How to write copy so people actually care about your brand

Cat asking "what's in it for me?"
Your customers won’t say it, but they’re thinking it

If you’re trying to pack some punch into your marketing, there’s no use reinventing the wheel. It’s better to push at the fundamental stuff, the stuff that’s easy to miss in this world of click-bait and gimmicks.

It’s time to take stock of your marketing and write copy so people will care about your product/service/organisation.

It’s time to do some of that ‘strategy’ stuff that people talk about.

Y’know the – and I hate this phrase as much as you do – the “back to basics” stuff.

How much time you got? 10 minutes, ok?

Cool. In 10 mins we can cover a fundamental topic in marketing strategy that can make the stuff you do not feel like a waste of time and money.

I’ll share some genuine tips and helpful tools that you use time and time again.

You care about your stuff, so why don’t others?

I bet the product/service/organisation that you write copy about is really cool.

No, seriously. I’m genuine about that. You’ve worked hard to understand your stuff enough that you’ve probably discovered some surprising things about it.

You can tell everyone what it is, how it works, when it was made and lots of other cool tidbits and facts.

But, you probably wished a few more people cared about it, right?

Yeah, that’s pretty common. We all often wonder why people don’t care about our thing as much as we do.

Maybe it is because our product is a bit unusual. Or our service is bit complex. Or our organisation is not as shiny and new as it once was.

All of these could be true.

But there is a much simpler answer to why people don’t care.

You probably know it already. It’s probably staring right at you, but you hate to look it in the eyes.

Don’t worry, let’s do it together. On the count of three.

One.

Two.

Three.

You aren’t giving them reasons to care.

Phew! We did it.

Isn’t it a relief?

Yep, that wasn’t such a bitter pill to swallow. You kind of knew it all along, but hated to admit it.

I get it.

I’ve worked with a lot of different organisations. Folks who have really cared about what their business does. They spend hours everyday thinking about it, sometimes even at night.

It’s great to work with folks who care so much.

But it makes it very hard to break the big, bad news to them – that your customers don’t care as much as you do.

So, when you are wearing that hat that says “Copywriter” on it, it is your job to write words in a way that will make your customers care.

So, how do you make them care?

When folks write about their product/service/organisation they will describe what it is and provide plenty of information.

But organisations aren’t Wikipedia.

They don’t exist just to give information, they exist to do things and help customers.

So, when you are writing copy you need to give information but also show how you are helping the customer.

This is why in the copybiz, we bang on and on and on about “Features” and “Benefits” until we bore everyone we work with.

It’s fundamental stuff, but it’s often forgotten.

So, don’t forget.

Folks too often focus on the “features” of their product/service/organisation, but forget to mention how it “benefits” the customer.

Write it down.

Why is this important?

You’ve probably guessed why already, but let’s not beat around the bush.

Listing “features” is all well and good, but it’s not enough to win over customers.

In fact, you are only doing half the work.

If you have spent time to write out a web page or brochure with only “features” you haven’t done the job of a copywriter.

You haven’t tried to convince your customer. You haven’t given them any reason to care. You haven’t bothered to show them how it will benefit them.

You are basically saying “we hope you buy from us. Pretty please!”.

And they will just say “So, what?”

In other words, if you are not including “benefits” you are throwing money out the window.

So, you can see it’s simple, but fundamental stuff we’re talking about here.

If it’s so simple, why are you telling me?

Because folks out there are still focusing on “features” and forgetting the “benefits”.

And I think it’s so easy to do that sometimes you don’t realise you are doing it.

I see website landing pages, brochures – even social media posts – that are basically saying “We do this, give us a call”.

And I can almost feel how disappointed and frustrated they are that no one is responding.

I know folks are smart. I believe they know they need to “sell”, they know about “features and “benefits”.

But it’s just easy to forget about benefits.

Sometimes you create a new product that is so exciting to you and maybe even your industry – you think the product itself is the exciting part!

But potential customers are like “So, what?”

