I read a major magazine from cover to cover the other day, looking at the advertisements. These are ads that cost the companies thousands of dollars to run, but throughout my reading I kept thinking, “where are the benefits?”
When I reached the end, I realized that less than 10% of the ads were benefit oriented. And yet, if you were to ask the copywriters who wrote these ads, each of them could give you a lengthy lecture on how important strong benefit statements are to writing good copy.
The problem is that many of us think we are writing about benefits, but we are writing only near misses. We use words that take the place of benefits and mistake them for the benefits themselves. But here are 7 ways that can help you (and me) write stronger benefits statements:
- Don’t write a single sentence of your copy until you first write out an entire page full of benefits. If your product or service is relatively complex, your benefits list may run into several pages. This exercise alone cuts through our natural tendency to write only superficial benefit statements. By the time you get past the first 10 or so, your benefits will start becoming stronger and stronger.
- As you write your list, think about your product as either a solution or an opportunity. What kind of pain will this widget take away? What new opportunities will it open up?
- Get past the tendency to write about features, but think you are describing the benefits. This happens when we are so close to the product or service that your mind translates a feature into the benefit it was designed to bring about. For example, to a car industry insider, anti-lock braking systems mean safety. But to everyone else, that leap in imaginiation takes additional explanation. Fix this by imagining your customer is in the same room with you and tag each statement with a sentence like, “and what this means to you, is ……”
- Approach your product or service from the point of view of your targeted customer. Write out a long list (fill up several pages, again) with sentences that begin with, “this is for the person (or organization) who wants ______ . Looking at your product from the perspective of what the customer wants, opens up more and more insights that you can easily turn into benefit statements.
- Take the benefit statements you’ve already written and go one or more levels deeper. Let’s take the auto braking system again. Now your want sentence my be, “for the person who wants confidence while driving in bad weather.” Or, “for the person who wants to avoid accidents caused by the unexpected mistakes of other drivers or pedestrians.”
- Don’t forget to write emotional benefits. Sometimes we think only of the practical types of benefits, but certain emotions and feelings can be just as important to the customer as the “what it will do for me” practical ones. In your list of sentences describing “for the person who wants _____,” be sure to include feelings this person wants to feel. Continuing with the brake example, “this is for the car owner who wants to feel secure when his teenage daughter is driving alone on a stormy night,” includes the kinds of feelings that are true benefits for potential customers.
- A good benefit statement can sometimes be a negative. Often the things a person doesn’t want or wants to avoid are just as persuasive as those that are stated in the positive. Don’t forget to include benefit statements that clearly define what a person does not want in your list of benefits.
Benefit statements are the building blocks of all the work a freelance writer does. The people who read our ads, web content or direct mail pieces are only interested in what your product or service will do for them. When your benefits ring true to them, you are speaking their language.