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marketing 101

customers care about the benefits of your product, not the features

People have a lot of misconceptions about what marketing is and how it should work. Today, we’re exploring the reasons why you should write about the benefits of your product, rather than the features. I’ll use the term product to keep things simple, but a product could be any kind of good or service you offer.

An amber bottle photographed on a bed of pink rose petals.

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If you don’t come from a marketing background, it’s normal to feel overwhelmed or confused by marketing. A lot of people seem to put marketing in the same mental category as pushy salespeople and dishonest lawyers. “Marketing is how you push your product at a customer to make them buy, right?” 

No! Has this ever worked on you? Have you ever gone to the salon for a quick trim and been convinced to dye your hair a brand new shade for a much, much higher price? When you bought your last pair of sandals for someone, could a salesperson have convinced you to choose shearling-lined boots instead? 

I have a physical allergy to pushy sales tactics. 

I would rather leave a store empty handed than give into manipulation to change my mind about what I want or buy more than I intended.

When I started kindergarten at the tender age of 4, my teacher had to bribe me with candy to get up and say my name in front of the class. She later told my mother I was “the most stubborn child I’ve ever met in 20 years of teaching.” I like to do that inner child proud at every appropriate opportunity.

A douchey looking dude standing on a balcony taking a phone call.
You can just feel the pushy sales vibes from here.

It takes one to know one, right?

So you’re going to have to trust me when I say that 1) pushy marketing tactics don’t work and 2) I hate them with a passion. I hate them, and I’ve spent my entire career selling products with good copywriting. 

Marketing is not convincing someone to buy something they don’t want or need.

Marketing is discovering the way to connect with the people who do want or need what you have to sell. And one of the best ways to do that is by speaking to the benefits of your products, rather than the features

It’s a simple thing, the difference between benefits and features, but I’ve seen it trip up even my smartest business-owner friends. You get so deep in the weeds stressing about the details of your product or service that you forget how someone outside your brain will see things. Luckily, it’s an easy switch to make once you understand a few key things. 

features of your product

Features are what your product has. Benefits are what your product can do for the customer. The feature of a pickup truck is that it’s got a big old flatbed on the back. The benefits are that it can haul big items across town. The feature of an Airbnb rental is that it’s right on the edge of a lake. The benefit is that you can take a refreshing dip in cool water on a hot summer afternoon.

Now, features are important information. Your customers need to know exactly what it is you’re offering. If you’re shopping for a necklace as a gift for your mom, there are a lot of features you’ll want to see detailed:

  • What metal is it made of?
  • Does it come in other colors?
  • How long is the chain?
  • What kind of clasp does it have?
  • Can you have it engraved?
  • How much does it cost?
A silver necklace dangling from a neck.

And you want to know all that stuff because you already have an idea in your head of what your mom would like.

She’s got that Arizona tan, so she always looks great in shining silver jewelry, and she prefers sterling silver or white gold because she doesn’t like to take her necklaces off in the shower.

Her neck got a little thicker after menopause, so she prefers a slightly longer chain that will still reach mid-sternum, and her rheumatoid arthritis flares up from time to time, so a tiny lobster clasp will be harder to fiddle with than one of those new magnetic clasps you’ve seen.

And because it’s her 70th birthday coming up, you’d love to have the pendant engraved with a sentimental little joke you both share, but your budget is tight this year because Tommy had to get braces, so you want to spend $150 or less.

You can’t talk someone into something they’d never consider.

There’s not a brand in the world who could convince you to buy a $700 14-karat gold choker for your mom, no matter how clever or persuasive their marketing is. It’s just not what you’re looking for, it doesn’t match your budget, and it’s not what your mom would like.

You know what you want, and you have really good reasons for wanting exactly what you want.

But the way a brand speaks to you can tip the scales in their favor, and make you more likely to buy from them.

