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Writing for the Internet > Sales Copywriting > Web Copywriting: Focus on Benefits

Web Copywriting: Focus on Benefits

In order to help your website visitors understand why they need your product, you need to clearly illustrate the benefits of that product. Michel Fortin, explains how to structure your web copywriting so that your visitors know exactly what's in it for them in the following article.

So, What's in it For Me?

The Internet is not a broadcast medium. It's much more than that. Of course, the Internet is a medium. But it's not a broadcast medium in the same sense as TV or radio. It is a direct response medium. It is interactive and dynamic.

It is user-driven. That's a big difference.

I'm not alone as even the government thinks the same way I do. For example, my country's telecommunications watchdog -- the Canadian Radio and Telecommunications Commission (or the CRTC, which is comparable to the American FCC) -- officially declared so in 1999.

In the wake of rumored proposals to regulate the Internet, the CRTC ruled out the possibility by declaring that the Internet is not a broadcasting medium.

It based its decision on the fact that the web is interactive with its audience -- unlike the television, radio and other media one-way media. As a result, regulators concluded that the Internet could therefore police itself.

However, my point here is not a political one but a marketing-related one.

It is based on the premise that many webmasters and online business owners look at online marketing as a mere communications process. And often, they do so by turning their web sites into billboard-littered graveyards. They tend to forget that their electronic "brochures" are sales tools as well.

The greatest limitation of ecommerce is the lack of touch and feel online -- for example, people cannot physically inspect the products they are buying.

Moreover, the Internet is cold, faceless and impersonal. The lack of human interaction takes away the emotional element in the sales transaction, as well as the ability to persuade visitors individually and overcome their objections.

Understandably, a salesperson's enthusiasm for, and belief in, his or her product are easy to convey in person. That person's unique set of sales skills, product knowledge, personality and expertise is equally advantageous in offline selling. Most of all, her ability to slant presentations in order to meet specific client needs, goals and desires are also easier in the physical realm.

But online, these abilities are virtually nonexistent.

That's why copy has a much greater job online than offline.

Like a salesperson, a website must communicate emotions that empower people to buy. But then it must also direct visitors to take some kind of action. And in both cases, the responsibility boils down to the words.

Radio or TV may or may not use direct response. But online, there's no choice.

Online, you must use words that drive your readers' actions and compel some kind of response. Even if it's to simply keep reading. However, dealing with this issue in greater depth requires an entire article on its own.

So for now, let's stick with the biggest challenge we face with online copy, even before we elicit some kind of response from our readers. And that is: benefits.

Why? Because before we compel some kind of response, words should appeal to specific buyer motives and make offers truly irresistible. Common wisdom dictates that the first rule in doing so is to stress benefits over features.

Sounds simple, right?

Not really, for if it were the Internet would be literally filled with successful websites. So in an attempt to provide you with some guidance, here's a tool to help you in developing compelling benefits.

The Product Analysis Worksheet

In "Personal Selling: An Interactive Approach," Ronald Marks, Ph.D., a professor of marketing at the University of Missouri, discusses the ability to convey benefits over features using a tool he calls Product Analysis Worksheet.

Product benefits usually consist of four principal levels. They are features, advantages, benefits and motives. Each layer has its own set of attributes and characteristics, which varies depending on the product type and the market to which the product caters.

To illustrate, here's a brief description of each layer:

  1. Features -- what products have
    For example, "This accounting software has a reporting feature."
  2. Advantages -- what features do
    For example, "This reporting feature provides real-time, on-demand, updated mission-critical information to key business managers."
  3. Motives -- what motives do features satisfy
    For example, "Cost-savings, greater control, increased production, etc"
  4. Benefits -- what those features mean
    For example, "Managers are able to keep their finger on your company's financial pulse at all times, thereby reducing costs by as much as 50%, maintaining greater control over expenditures, and increasing their output by 10-20 times at any given time -- in just a few clicks."

