store is not ‘The Recreational Exercise Outlet For Users of Two Wheeled Vehicles”, it’s “John’s Bike Shop”. The features and benefits of the bicycle seat are not described in boring detail. The pain of not buying a new seat is clearly slapped at the reader. Who wants to continue living with a sore butt? I have so much to learn… Yes, I’ve heard it all before. I listen but I don’t practise!!

    • Henneke says:

      You promise people the “five success secrets of champions” when they sign up – this may arouse curiosity, but the incentive to sign up would be much stronger if you could be more specific about how subscribers will benefit from these secrets. Will they become more productive or more relaxed? What will they learn from your report? How do you make them feel better?

  14. daphne says:

    love this. simple. clear. and very, very valuable. thank you!
    daphne recently posted…Making $ as an entrepreneur: when is enough, enough?My Profile

  15. Blake says:

    I’ve heard that people care about benefits more than features, but sometimes when you are in the thick of it, it’s hard to tell the difference. I love the “so what?” question, that seems like it will force you to the most simple benefit as long as you keep asking it!
    Blake recently posted…Customer Avatar Creation: The Complete GuideMy Profile

  16. Teri says:

    Loved this blog post. I have to say I laughed at the “sell the sizzle not the sausage,” that’s so English. I’ve always heard “sell the sizzle not the steak,” courtesy of Zig Ziglar, a great salesman of years past. I’m new to your enchanted world and I look forward to your blog posts and all the intelligent and interesting comments. I have a post-it on my computer: WIIFM to remind me to consider the customer, “what’s in it for me.”

    • Henneke says:

      Oh, I had no idea. Do the Brits eat more sausages and the Americans more steak?

      Welcome to the enchanting community! :)

  17. This is a wonderful post! I had a client who wanted to write feature spotlights for their software, and I struggled until I implemented the benefits. Wish I’d had this earlier. Thanks for posting!

  18. Jon P says:

    Hi Henneke,

    I’m glad you had a chance to spin your wheels this past weekend.

    This is a nice little post, and a fantastic reminder about the question “So What?”

    I read the chapter in your first book that went into this technique in more detail, and it just cracked me up. Not because it was funny—because I’d written the same thing in a post about 3-4 years ago. The difference is that yours is written better (much more charming), and apparently, read by more people.

    That makes me very happy, because this idea is so important for people who want to communicate better! We all need to get better at playing the role of overwhelmed reader, who just wants to know ‘what’s in it for her’. Thanks for helping me do a better job with that.

    Best, Jon

    P.S. I’ll send you the text of my old article, just for a giggle

    • Henneke says:

      Yep, totally agree with you, Jon. We need to help our overwhelmed and distracted readers who want to know quickly what’s in it for them.

      When I can spin my wheels around, I’m happy :)

      Thank you for adding your thoughts!

  19. Henneke,

    I liked your idea about mixing up positive features and benefits with introducing problems to keep things from getting monotonous. I’ve heard about the importance of using both features and benefits, but I hadn’t heard much about how to order them to keep readers interested. Good stuff!

  20. Roxanne says:

    Thanks Henneke, a very timely post and highly applicable to my industry – so much so that I’ve shared your post with all of our staff as a reminder to use features and benefits when speaking with our clients.

  21. Kitty Kilian says:

    And yet, what are the benefits of features? And what the features of benefits?
    And once we know: so what?

    ;-) sorry, couldn’t resist!
    Kitty Kilian recently posted…Bloggen: hoe blijf je week in, week uit creatief?My Profile

  22. Thanks so much. I am struggling with copy writing so much. I love to write but to entice others to read what I write and to understand simply what I want for them is tough slugging. I will continue to work on my website by now adding this question, “So what?” to help me with benefits. I know benefits are the most important to get them to keep reading.

    I think what i struggle with is that I am so immersed in what I want to do that I begin to feel as if the words I am repeating and reworking over and over are too blase and repetitive and old. But they are that way to me, not my Avatars. They may have never read them before. It’s tough to keep looking at this with a fresh eye.

    • Henneke says:

      Yes, that’s absolutely true – it can be a struggle to write about something you’re totally immersed in. Speaking to your blog readers or clients can help. Ask them questions to find out what they’re struggling with and what they’re looking for; and pay attention to the words they’re using.

      Thank you for stopping by, Bernice.

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