Features vs Benefits: This ONE Phrase Will Transform Your Copy

by John McIntyre

I want to share with you ONE PHRASE that changed my copy and sales process forever. One phrase that suddenly made everything more powerful, that tapped into the emotions of buyers, and that increased my conversion rates.

That one phrase is: “What that means to you…”

Now, in order for you to understand how this phrase can give you the same benefit let me take a step back and define a term.

I’m intentionally NOT going to look up the term in the dictionary and present that definition. Rather, I’m going to present it how I use it.

If the two definitions conflict just know that I’m teaching you how to make money and the dictionary is an archaic waste of paper.

That word is: Features

You’re selling a product or service, right?

Well, no matter what you’re selling there are features that define that product or service.

If you’re selling home loans you may have features like:

  • 3.5% Interest Rate
  • 30 year term
  • $500 document fee
  • No more than $2500 for closing costs

(Keep in mind, I don’t sell loans. I may have just described an awesome loan or a real pile of crap. It’s the principle that I’m going for.)

In other words the FEATURES describe what the loan is composed of. They describe the inner workings of that service.

Let’s make it a physical product. Perhaps you sell Kayaks at a retail location.

Again, I know nothing about kayaks but lets say the features are:

  • 12 feet long
  • Green or blue
  • $997
  • Patented minnow design

Now I want you to picture that you’re standing in front of that loan officer, or that guy at the store trying to sell you the kayak.

They’re giving you their pitch.

I want you to picture what they’re saying.

No doubt the loan officer is talking ALL about that 3.5% interest rate. For sure the kayak guy mentions the patented minnow design almost immediately.

That’s how most salespeople do it. That’s how many write their copy.

They attach themselves to the components, the features, of the product or service and want to tell their prospect that they should buy because it has those features.

There’s a problem with this approach, though.

Features appeal to the logical side of us. We like to know how much of this, how tall that is, what comes in this big purchase, what’s it look like, etc.

But we NEVER buy something based on those features.

We only buy things based on what those features can DO for us. In other words, we buy something based on the emotional attachment we give to the desired result.

These are the BENEFITS. Features and benefits are two entirely different things, yet too many copywriters and salespeople conflate them.

All people BUY things based on emotion (the benefits). And THEN they justify their purchases with the features; the logical part. This applies to buying a candy bar and it applies to buying a home.

The inexperienced salesperson or copywriter tries to rely on the customer to make their own mental leap from features to benefits.

They think that if they tell them the loan has 3.5% interest that the customer will automatically understand the ramifications of that and how their life will improve.

Customers aren’t stupid. But this isn’t their world. They don’t make those leaps without help.

And that’s where the previously mentioned phrase comes in.

Sometimes I’ll actually use the phrase “What that means to you…” verbatim in my selling and copy.

Other times, I’m merely using the concept while deploying other words.

But here’s how the concept works.

When describing a product or service the features go on the left of the sentence. The benefits go on the right.

And in the middle you’ve got: ‘what that means to you’.

Let’s try it:

  • This home loan has a 3.5% interest rate…what that means to you…is that you’re getting the absolute best rate available and over the course of the loan you’ll save $100,000 vs going with the other guy who has a 3.7% rate.

The consumer wants to save money. And when presented with the opportunity to save a lot he can emotionally feel good about that.

Also, he’s buying a home loan. People worry that they’re getting screwed on loans all the time. So when it’s explained that the feature of this loan being a 3.5% interest rate means that there IS no lower rate he can emotionally feel better about this choice.

  • This kayak has a patented minnow design…what that means to you…is that the water will wick away from the hull so much easier. You’ll be able to go quite a bit faster and you’ll get much further before tiring out thanks to the efficiencies of the design.

The customer hears ‘patented minnow design’. That sounds cool. And when she explains it to her friend later she might even say, “I got this cool Kayak that has this minnow design thingy….”

But she’s not buying because of that. She doesn’t even know what it means!

She’s buying because the benefit of that feature is faster speeds and longer distances. She wants that. The last time she went kayaking she got left behind by her brother who was able to go farther. THAT is the benefit that she cares about.

Look back at your own copy or sales presentations.

My guess is that most of you can find lots of times where you’re so set on the features that you don’t even talk about the benefits. This will hurt your sales.

At my company we sell dog training.

There’s kind of a running joke amongst my staff for clients that I’ve sold.

The joke is that the clients that I’ve sold will have no idea how many sessions they get, what’s included in their training program, how long it is, etc.

Don’t get me wrong.

I TELL people everything that comes in their program. I tell them all about the features, even write it down for them.

But the thing is that I spend SO much more time going over the features and how their life will improve that they are sold simply based on the emotion of having their problems solved.

How many sessions, how long, what training equipment comes included, etc become secondary once they know their problems will get solved.

How can you apply this in your sales process?

This is a guest post by Ty Brown. Ty tripled his business in two and a half years using stories and persuasive copywriting. Now he speaks, writes,  coaches, and consults with other businesses on how to do the same. Ty is also the owner of Ty the Dog Guy, a Salt Lake City dog training company Find him at Ty the Speaker.

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