The Difference Between Benefits and Features

Benefits and Features

This is an excerpt from my new course, Start Content Writing.

You won’t become a successful copywriter if you don’t understand the difference between benefits and features, and how to utilise each one. Touting benefits over features is the cornerstone of good copy.

So, what exactly is the difference? What the hell am I banging on about? Well, suppose you want to buy an Aston Martin. Yeah, bear with me.

You don’t buy an Aston Martin because you want an Aston Martin. And you don’t buy it because it has a 6-litre engine or because it can go super ridiculously fucking fast, or because it comes in ‘carbon black’. You buy an Aston Martin because of how it will make you feel.

You buy an Aston Martin because you want to feel like James Bond.

The 6-litre engine and the going-super-fastness and the sexy ‘carbon black’ paintjob — those are the features. Those things are, on the surface, what you’re buying the car for. But feeling like James Bond? That’s why you’re buying the car. That’s the benefit of buying the car. Buying this sexy, super fast car will make you feel like James Bond.

You can go deeper than ‘wanting to feel like James Bond’, too: why do you want to feel like James Bond? Because you want to feel sexy, sophisticated, suave. Maybe because you want to impress girls. (Although, protip: there are WAY better ways of doing that. The super ridiculously fucking fast car may, in fact, just make you look like a bit of a douche. But that’s not important. The important thing is how you want to feel, and the belief that buying this thing will make you feel that way.)

Let’s look at another example. One I know you can relate to: This course. Ostensibly, you paid me a big wad of cash because you want to learn how to get paid to write. But ‘learning to get paid to write’ doesn’t really get to the heart of it, does it?

How do you want to feel? Maybe you want to feel relief at not having to answer to your dickwad boss any more. Maybe you want to feel like you’re doing something that matters. Maybe you want to feel like you’re a creative, intelligent person.

Benefits are all about appealing to a person’s identity. There’s a reason my sales pages start with references to MacBooks and espresso: because people like to imagine themselves living this romantic writerly lifestyle. They want to be the person with the MacBook and the espresso and writing assignments and the deadlines.

Before you can persuade anyone to buy into something, you have to show them who that something will help them become. You have to paint a picture of their life with this thing in it. Once you’ve done that — you’ve got them. They want this thing now, and all that remains is for you to give them the information they need to be able to justify this purchase.

And you do need to supply that information. Wanting the thing is a good start, but it’s not enough. Would you have signed up for this course if I hadn’t told you what you’d learn, that you’d get personal feedback from me, given you an indication of how much you might earn? Without that information, you had no way of knowing whether I could really provide you with the lifestyle and the identity I’d promised.

You need both things. You need benefits AND features. But benefits must always come first.

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