Do any reading about copywriting, and you will find one subject coming up frequently: understanding the difference between features and benefits. This seems to be a difficult concept for people to grasp, both copywriters and the people using them. This should be an easy thing to get, however. It all comes down to the focus of attention.
Features are the characteristics of the product or service being promoted. Let’s consider a couple of cars. The first is a compact car with an lower price than similar models, a high fuel economy, good reliability reviews, and a high safety rating. The second is a luxury car with a prestigious brand, a high cost, and every possible amenity in the cabin. All of these things are features.
What are the benefits? For the first car, one benefit is that it saves money. Several features–the low cost, the fuel economy, and the reliability–support this claim. The safety rating and even the reliability will be benefits to someone concerned about risk. For the luxury car, the high cost and the prestige will be benefits to someone interested in a car as a status symbol. The benefits of the amenities will vary depending on a person’s interest. Someone valuing comfort will find benefit in heated seats and climate control. A gadget person might find benefit in a great sound system, computerized controls, and GPS navigation.
Just looking at examples, however, may not highlight the simple key to understanding the difference. The features all come from the product (or service). They are focused on the thing being promoted. The benefits focus, instead, on the prospect. They answer the “What’s In It For Me?” question. And they will vary based on the targeted prospect. Someone who hates electronics might be intimidated by the computerized controls that another finds highly appealing. The ad for the same luxury car will be different for the magazines Money and Popular Science.
People need to know features, but they are always secondary to benefits, because benefits are focused on them. Benefits address their needs. How much of the copywriting should discuss features will depend on the context. A technical specifications page on a website, for example, provides ample room to discuss every characteristic, but a quarter-page print ad will be almost all benefits. When in doubt, go with benefits. It keeps the focus where it belongs: on the prospect.
If you are a copywriter, drill the difference in focus into your head until you immediately identify features and benefits. If you are looking for a copywriter, ask her to explain the difference, or give her some features of your product or service and have her suggest some benefits. A clear understanding of the differences is essential for quality copywriting.