I recently met with the partners at a small financial planning company, who wanted a new brochure and sales presentation. My first question, as usual, was ‘What makes your firm different?’
The answers were fairly predictable: ‘We can handle most financial issues… you can have confidence in our advice… we have experience… we create a plan that suits your needs.’
Well, yes, but the same goes for just about every other half-decent financial planning firm. I was reminded of the old saying ‘Discounts are taxes placed on brands for being unremarkable.’
Sometimes I need to ask my clients a lot of questions before I get a clear answer about their competitive advantage. So, to save you a bit of time, let me share my number one copywriting tool with you. It requires no software. No fancy timers. Nothing but a piece of paper and a pencil.
It’s a features and benefits table. And it’s where I start with any new writing brief.
Do you know the difference between a feature and a benefit?
When I ask business owners the benefit of their service, I often hear; ‘We have 20 years’ experience.’ Or, ’Our account managers have small groups of clients.’ Or, more worryingly, ’It’s a turn-key solution that drives innovation.’
These are all features. Except perhaps the last one because I still don’t know what it means. Please don’t use jargon-y clichés to describe a feature or benefit.
What will they actually do for me as a customer? That’s what I’m interested in.
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Here’s how you work out the difference.
Step 1: Get a blank A4 page. Draw a line down the middle and write the headings Features on the left, and Benefits on the right.
Step 2: Make a list under Features of everything your service or product offers. Here are some examples in case you go blank:
- Download updates online
- Can be customised with your branding
- Local customer service team
- Dedicated account manager
- WiMax technology built for data
- Small classes
- Simple automated systems
Step 3: Now, put yourself in your customers’ shoes. What does that feature mean for them? It might mean different things for different types of customers. Write it all down next to the relevant feature.
If you find it tricky, add the words ‘which means that…’ to the end of your feature, and then complete the sentence. If a certain feature doesn’t mean anything to the customer, than it’s not really worth bothering them about, is it?
Here are some examples of benefits to match the features above.
- Convenient, saves time
- Promote your business professionally
- You won’t spend time on hold, and we’re empowered to help you
- Proactive support, focused on your needs
- It’s fast and reliable
- You’ll get the attention you need
- Spend more time on your business, less time on paperwork
Step 4: Is there anything in your benefits list that really stands out? It may be something customers have mentioned they especially love about working with you, or something that you know no one else can offer.
Step 5: Write down a few different ways to express that benefit from your customer’s point of view – keep it clear and simple.
And then make that benefit shine on your website, direct mail, flyers and presentations. If you think you need a tagline, there it is. You’ve also now got a quick response for networking and elevator pitches.
See? Now that wasn’t so hard.
What’s your key benefit? Or are you still confused whether it’s a feature or a benefit? Share with us below!