Selling on features? Why some copywriting rules were made to be broken

OK, it’s time to make a confession: although I now make a living out of copywriting, I wasn’t always a natural. I started out as an enthusiastic engineer who liked to write, and it took me a long time to understand that selling purely on features is a no-no — they’re nothing without an associated benefit.

“It has a red LED!” I’d scribble enthusiastically.
“So what?” the sales director would reply.
“You can see it’s switched on!”
“So what?”

You get the picture. I soon learnt that if a feature didn’t make money, solve a problem or otherwise improve quality of life for my customers, it was most probably not worth writing about at all.

When it comes to copywriting, it doesn’t hurt to learn a few rules, especially when you’re starting out, but then come the exceptions. As Tom Albrighton of ABC Copywriting points out, Apple’s famous tagline for iPod, “1,000 tunes in your pocket” is most definitely a feature, not a benefit.

The benefit of music on the go is something we are all familiar with — those of us of a certain age were introduced to the idea by the Sony Walkman. Of course, nobody would be seen dead with a Walkman now, hence the beauty of the iPod fitting in your pocket. Apple didn’t need to spell it out to us, we worked it out on our own.

Of course, it’s not just the Apples, BMWs and Rolexes who can afford to imply the benefits of their products. Working in B2B and end-user communications for IT companies, we often find it’s completely unnecessary to explain that 2TB of storage will allow you to well… store more stuff!

What all this highlights is the importance, as always, of knowing your audience. One thing that hasn’t changed is the need for them to understand the benefits of your product or service — if they already do, great, if not, the skill is to whet their appetite without sounding condescending. And if that’s something where you could use some help, then do please call us on 01628 622187.

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