Everyone’s heard the one about the steak and sizzle. It’s an old salesman’s chestnut, but that little chestnut holds a lot of truth when it comes to marketing and persuasive writing.
Your goal as a marketer is to gain and retain the attention of your audience. In the media saturated environment that we live in, a big old list of facts and statistics just isn’t going to hold anyone’s attention for long.
Think back to that teacher you’ve ever had, the one who just read out of the book. Technically, the subject was being taught. But how much of what the teacher said actually stuck? Not very much. And how interested were you while you were in class? Not at all.
But what could you do? You were a captive audience. If you’re trying to sell a product, you don’t have the luxury of an audience forced to sit and listen to your pitch. Would you use the same techniques as that teacher in order to sell your product? If you were the potential customer, would you be buying based on the litany of facts and dates?
Probably not.Focus On The Customer
A rule of thumb that should always have in the forefront of your mind when marketing is that the focus should be on your customer.
Everyone likes to be the subject of the discussion. It gets us more engaged in the conversation and strokes the ego a little. “Hey you!” always gets our ears perked up.
The challenge is this: You’re marketing your product, right? So how do you keep the focus of your material on the customer but still promote your product? You talk benefits. Facts and stats focus on your product. Benefits focus on what your product does for your customer. Simple as that. Determining Your Product’s Benefits
Here are a few examples of features vs. benefits using a few items that are on my desk:
Feature: 40GB hard drive
Benefit: Load up your entire music collection and take it with you.
Feature: Hands-free, over-the-ear design
Benefit: Type and talk at the same time
Feature: Draws power through the USB cable
Benefit: Fewer cables to clutter up the office
What are your product’s benefits? Figuring that out might sound easier said than done. So here are a couple of ways to determine your product benefits.
Copywriter Bob Bly describes a method of generating a list of benefits in his book The Copywriter’s Handbook. Take a blank sheet of paper and divide it into two columns. In the right hand column, list a feature of your product. Then ask yourself “What about this feature most benefits those who use it? How does this feature make the product more attractive, useful, enjoyable or affordable?” Go through this process for each feature, and you will end up with a list of benefits.
Another interesting method is written about by Barbara Findlay Schenck in Small Business Marketing for Dummies. Write out a feature. Add “which means”. And then finish the sentence. So you end up with something like, “Steaks are 100% Black Angus beef which means it just tastes better than our competitions’ steaks.”All Benefits, All The Time?
So, as we’ve discussed, the trick is to focus on bringing forward the benefits of your product. But is that the only thing you should include in your marketing communication? For most products whose target audience is normal, everyday people, yes. Listing features will muddy the water and glaze eyes more often than they’ll peak interest.
An exception is made if you have a technical product, or your target audience is made up of specialists who would be turned off by a lack of hard data when you’re pitching your product. In these cases, you’ll want to consider stirring in a blend of facts and stats to your benefits. For example, if you’re selling a monitor to graphic design professionals, you might want to work something like this in: ‘15.4 inch TruColor monitor with a max resolution of 1900 x 1024, so you can see your work and your customers see the results.’
But it’s rare to see an example of persuasive writing that only focuses on features. It’s just too dry. And there’s too much competition out there for you to risk boring your potential customers.
Small Business Marketing For Dummies