How to Find and Write Benefits
that Turn Online Prospects into Buyers

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More and more, it seems like you need a degree in psychology to be an effective marketer online.

The idea of turning prospects into buyers of your product or service can be a little overwhelming, and some of the advice out there is downright contradictory.

If you’re like me, juggling lots of projects at once, you don’t have time to sift through it all.

Thankfully there are some proven methods that work, and that never change.

Many of these methods do involve psychology — neuroscience even — but as you’ll see, it doesn’t take an advanced degree to learn how to use them.

A few easy steps can send you on your way …

Benefits, not features

Brian Clark noted in his Copywriting 101 post:

One of the most repeated rules of compelling copy is to stress benefits, not features.

In practice it sounds simple, but finding true benefits is where the trick comes in.

  • Features are what the great copywriter Eugene Schwartz calls your “physical product” — what your product or service has, its contents and dimensions.
  • Benefits are the “functional product” — what your product or service actually does for your prospect and the basis on which they buy.
  • But extracting benefits from features and getting your prospect emotionally invested to buy isn’t always easy.

How to turn prospects into buyers

Connecting your “functional product” to your prospect’s true desires can be tricky, and that’s why research and some basic neuroscience can go a long way to helping you make a sale.

Let’s face it, your prospects are lazy.

Pioneering copywriter John Carlton called the average consumer the “somnambulant blob welded to the couch.”

We’re all guilty of spending free time lethargically surfing the internet with the attention span of a fruit fly, and when it comes time to buy something we need … we bookmark it, or decide to leave it for tomorrow.

Clark also reminds us:

We’re not as logical as we’d like to think we are. Most of our decisions are based on deep-rooted emotional motivations, which we then justify with logical processes.

Getting your audience emotionally motivated to buy is the key.

Here’s why …

How our brains fool us

Not only are you competing with a billion other sources of distraction, you’re competing with the human brain itself, an incredibly sophisticated piece of hardware.

As a culture we’ve all grown very wary of bad solicitation, but at the same time we constantly crave new and better stories.

Neurological studies show that messages focused on rewards (read: benefits) can trigger activity in the brain that mimic the results of experiencing the actual reward.

In other words, presenting benefits in your copy that vividly describe the rewards of your product or service can fool the brain into experiencing those rewards as if they actually happened.

By tapping into the emotional root of your prospect’s needs, you prime them to take action.

This is why researching your target market is crucial to tap into the true desires of your audience.

The 4-step process for extracting true benefits

You can use a 4 step process to extract true benefits from your features to find the underlying desires of your readers or prospects and make them as compelling and rewarding as possible.

I’ll use a premium WordPress blog theme as an example for this process to extract some benefits of an actual digital product.

1. List all of your product’s features, what your product, service or brand has. Narrow it down to the features that are most likely to hook your prospect:

  • Point-and-click site design controls
  • Mobile responsive layouts
  • One-click automatic theme updates

2. Examine what each feature does, or why you’ve included it:

  • Easily customizes your site in fewer steps
  • Adjusts to fit any device, hand-held, tablet or PC
  • Keeps your site updated and secure at the click of a button

3. Take your list of what your features do and ask yourself how they connect with your prospect’s true desires:

  • The ease and ability to change your own website in minutes without the need or expense of a developer
  • No complaints from customers that they can’t find your product or services or see your site’s content correctly on their mobile device
  • No more worrying about hours of redesigning or coding to get your site to look the way it did before platform updates

4. To get to the bottom of each feature’s true benefit, keep asking the question “What does this mean for your prospect on an emotional level?”:

  • Freedom and flexibility from having to pay a developer every time you want to change something on your website, and full creative control at your fingertips
  • The relief and happiness of knowing that your prospects will always be able to get in touch with you or buy your product or services no matter what device they are using
  • The confidence that your website is secure, looking great, and working for you regardless of how many versions of WordPress come out

“Benefits sell, features support”

Features have their place in your copy too, don’t get me wrong.

They play the supporting role to benefits and are most effectively used to justify and support the claims of your benefits.

By extracting the emotionally relevant, and most compelling benefits of your product or service, you are far more likely to get your prospects to pull out their wallets.

And they’ll be even happier once they actually experience your product or service.

Tip: Brian reminds us in his article about benefits that features are sometimes enough to sell a high-tech or business-centric product. The more critical, business, or tech savvy your readership, the less effective pure “emotional” copy is. And most products can benefit from the one-two punch of emotional benefits followed up with strong logical benefits, too.

Do you have more sure-fire ways for extracting true benefits from features?

Drop them into the comments below …

About the Author: Kelton Reid is an independent screenwriter and novelist, as well as a copywriter for Copyblogger Media. Get more from him on Twitter @keltonreid.

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Comments

  1. I was listening to an interview just yesterday that Derek Halpern did that covered this very topic. He and the person being interviewed compared figuring out feature/benefits to what’s on a dating site. While it can be useful to know someone is 5′ 10″ with brown hair, or that they went to X college, or have X kind of job, those features are only useful in influencing choice to a certain extent. Especially once people meet. There’s more to it than that (hopefully). I also agree that there are times that features are going to have more weight. If you’re looking for a red pillow, you want a red pillow. However, if you’re not sure what color you want, that’s where benefits (it adds a burst of brightness) can come into play. Nicely done Kelton.

