4.2: Features versus Benefits

If you’ve dipped your toes into copywriting before you’ve probably heard the staple advice that you should: “Sell the benefits, not the features”

In this lesson we’re going to look at:

  1. The difference between features and benefits
  2. Why benefits are important
  3. How to identify benefits
  4. Why features are still important in copywriting

The difference between features and benefits: A feature is a part of your product or service, while a benefit is the positive impact it has on your customer.

Think about your favorite pair of jeans.

Your favorite pair of jeans has a specific number of threads keeping everything together, a certain length and size, a particular metal for the buttons.

Those are features.

But when asked why you love your favourite jeans, you’re unlikely to say, “I just love the 30 inch waist, the metal buttons and the cotton thread sewn into the seams.”

You’re more likely to say: “They’re so comfortable, they fit really well and I love that they look good with heels or boots.”

Here’s an at-a-glance difference between features and benefits for this example:

Features versus Benefits

Can you see that the features are the ‘facts’ of the product, while the benefits provide a more compelling description?

Why benefits are so important:

Benefits are important because they answer your customer’s question:  “Why should I care what you have?”

Rather than simply telling your customer what you have or provide, you’re telling them how your product or offer is going to have a positive, valuable impact on their life.

How to identify benefits:

If you think about a feature as the facts and figures of what you offer, a benefit is a combination of:  

  1. The effect it has on your customer
  2. How they feel because of this

A very simple 3-step approach to identifying the benefits of your product is:

  1. What does it have or do?
  2. What effect does this have on my customer’s life?
  3. Does this cause a positive emotion or eliminate a negative emotion (or both)?

For example the benefits for an arthritis drug may be: Features versus BenefitsSo the benefits of the above may be:

  • You get fast-acting relief from pain
  • The confidence to take part in the activities you love
  • Spend more time with family and friends without the discomfort of arthritic pain

Why features are still important in copywriting:

The phrase: “Sell the benefits not the features” is slightly misleading.

Features are just as important as benefits because they give your customer the proof behind the promise you’re making.

When writing your copy, think about having a conversation with your customer that sounds like this: “This is what you can experience [benefits / emotions] with our product, and here is how we do this for you [features]”

For example: “We promise you best-fitting, most-flattering jeans so you can feel great wherever you wear them. How? By providing more than X combinations of leg and waist lengths to guarantee a fit as unique as you.”

A great copywriting exercise to do is to first break down the features, effects and emotions of your product, and then combine them to write copy that combines a powerful 1-2 punch of emotionally compelling benefits, and rock-solid features.