 

BENEFITS of your product

Let’s say there are two similar jewelry brands you’ve narrowed it down to when it comes to buying this gift. They have identical products at an identical price. One of them just lays out the features of the necklace you have your eye on, while the other one speaks to the benefits. It might look like this: 

Gemma’s Jewelry: 

  • Coin pendant on a delicate silver chain. Also available in gold fill.
  • 18-20” adjustable length
  • Pendant measures ¾” w x 1” h
  • Magnetic clasp
  • Customizable with engraving

Nancy’s Necklaces: 

  • Coin pendant and a delicate chain made from sterling silver to last a lifetime. Also available in gold fill over silver for a warmer look.
  • 18-20” adjustable length to fit perfectly on a range of bodies and necklines
  • Pendant measures ¾” w x 1” h, a classic size for everyday wear 
  • Easy-on magnetic clasp is easy to attach and take off, but strong and secure
  • Customizable with engraving, so you can add a heart-felt message
A glamorous older woman in a hat and sunglasses, holding a cup of coffee. If you sell coffee, the benefits of your product is obvious - energy.

Why does talking about the benefits of your product work so well?

Human beings like to think we’re rational creatures, but honestly, we’re more emotional than anything. Speaking to the benefits of a product paints a picture people can fall in love with – something they feel attached to, that might make them feel hope, or longing, or desire or excitement.

Sadly, in the example above, Gemma’s Jewelry doesn’t make me feel any of those things. It’s a straightforward listing about what is.

Nancy’s Necklaces wrote a beautiful listing about what could be. Logically, you already know the specifications you’re looking for, but Nancy’s framed it in such a way that it’s easy to visualize how every feature checks the box you need.

What it IS vs. what it will DO

  1. It’s not just a silver necklace – it’s a well-crafted silver necklace that your mom will treasure for years.
  2. It’s not just an adjustable length – it’s an adjustable length that will hang just how your mom likes it, and she can raise or lower it more to fit the neckline of any shirt.
  3. The pendant isn’t just a nice size – it’s the perfect size to wear everyday without getting overlooked for being too small, or looking gaudy because it’s too big. It’s classic, so your mom can wear it with any outfit and look great.
  4. It doesn’t just have a magnetic clasp – it has a magnetic clasp that makes it easier to take on and off, for those days when your mom’s joints ache. She won’t even have to ask your dad to help her.
  5. And it’s not just customizable – it’s customizable so you can write something that will remind her how much you love her every time she looks at it.
 

It’s really kind of magical. Because not only will you know you’re getting a thoughtful gift for your mom, but because the brand shares all these benefits with you, you know they’ve put thought into each and every choice they’ve made.

Writing about benefits of your product means you’ve thought about the impact of what you create.

It shows a love of the process and an attention to detail that most people find compelling. It shows that the brand takes this gift just as seriously as you do. Which means they’ve just built up a little bit of trust with you, the customer, and made you more likely to buy from them.

A white-haired older woman framed by soft pink floweres.

what we're not gonna do

Now, what we’re not going to do is write a bunch of bullshit and made up crap about a product and call it good marketing. Right? 

The necklace above doesn’t claim anything it can’t back up. It doesn’t say “we guarantee your mom will love this.” It doesn’t say, “people will think you spent much more,” or “it will be the nicest necklace in the jewelry box.” That’s just a bunch of puffed up nonsense that’s totally subjective — not a real benefit. 

Speaking to the benefits of your product means knowing what your customers want, creating exactly that, and presenting it back to them in a way that makes it clear you were listening. 

I have acidic skin, more so than other people, it seems. Every time I’ve tried to wear gold plated or gold filled jewelry, the acid in my skin makes it tarnish within six months – sometimes one month if I’m wearing it all the time. So you know what catches my eye? When jewelry brands say things like, “jewelry you can wear in the water,” or “made for sensitive skin.” Because that usually means it’s created from gold-covered stainless steel instead of gold-covered brass, and that’s exactly what I need. 

Could these brands just say, “Check out our new stainless steel line”? Sure. But a lot of people are going to have no context for what that means. It’s a feature, not the benefit. But when you sell the benefit – won’t tarnish if you wear it swimming, or perfect for people whose skin reacts with cheaper metals – you’ve just won over a ton more people. 

You haven’t just sold them an item, you’ve solved a problem. 

ANOTHER THING WE'RE NOT DOING

A close up of a jeweler's hands as they work on an earring.

One more watch out is to make sure you’re speaking to the benefits to the consumer. Maybe this seems obvious to you, but it’s easy to get wrapped up in your own head when you’re building a business, thinking about the minute details, day in and day out, until it’s all you can focus on. 

