Benefits: the key to effective copywriting

by Tom Albrighton 4 August 2009 Copywriting

Whatever branding, design or marketing channels you use to market your business, it’s essential that your copywriting communicates benefits: the good things that your product or service does (or promises to do) for your customers.

The first and foremost benefit of a product or service is meeting a need. Don’t underestimate the power of stating this to a reader. It’s particularly important online, where people are impatiently searching and seeking to confirm that they’ve found the right thing. If your product solves a problem, make sure people know it.

Then we come to ‘hard’, concrete benefits. These usually boil down to one of three things: save time, save money or (for businesses) make money. They have tangible effects that can be measured – they’re bigger, faster or cheaper. A kettle that boils water faster than competing products offers this type of quantifiable benefit.

However, people are also interested in ‘softer’ emotional benefits such as convenience, fun, style, fashion or the sense of having made a sound buying choice. For example, when you buy jeans or trainers, you’re looking for more than the optimum cost-benefit ratio – you want to buy into a brand that feels cool and appropriate for your age and style.

Fred Perry offers customers benefits including product quality, cultural resonance and fashionability

Fred Perry offers customers benefits including product quality, cultural resonance and fashionability

‘Quality’ might appear in both lists, since its definition is so fluid. For example, it might apply to something as concrete as ‘build quality’ in engineering – the durability, tolerance and precision of the components used to make something. But in more subjective areas of judgement, such as graphic design, one person’s concept of ‘quality’ may be very far from another’s, and affected by a range of personal or cultural factors.

We might say, broadly, that ‘hard’ benefits are more important in business-to-business (B2B) marketing, while ‘soft’ benefits appeal to the consumer (B2C). But even if you’re marketing to a business, the buying decision will always be taken by a human. And that human has emotions. So if you know who they are (either as a specific individual, or in terms of their likely profile) you can appeal to those emotions. The need to feel that the right decision has been made is particularly strong in B2B buyers – hence the saying ‘no-one got fired for buying IBM’.

You may have heard of the marketing formula AIDA, which stands for ‘attention, interest, desire, action’. These are the four stages through which a piece of marketing should (supposedly) guide its audience en route to a sale. If we look at it again, we can see that benefits are behind every one. Simple, strong benefits in a headline or slogan attract attention, while interest is generated by adding more detail. Desire is aroused when benefits are made real in the reader’s mind, and action is elicited by giving a persuasive push to the promise of a benefit.

Whatever thought structure you use, the end result needs to be copywriting that speaks directly to your customers’ needs, desires and hopes by offering something of benefit to them. If it doesn’t, it won’t bring much benefit to you.

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