Obviously, benefits are essential to successful online selling. But describing them in a way that's appropriate for, and directly related and targeted to, specific audiences is a difficult process.

For example, a common problem among webmasters is to develop content using a language their users will understand, when often they end up using words that only they can understand -- or "technolese."

This is quite normal as we write in the way we think or talk.

However, the goal in writing good, compelling copy is to think and talk like our readers. And this is where much of the copy I see fails, in my estimation.

We're too married to our product, or we're too disconnected from how and what our readers think, feel and communicate. We often can't see the forest for the trees. If this is you, then use the "product analysis worksheet."

First, list all of the features of your product or service, including standard, technical, supportive or abstract features. Then, with each feature, develop a subsequent list of relative advantages.

This is where most business owners and copywriters fail.

They assume an advantage is a benefit, when it's not. The "benefit" is much too broad or one-sided. For instance, you were probably taught that a feature is what a product has and a benefit is what that feature does. Right? But...

... A benefit is what that feature means.

A benefit is what a person intimately gains from a specific feature. When you describe a feature, say this: "What this means to you, Mr. Prospect, is this (...)," followed by a more personal gain your reader gets from the feature.

Therefore, turn it around. don't focus on a certain feature's benefit. Rather, focus on how those features specifically benefit the individual.

Here's an example using my private membership website, where members get access to videos of me tearing sales copy apart, and revealing copywriting tips, tricks and actual, tested conversion strategies in the process.

Feature: Watch a top copywriter in action as he writes killer copy, all recorded on video, using real salesletters and websites from real clients.

  • Advantage: You get to learn how to write copy faster by understanding the logic behind successful copy (not just how to write it), and also learn copywriting tips, mistakes, shortcuts and proven results in the process.
  • Motive: Reduces the learning curve, the risks, the effort and the costs involved in trying to do it all yourself.
    • Benefit #1: This means you get real-world examples and actually see the process done before you, instead of plain textbook theory or swipe files that leave you scratching your head.
    • Benefit #2: Using real-world examples means you can appreciate and understand what goes into world-class copy, so you can easily repeat the process on your own, in the future.
    • Benefit #3: Repeating the process on your own also means you don't have to pay an expensive copywriter to do a rewrite.
    • Benefit #4: Not having to pay for a copywriter means you save money and get it done faster by learning proven, tested strategies you can apply immediately -- without having to wait for someone to do it for you or explain it to you in some "how-to" course.
    • Benefit #5: And learning proven, tested strategies means you eliminate the need to search for, find, test and learn everything yourself, and avoid making costly mistakes -- without having to figure out what works (and what doesn't) on your own.

... And on and on.

Can you see the difference?

Now, once achieved, look at your worksheet and then ask:

  • "Did I cover all the benefits that a specific feature has? Did I go deep and specific enough?" (To help you, just keep asking, "what this means to you, is," and work it until you run out of reasons. Once you're done, you then move onto the next feature.)
  • "Did I use benefits that truly reflect and cater to the situations, problems, needs and desires of my target market? Was the language chosen easy for them to understand?" (To help you, think of expressing benefits in terms that relate directly to each individual in that market.)

Nevertheless, remember that "features tell but benefits sell."

And contrary to popular knowledge, benefits are not vehicles for creating hype or puffery. As illustrated above, they are effective tools you can use to get your readers to fully understand and appreciate your product's true purpose.

Remember, different words mean different things to different people.

In other words, forget features and what they do, which is what most people think are benefits. Think of what a feature means to the customer and the words that communicate this meaning at an individual, personal and emotional level.

About the Author

Michel Fortin is a direct response copywriter, author, speaker and consultant. His specialty are long copy sales letters and websites. Watch him rewrite copy on video each month, and get tips and tested conversion strategies proven to boost response in his membership site at The Copy Doctor today.

> Recommended:  Make Your Words Sell: This ebook is GUARANTEED to increase your bottom line. Written by Joe Robson, professional web copywriter, it's packed (really packed) with solid advice to turn your website into a profitable venture.


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