Marketing 101: Sell Benefits and Not Features

by Stephanie Woods March 10th, 2010 

Welcome to marketing 101. It is highly recognized in the marketing world that persuasive copy emphasizes benefits over features. Unfortunately many website owners do not take the time to sit down and figure out how they can connect to customers on an emotional level. Knowing that the latest widget is the best in its class only gets a searcher in the door. Once they're inside you need to tell them how your product or service is going to solve the challenge they are currently facing.

The goal is to reach your site visitors at an emotional level. One they can relate to. Generic content can get your point across just fine. But is just fine all you want?

So how do you make your benefits truly desirable? It seems like that should be relatively easy to do, right? Simply list all of the features and their companion benefits and your product is sold due to its sheer awesomeness. If only it that were easy.

Understand Your Target Audience

To write benefits that sell a product or service you first need to understand your target audience. If you write for everybody, you end up talking to nobody in particular. Writing to a general audience makes it challenging to connect with someone on an emotional level. You end up with generic benefits that make the eyes glaze over. There is no emotional connection with the reader.

For starters, develop a little bio on the person youre writing this content for. If you were them, what would make you buy the widget? Persona creation is excellent practice for creating highly targeted content for your site.

Sound like a lot of work? It can be. How serious are you about making some cold hard cash from your website? Good marketing generally involves a lot of work, so you need to accept this if you want results. It's kind of like weight loss: there is no magical pill that will solve all your problems. You'll only get that killer body with a lot of hard work and dedication.

Write for Your Audience

While you might be able to bestow the virtues of your product to your co-workers, can you explain the benefits to you target audience in a way that they understand?

There is help available to help you understand your target audience. If you have the budget to do so, market research is the way to go. If you don't have the budget, try to gain a little insight into your biggest clients or customers and build a fake bio on them. If you don't have direct contact with customers, ask your sales team for help. Since sales people are relationship builders, they may have valuable insight into your target audience that you are looking for.

Understand Your Benefits

Heres where a little brainstorm session with your team will come in handy. Write down all of the features that your product or service has. Then list all of the benefits. Once youve listed all your benefits, write down the advantage to each one of those benefits. This will help you to dig a little deeper and uncover the benefits that will truly resonate with your target audience.

Hint: Dont just list the obvious benefits. Try to list every single little thing you can think of. You never know what hidden emotional connections you will uncover that will differentiate you from the competitor.

Heres an example:

Feature: HEPA filter

Benefits: Trap small pollutants, allergens, dust and other particles, 99.7% effective at removing airborne particles, help trap pollutants and particles to get them out of the air you breathe, clean and sanitize the air you breathe.

Advantages: You can't avoid air pollution, but you can ensure that the most important little people in your life have clean and healthy air to breathe in your home. Trap airborne allergens and potential toxins so your family can breathe clean air.

When to Focus on Features

Now here is the part where we contradict everything. There are times when placing the focus on features IS in your best interest. If your target audience is highly technical, appealing to their emotional side may not work as well as listing all the cool features your product has. Techies most likely already know what the benefits to the features are (duh) so an appeal to their emotional side might be fruitless. Once again, its really important to understand your target audience.

Do you understand your target audience? Do you know what they are truly looking for? If you have no idea, now is the perfect time to start thinking about it.


Stephanie Woods is a freelance internet marketer living in Canada. She has been working in advertising and marketing for 10 years now. She has a personal blog where she can be reached. Or, you can find her on Twitter as @steph_woods.

Stephanie Woods

Stephanie Woods is a Search Specialist at Blast Radius in Vancouver, BC.

Steph Woods SEO

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6 Responses to “Marketing 101: Sell Benefits and Not Features”

  1. Karl says:

    Great post Stephanie. Writing quality, targeted content will certainly increase a company's conversion rate. In addition, focusing on integrating benefits into B2C/B2B sales copy is a powerful persuasion tool. Again, great post. Thanks.

  2. Stephanie Woods says:

    Thank YOU Karl. :)

  3. Zack says:

    Yep, must follow the "what's in it for me" when writing sales copy. Companies see features in their products, consumers see solutions and it really helps to paint a picture of your product/service being a solution. Good example on the HEPA.

  4. Stephanie Woods says:

    Zack – It's crazy how often sites end up talking about themselves, and not the solutions the consumers seek. Thanks!

  5. Mikkel says:

    Great post! What about pictures? Do you feel like that they have a huge impact? I guess a lot of people are visually oriented.

  6. Rob Metras says:

    It is amazing that some businesses do not get that it is not all about them (features) when it should be all about the customer/viewer/reader (benefits.
    Excellent synthesis of common marketing mistake. Your post softens the mesaging of humanity with the picture. Bravo