Round about half-past nine on your first day as a copywriter, a greybeard will wander over to your desk and intone, portentously, “You know, features don’t matter, it’s benefits that make the sale.” They stroll off again to suck the end of their pencil while dreaming of their “Best Screenplay” Oscar.
They’re right, of course. Features don’t matter as much as benefits. But here’s the interesting thing. There’s an “F” word that matters much more than “features” and can really turbocharge your benefits copy too.
An example. I co-founded a business writing and copywriting training company called Write for Results. We could say, “we are the best business writing training company in the UK.” Which would be a boast. A boast, incidentally, of the kind favoured by roughly 99% of all corporate copywriters.
But we’re better than that. So we could say, “our workshops cover the three main stages of the writing process.” Which would be true. But not very exciting or enticing, being a mere feature. What we actually do is to use a fact.
We say you can get, “business writing training from the company used by The Economist”.
That’s not a feature of the product. Nor is it a benefit. (Though a benefit is clearly implied). It’s a fact.
Your customers will be impressed by facts. They will be persuaded by facts. They will be emotionally engaged by facts. Because facts disable most people’s b******t detectors.
If you publish subscription products: newsletters, magazines, newspapers or websites, tell prospective subscribers how many of their peers already subscribe.
If you offer a service that saves businesspeople money, calculate and then explain – precisely – how much money they’ll save. And over what period.
If you offer some life-improving product or service, dig up some facts that prove it works.
But try to avoid bombarding the reader with too much information and too many numbers. As in the Write for Results example above, sometimes what you really need is a single killer fact that tends to convince on its own.
They key is research. Talk to the people who create the product you’re selling. Find out as much as you can about it. And don’t neglect your customers either. Be creative and see how you can weave a compelling sales story from the data you hold on them.
And I’m telling you this because?
Facts alone won’t make the sale: the greybeard was right. But woven skillfully into your copy, facts carry so much weight that the reader is happy to accept a few less firmly reinforced sales claims. These should be true, naturally, but you have licence to indulge in more picturesque copy that engages the reader’s emotions.