It’s Not About You, It’s About Them!
The one that rears its ugly head the most is completely missing the difference between “features” and “benefits.”
In the most basic form, features are about you; benefits are about your customers, clients, and members.
I, Me, and My...or You, and Your?
The simplest test to determine feature vs. benefit is to look at the personal pronouns you use in your copy. If the sentences contain a lot of “I,” “we,” and “our”, then you have features.
If, on the other hand, you see more occurrences of “you,” and “your,” then you have benefits.
Compare these two sections from a brochure and you should be able to see the difference instantly:
1: “We’ve been in business for over 25 years, and our technicians have been specially trained and certified...”
2: “The first thing you’ll notice when you come in the door is the elegant reception lounge with a Keurig® coffee machine stocked with all of your favorites...”
In the first case, the focus is on the company, its employees, and its training; in the second example, the emphasis is on the customers and the environment they’ll experience.
Enter the “Feature Puke”
I wish I could take credit for this term, but it was actually a participant in a half-day workshop who came up with it, referring to the bullet list of features that seem to be present in just about every ad, brochure and web site you come across.
As an example, compare the feature description for the VH Screen Capture Driver (to left) with its rival ManyCam’s product description (far left).
You can see the difference immediately–the ManyCam example explains how the features will help the user create amazing videos; the example to the far left merely describes the technical capabilities of the software.
This list of features is extremely common. I have included two other examples (to the left), so you’ll know what not to do.
“Feature” So You Can “Benefit”
For example, in the list from the VH Screen Driver Capture (above), you could say...
Follow mouse pointer so your viewers will see what you’re doing.
Skype support so they can use the platform they’re used to.
Multimonitor support so you can have the control panel on one screen and present from the other.
In each of these cases, the text in italics transforms the feature from something about the product into an explanation of how it’s going to help the user.
Blue Marker / Yellow Marker
Finally, there’s a really easy way to distinguish between features and benefits, and all it takes is two highlight markers–you know, the kind you used in school to mark up your textbooks.
Get a copy of any of your marketing or advertising materials. It can be a sales letter, a post card, or a printout of some web pages. What’s important is that you have to have an actual hard copy.
Take the blue marker, and start reading out loud, line by line. If it’s about your company, your staff, how long you’ve been in business, or all the wonderful products and services you offer, highlight it in blue–that’s a feature; it’s about you.
Next, take the yellow marker. If it’s about your customers, clients, or members, their challenges, how you’re going to help them become more successful or make their lives easier, highlight it in yellow–that’s a benefit; it’s about them.
People Care About Themselves
Although most of us would hate to admit it, in the final analysis, people care most about themselves. The faster you recognize this and incorporate it into all aspects of your marketing, the faster you’ll see real results.