I also think sometimes folks mistake features for benefits.

For example, I used to work in a marketing agency and I once got a brief from a client who manufacturers building materials.

Underneath “Benefits” they had written:

“One of the lightest roof tiles on the market.”

Now, for their industry that was pretty cool. That was something to brag about.

But being “one of the lightest roof tiles on the market” wasn’t a benefit to their customers.

But customers can figure out the benefits, they’re not stupid!

Sure, their customers could guess how it could help them.

But customers have little time to think about the benefits themselves. Otherwise they’ll just walk away and forget.

You need to paint the picture for them. That’s your job. Even if they are already looking for a product like yours. There are hundreds of other products that could probably do similar things.

It’s not the customer’s job to guess how a product will help them. It’s your job. You are the person that is trying to sell it to them.

And to do that, you need to be able to spot the difference between a feature and a benefit in a flash.

OK, wiseguy, what’s the difference between a “Feature” and a “Benefit”?

As B2B copywriting legend Bob Bly explains in the “The Copywriter’s Handbook”:

“A feature is a descriptive fact about a product or service; it’s what the product is or has. A benefit is what the product does it’s what the user of the product or service gains as a result of the feature.”

Pretty simple, right?

But, as mentioned, it’s easy to forget or lose focus on this. So, it’s worth keeping a note of this.

How do I transform “Features” into “Benefits”?

Basically, you need to know what your customer wants.

And – before you try and be sneaky – No. Your customer doesn’t want YOUR product. They want what it can help them do.

You probably have a good idea of what they want, so you have to think about how a feature benefits them.

Classic copywriter Victor O.Schwab provides a simple list of 4 fundamental things when it comes to this.

Just think about…

…what people want to GAIN e.g. health, time, money, popularity, etc

…what people want to BE e.g. efficient, influential, recognised as authorities, etc

…what people want to DO e.g. learn new skills, get tasks done quicker, etc

…what people want to SAVE e.g. time, money, work, discomfort, risks, etc

For example, you might get sold a lot of online software. I do.

I get sold a lot of software about PR, marketing, SEO, etc.

But a lot of them obsess with features, which are useful to know but never really explain why I should are about them.

I was once looking for a PR platform for a company that wanted “more PR and content”. It’s was basically up to me as the person defining their strategy to make the decision on what was needed.

They weren’t short of cash and were willing to throw money at any problem.

I found a few potential pieces of software. They listed all these wonderful analytics, what it could track and how big their database was, etc

It talked a lot about results, a lot about achieving goals.

But they were very thin on actual benefits.

They could’ve talked about how much time and money I could save getting set up onto this system, rather than making my own database for the company (which I did and it took me a month).

They could’ve talked about how these systems make businesses look more professional and make press outlets more responsive to your requests (journalists often ignored my emails or calls).

They could’ve even talked about how good you will look to your directors if you can easily calculate ROI and present nice-looking reports (I did this manually and I’m not a graphic designer or the most natural with numbers).

But they didn’t.

I wasn’t convinced. They hadn’t shown me any real benefits.

And they lost out on a potentially easy customer and I did a lot of work myself.

Summary – TL; DR

  • When folks are writing copy they often forget to add how each feature actually benefits the customer e.g. you’ll save time, you’ll look cool, you won’t smell, etc
  • A “Benefit” answers the “So, What?” question that everyone is subconsciously asking whenever they encounter any piece of copy or content.
  • Customers shouldn’t have to fill in the gaps, that’s your job when working on the copy!
  • If you’re expecting customers to guess the benefit of each feature, then you’re wasting yours and their time.
  • Sometimes folks mistake features for benefits, so here is the definition – a feature is a descriptive fact about the product, a benefit is what it lets someone do.
  • You can drill benefits down to four simple things – people want to GAIN something, BE something, DO something, or SAVE something.

There is a lot more to features and benefits, but that’s the basic strategic idea in a nutshell.

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(This article was originally posted on Linkedin on 22 August and has been adapted)

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