    • Kelton Reid :

      I like the dating site metaphor. Thanks for the comment!

    • If you were interested Kelton, the interview is the latest article on my site. It’s with Dan Ariely, and it’s billed as “why people should design websites for the “Homer Simpson’s” of the world.

  2. I totally agree with all this, and what I love the most is the emotional hook of “feels like you need to be a psychologist” to sell anything.

    I don’t know about everyone else, but the “scene” was really starting to FEEL that way, but it’s just not true. Following basic copy- and business- principles that have been around for a while and are still reliable, feels faaaar more appealing.

    Great job, Kelton :)

    • Kelton Reid :

      Thank you Jason.

    • …basic copy-and-business-principles that have been around for a while…

      You mean principles based on human nature? Which is another way of saying psychology? ;)

      Everything related to communication involves human psychology. It’s nothing to be intimidated about. It just helps you learn how to deal with people better, and everyone should strive for that.

      • Plus, it’s easy to learn about psychology nowadays, with authors like Dan Ariely, Jonah Lehrer, and Malcolm Gladwell.

  3. Hi Kelton,
    I have been delving into this subject for a client just this week and you’re so right. It can feel like we need to enrol at college and get a psychology degree before we can deign to put pen to paper. I listened to the Copyblogger podcast with John Carlton talking to Robert Bruce over the weekend for about the seventh time and am still learning new stuff from it. It’s good to know that there are methods for getting to the heart of the matter – even better to know that they are proven!

    Great post – thanks!

    • Kelton Reid :

      That is a fantastic podcast with Carlton (and it’s 2 parts). Try to count the number of words Robert Bruce gets out of his mouth. Hint: It’s a low number.

  4. Hi Kelton,

    It’s good to see a post that blends the skills of the copywriting greats with the latest discoveries in neuroscience. For me it’s a 1+1=3 combination.

    When I’m attempting to turn prospects into buyers, It helps me to start by thinking that people pay to repeat positive emotions or to avoid negative emotions. Then I’d follow your 4-step process. The one step I’d add is to try and quantify the benefit – it just makes it more credible (as long as it’s not hyped) and adds a little extra punch.

  5. I’ve been “on” this topic right now as part of a project I’m working on, and so reading this today reinforces my decision to include it as part of the discussion within my team. I agree about the psychology stuff, but I eat that up! Good stuff, nice article Kelton.

  6. Beautiful, I loved the way you broke down the steps to creating a awesome benefit. Actually taking the time to understand the feature, we pull out what the customer is looking for with a solid benefit. Its like reading their minds.

  7. Like you say, there is soooo much info “thrown at us” online that to stand out and be noticed does feel like you need a degree in psychology just for starters. Thanks for breaking this topic down and for the clear and easy way you have written your post and info included. Much appreciated. Stay blessed.

  8. Can’t remember who said it…Dan Kennedy?…people buy with emotion and then justify their purchase (often to their spouses) based on logic. Benefits = emotion, features = logic. So it’s important to show the potential buyer both, but understand the reasons why.

    • Kennedy has probably taught it at some point — like us, he’s a student of the copywriting greats of the past, and this is one of the enduring truths of persuasive writing.

  9. Kelton, I totally appreciate your breaking down the process into those steps. Frankly, I’m tired of being told (bopped over the head’s more like it) Benefits! Not Features! Without giving any help on how to do it. I get that it’s incredibly important but until I’ve retrained my brain to think that way, it’s hard to do. It seems to be second nature for professional copywriters of yore, but not for yours truly. Seeing how you took it step by step was really helpful. Tx!

  10. You nailed it. In a world of similar products and services, emotionally motivating the audience could be one differentiating element. That’s the power of emotions.

  11. I guess my brain got me fooled again into thinking that i got all my prospects to buy my product.. ;)

  12. Kelton,
    Thank you for the great article. I particularly liked the practical step by step approach. Another way to discover worthwhile benefits is with focused information interviews with current and past clients. The key is knowing what questions to ask, how to reveal how they feel (no rhyme intended really!), why they chose to work with you and those lovely (often unspoken but very real) that results you and your product/services bring.

  13. “The confidence [sic]… regardless of how many versions of WordPress come out” – business translation… be available, be reachable. One thing I typically hear (yes hear) is the gasp on the phone (or “oh wow, you really are there” in an email). The amazement that there is a human being on the other end of that website, blog, what have you. People really do buy [interact, etc.] from people they feel they know.

  14. I’ve been busy re-shaping company copy based on this article. It would be really helpful if the process was carried all the way through using the example to Step 5: Actual Copy. I would love to see a sample of how to best tie the features and emotional benefits together.

  15. Re-shaping our content going forward. Thank you. Now if I can only come up with that killer benefit tag line ;)