This is a well written and definitely enlightening guest post from Karol K. You can read more about him at the end of the post. Enjoy. -Alex Whalley
I’m sure you’ve seen a pitch like this:
In my brand new internet marketing home study course you will find 10 modules containing valuable information about: how to create a marketing plan for your business, how to write a sales letter, how to set up an email autoresponder sequence and why the money is in the list, how to make thousands of people to follow you on twitter, how to easily record marketing videos that sell, how to set up AdWords campaign, and dozens of other useful things. The course consists of 20 hours of video, 5 hours of audio, 3 workbooks, 2 PDF reports (each 50 pages long), and a membership site subscription for a full year.
What’s wrong with this message?
The easiest, and instant, answer to it is: “so what?!”
The “so what” because a prospective customer can’t possibly imagine what all these things can give them. Why should they be able to create marketing plans? Why writing sales letters is such a handy skill to have? Why do they need an email autoresponder sequence? Why is this twitter-thing important? All these questions haven’t been answered. And if one marketer isn’t willing to answer them then a customer will find another one who will be.
Here’s the #1 reason you should write about the benefits of your product not its features, if you plan to sell it over the internet:
People are not able to invent the benefits a product can give them by themselves if this type of product has been present on the market for less than 10 years.
Why TVs’ salesmen don’t give a crap…
Or why they don’t need to bother with benefits.
Here’s a picture of an ad trying to sell some TVs. (By the way, try to guess what the currency is.)
As you can see there’s much information there, yet none of it are benefits. The writer has taken their time to make sure that the minimalistic copy contains things like: diagonal screen, technology, Full HD, and some other stuff (even the thickness of the TV).
In this case the benefits could have been omitted. We, the prospective clients, understand the benefits without anybody saying them out loud. And that’s only because we are quite familiar with the concept of a TV. We know what it is and how it works. We know which parameters are important and what we should pay attention to if we’re shopping for a new one.
Here’s what benefits we see:
- 42” diagonal screen – “it will be like a cinema except in my own home”
- LED technology – “this newest technology will save some energy and give a little relief to my eyes”
- Resolution, Full HD – “I won’t miss even the smallest detail – I will see everything that movie producers wanted to show me”
- TV’s thickness – “it won’t occupy much space, and it’s perfect for hanging on the wall, it will look like a painting or something”
The TVs’ salesmen don’t even mention these benefits because we, the customers, already know them. We know what parameters are important in a TV and what’s more – we expect to see them in an ad. We know what benefits are connected with every feature. We also know that the features are the only things that differentiate any two given TVs (apart from the manufacturer).
All of this creates the final image of a market in which you don’t really have to say anything about the benefits.
Let’s see how an ad selling TVs could have looked like if it wasn’t such a popular product yet.
Our TV has a 42” diagonal screen which makes it twice as big as the next in line 37” screen. This means that you can feel like you’re in a cinema, yet without the need of leaving your home, waiting in queues and any additional expenses. The LED technology, in which the screen is built, uses 20% less energy than similar size plasma TVs and gives you the sharpest image possible so your eyes can have some relief. The Full HD scale image will make sure that you won’t miss even the smallest detail that the creators of your favorite movie wanted you to see. The smallest casing on the market – 3.9cm thick, makes it possible to place this TV wherever you like, even on a wall so it’ll look like a painting.
That’s a long piece of writing ain’t it? It’s much quicker to simply write:
42” LED, Full HD 1080, 3.9cm thick
…and the effect is quite the same
Here’s what you can do with your own product
If you’re in a market of selling TVs, washing machines, cell phones, personal computers, etc. (have any other examples? shoot me a comment!) you can stop reading right here.
The truth to be told is that the more a specific product type is known among the general scope of people the more you can focus on its features (as a marketer). Those are usually the products that have been available for more than 10 years.
You can focus on the features not because of laziness (as they are easier to communicate than benefits) but because a prospective client expects to see information about features, it’s the only thing they care about. They want to get to know them because that’s the only way they can compare a specific product to another, similar one.
If you’re selling some kind of an information product or promoting your new startup then in most cases it won’t be known among the general scope of people. Another thing is that every information product is different and comparing features is irrelevant. That’s why your marketing strategy should be built on benefits not features.
If you need some help to make a decision whether or not you can focus on features only, you can take a minute to answer these 5 questions:
5 questions that will tell you if you should talk about features only
- Were products similar to yours available on the market 10 years ago?
- Were they popular throughout the whole period of the last 10 years?
- Does your grandma have one?
- Does your 6 year old kid know what the product is for?
- Are all of your friends able to tell you what the most important features in a product like that are?
If you have 5 “yeses” then you can should talk about the features of your product. If there was even one “no” talk about the benefits.
What do you think, what information products or startups have the chance to come clean with 5 “yeses”? Shoot me a comment.
About the author: Karol K. (@carlosinho) is a 20-something year old web 2.0 entrepreneur from Poland who hates marketing but loves to train capoeira. But anyway, tune in to get his advice on starting an online business.