Features versus Benefits

Sun, Mar 29, 2009


If you’ve done more than a little copywriting, you will have almost certainly heard the phrase “features vs. benefits.” It’s an important copywriting concept and a good place to begin when you’re trying to write a piece of copy.

So, what do we mean when we talk about features and benefits, in a copywriting context?

  • Features. When we talk about the features of our product or service, we are talking about its raw characteristics or attributes. For good examples of what might constitute “features”, go to an individual product description on a computer or electronics site and read the technical specifications—they’re the features.
  • Benefits. By benefits, we mean how your product can solve your prospects’ problems. Benefits describe how the product will help the customer solve his problem. They tell the prospect what he will gain by using the product.

Now, how do we use our knowledge of features and benefits to write compelling copy?

Features, in copywriting, are always a useful starting point. They provide a basic outline for what your customer needs to know. Let’s use the hypothetical example of a cordless, telephone-answering system. Its features include:

  • 5.8 GHz Digital Cordless Phone
  • Digital Answering System – 18 minutes recording time
  • Phone Book
  • 4 handsets
  • Intercom system
  • Warranty: 90 DAYS

Now, for a person who knows nothing about cordless phones with answering machines, this feature list might not mean too much. It’s a collection of basic information about the phone system and nothing else. It’s not likely to compel many of our prospects to buy the phone system. And that’s why we need to move on from our features to discuss benefits.
Benefits bring the features to life by connecting them with our prospects’ problems, desires, and needs. Benefits make the features personal. They explain how the features will improve the customer’s life in some way. Going through the list above, let’s try to come up with some illustrative benefits for each feature.

5.8GHz digital system: The 5.8GHz frequency lets you go anywhere in your house and still have clear reception without interfering with your home computer network. The phone’s frequency-hopping digital technology will keep calls secure from outside sources.

Digital Answering System: The digital answering systems will answer your calls when you can’t. Tapeless operation ensures flawless performance and the ability to easily save , delete, and check on messages when you’re away from home.

Phonebook: Store your friends’ and family members’ number directly on your phone, no more having to try to remember numbers or dialing them in yourself.
4 handsets: Keep a phone in any room—have one available and convenient whenever you need to make a call. No more hunting around to find a handset.

Intercom system: Stay in touch with the other members of your household, call their handsets directly. Easily transfer calls between handsets—no more traipsing through your house trying to find people.

Warranty: Our 90-day warranty means you don’t have to worry about our product breaking down or not meeting your needs. If you change your mind or have any problems whatsoever you can return the phone system for a 100% no-questions-asked refund.

You see what we’ve done? Now once we’ve come up with benefits for our features, we need to go through a revision exercise. For each feature, we should ask ourselves the following questions:

  • Do my benefits truly reflect and cater to the situations, problems, needs and desires of the target market for my product?
  • Is the language I have used easy to understand?
  • If I was reading this as a prospective customer, would I understand “What’s in it for me?” on the first reading.
  • Did I cover all the benefits that a specific feature has? Have I missed any important ones out?
  • Was I specific enough? Is there enough “depth” to my benefits?

Benefits are effective tools you can use to get your readers to fully understand and appreciate your product. The more personal and relational your benefits appear, the more real, vivid, significant, and meaningful they will be. People will make their buying decisions based on the perceived benefits of your offering, not its featureset.

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19 Responses to “Features versus Benefits”

  1. Dan Waldron Says:

    Hi there,

    I looked over your blog and it looks really good. Do you ever do link exchanges on your blog roll? If you do, I’d like to exchange links with you.

    Let me know if you’re interested.



  2. chase Says:

    nice post, good examples. will try some of these ideas out. thanks!


  3. LaineH Says:

    yeah think i’ve mad ethe mistake of concentrating on features before…thanks for this


  4. Cordless telephones with answering machines Says:

    Interesting information which I can use for my current research on phone history. Adam


  5. Cordless telephones with answering machines Says:

    I am currently involved in research regarding phones and phone history and features etc, so this has been useful.


  6. Marte Cliff Says:

    As we say in copywriting – emotions make the sale, logic justifies it.

    Thus, the benefits are the “reasons why” they want what you have to offer, and the features reinforce their decision (and justify it to a spouse or friend who says “Why did you buy that?”).

    Good post – I like your blog, and I’ll be back!


  7. Chase Says:

    This really is informative post. Features need benefits. It’s as if a technical term transormed into a layman’s term. Definitely useful for customers/ buyers.


  8. Mom to Be Says:

    One time I went to the mall and the guy was offering me some products and he ended up talking which I don’t understand. He should have stated the benefits of the products instead of the features.


  9. Kirby Says:

    Our thesis has something to do with this, porduct development. This is a great post. I just learned from it.


  10. Dacao Says:

    Interesting post. I find your site informative. Bookmarking it now. ;)


  11. Getto Says:

    Now I am learning. :) Thanks for sharing!


  12. One Thing Says:

    Currently into product development. This site gave me so much inputs. Kudos!


  13. Screwdrivers Says:

    Hi. I read a few of your other posts and wanted to know if you would be interested in exchanging blogroll links?


  14. skil cordless screwdriver Says:

    Your blog is interesting! Keep up the good work!


  15. cordless screwdrivers Says:

    Great job with the info. How did you find it? Please let me know.


  16. Justin Says:

    Emotions make the sale, logic justifies it. Then sales pour in.


  17. Black Says:

    Gaining. This is more important on a customer’s point of view.


  18. Avila Says:

    Now I know. Thanks for sharing them.


  19. Shoemaker Says:

    I just learned from this post. Thanks.


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