Using Nancy’s Necklaces above, let me illustrate the difference between the benefit to you and the benefit to your customer: 

Sterling silver
Benefit to you: Easy to work with, affordable materials that won’t tarnish permanently
Benefit to customer: Classic, lasts forever, polishes easily 

Adjustable chain
Benefit to you: Don’t have to fuss with cutting multiple size chains
Benefit to customer: Adaptable to different bodies and outfits 

Pendant size
Benefit to you: Popular size that sells well across a range of people 
Benefit to customer: It’s low-key enough to wear every day with every outfit 

Magnetic clasp
Benefit to you: Costs a little more but adds some novelty and convenience 
Benefit to customer: Makes taking it off and putting it on easy for all people, regardless of ability or age

Customizable
Benefit to you: Popular feature that sells well and that can’t be returned unless you messed up
Benefit to customer: Turns an ordinary piece of jewelry into a sentimental keepsake 

HOW DO YOU KNOW WHAT BENEFITS of your product TO highlight?

So, you might be thinking, all of this is great, but how am I supposed to know what benefits my customers will connect with the most? 

This comes back to market research and data. Maybe you find that one of your products sells at a much higher rate than the others, and you can extrapolate the reason why and apply it to other products. Is it one of the more affordable options? (Benefit: so you can buy more than one to have whenever you need it.) Is it hitting on a trend? (Benefit: so you can have the same feel as the expensive option for a fraction of the cost.) Is it solving a problem other products don’t? (Benefit: so you can XYZ easier than ever.) 

You can also ask your customers. Send out a request for reviews or testimonials to see what they say about the product in their own words. Send out a survey with a chance to win a free product if they complete it, and ask them specific questions about how they feel about what you’re offering. 

A lot of times, people will tell you what they like if you’re listening carefully. They might say, “Oh, I’ve been looking for the perfect X for such a long time, but everything else is too … or not enough …” They might say, “I’m particularly excited about Y feature…” or “I’ve never seen this product with a Z before.” If you’re selling services, it might be more like, “When I saw your Instagram reel about A, I knew it was time to sign up,” or “I’d been on the fence for weeks when you sent an email that really connected with me, it said…” 

So pay attention to your data. Ask for feedback. And when someone comments on a post, in person or in a review, listen to what they have to say – it’s valuable. 

To Recap

  1. Features detail what the product has.. Benefits tell your customer what the product can do for them.
  2. Your job is not to convince someone to buy your product. Your job is to give people who want your product the information and context they need to find it and buy it.
  3. Benefits give context to features, and create excitement, desire and hope.
  4. Benefits should speak to real problems, not promise made-up nonsense.
  5. Speaking to benefits shows you’ve put real thought and consideration into your product. That you know exactly what your customer values and is looking for. This builds trust.
  6. Remember to make the benefits all about what the product does for the customer, not what the product does for you, the business owner. (This is less common in writing, and more common when you’re talking about your products off-the-cuff, and maybe feeling a little flustered.)
  7. It’s your job to know which problems your customers have, and solve those problems when you create your product. Then your benefits will connect to your people, making your product an obvious choice over the competition. (These problems don’t have to be big, they can be as small as “Gee I wish I had a blush to match this lip color,” or “Wow, I’d love to hire someone to fix the peeling paint in this room.”) 

These three magic words help you find the benefits of your product

If you’re ever feeling stuck converting features to benefits, just remember these three magic words: 

“So You Can.” 

“My deluxe coaching package features 90-days of pre-paid support, so you can…”

“Our artisan canned sardines are carefully packed in olive oil in a classic peel-back tin, so you can…” 

“My website graphic design package will give you three website design options to choose from, so you can…” 

You don’t always have to use those words in your writing, but if you’re stuck, use “so you can” as a prompt to focus your mind on the benefits of your product, rather than the features.

 

I think you’ve got it now. Go test it out and see how this little bit of copywriting fairy dust transforms your business – and then visit me back here and let me know how it went!

 

A white woman sitting outside, smiling at the camera.

Hi, I'm Lana.

I’ve spent 16 years in advertising, and now I’m using that knowledge to help creatives grow their own small businesses. Will that include you this year? 


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