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  1. #1
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    The Feature-to-Benefit translator clinic...

    Featuritis is something many copywriters fall into. People request features, and it can be tempting to simply use feature lists in place of copywriting.

    A site feature might be a Cascading Style Sheet. The benefits are being able to update the look and feel by making changes in one file, rather than every page. Can you imagine scrolling through 25, 50 or 100 pages looking for every incident of the <font> tag and changing it? Even then, you might only want to change certain sections, not others. With CSS, change one file and you're done.

    People tend to list the feature, then leave the benefit up to the reader to imagine. Unfortunately, everyone can have the same feature, but usability, suitability to task, and how groups of features are organized can vary widely.

    A feature would exist if you had zero users. A benefit only exists through use, which implies a task, objective, and how well the feature allows the user to reach their objectives.

    Benefits are the language of the much talked about "user experience."

    Ease-of-use can be a benefit. Much more often ease-of-use is a meaningless buzzword. Benefit rich copy would translate to "User testing has reduced the time it takes to perform [named task] by one third, or reduced [A, B, C] user errors by fifteen percent."

    If You Really Loved Me You Would Read My Mind
    Does your web development company "work with me to learn my requirements." Well that's nice. One question though ...who doesn't?

    I call such generic filler "If you could read my mind" copywriting. If the clients "only knew" your years in business have taught you a lot, they would do business with you.

    ....Because you use a checklist that eliminates five embarasing, but common, mistakes a web site can go live with before anyone catches it. And no employee can upload a design without signing off on each item.

    ....Because you have a four-step requirements gathering process that gets projects done in half the time of newbies.

    ....Because only experienced interviewers gather requirements you get on the client's wavelength quicker, with fewer misunderstandings which cost time, effort and money.

    Somehow I get the impression that the people writing such copy think if the client really cares enough, they'll take the time to figure out the benefits. The idea seems to be clients will read things into the copy that simply isn't there because, well, I don't know why.

    Rest assured if you don't spell out a compelling reason to contact you, there won't be a meeting to spell it all out later.

    If Only There Were a Way...
    If only there were a way to explain without telepathy. ....If only there were some kind of "thing" which would help potential clients understand how satisfied they would be, once they started doing business with you. ....If only customers could find something on a website that explained how different your business is.

    The biggest problem in web development is the illusion communication has taken place. Not just between web site and user, but between developer and client. That's why I can't keep from smiling when a web developer types the generic "we listen" boilerplate into their layout.

    Everbody "listens." And yet the misunderstandings happen anyway. It would be a refreshing change to see someone articulate the procedure they use to make sure communication happens.

    An article Marketing Features vs Benefits has this amazing quote "...not one in 10 businesses really understands the difference. And that's one of the main reasons most small-business marketing efforts don't work!"

    Lots of people can write a CSS file. Fewer understand visual flow or merchandising design.

    Good Designers Redesign, Great Designers Realign translates a feature into a benefit. Unlike many web copywriters, Cameron Moll understands he has to make the distinction.

    Why not post your features here, and use this thread to seek help translating features into benefits.
    Last edited by DCrux; Apr 14, 2007 at 13:09.

  2. #2
    Carpe Diem = Fish of the Day fisherboy's Avatar
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    Hi DCrux

    You have some good thoughts and I hope people are reading what you say.

    In my case, 10 years in sales and 7 years in General Management has given me an insight into the features vs benefits, Unique Selling Propositions etc.

    Does that mean I do a great job of applying it? Not always.

    Its good to refocus on the important bits when you're writing copy.

    Web Site Design

  3. #3
    SitePoint Guru bronze trophy
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    Which gives me a great reminder -- thanks for the hint.

    Years in business. Seems like a great shorthand way of explaining something to the reader. However, as the saying goes, some businesses haven't been doing business for 12 years ...they've been repeating the same first year in business a dozen times over.

    How refreshing it would be for someone to sit you down and explain exactly what a seasoned professional knows that rookies don't. Years in business is a feature. The benefits are...

    ...You don't get fooled by short-term fads (useful in financial services)

    ...If you do work in teams, time in business can mean your teams actually know how to collaborate. How many times have you seen "teams" which were just a group of people thrown at a problem, or client?

    ....If you're in the technology field, you can champion useful advances. Zeldman writes how many web developers resisted the standards movement he pioneered, in the beginning. In a similar way you can be in business for a dozen years, resisting every inevitable trend in the business. Or you can talk about what you see as valuable advances and how you adopted some, passed on others and why.

    My guess? Zeldman would have had less resistance if he had gone out of his way to explain the benefits, and not merely the features of standards. Not just to developers, but to the clients of those developers.

    To relate this point back to the CSS example, you might talk about experience by contrasting CSS longhand with CSS shorthand.

    In the early days of the Geek Squad, the business faced resistance from IT departments. In response, they created "stealth mode" operations and policies -- purely a face saving measure for the Geek Squad to get the billable, while the internal IT department takes the credit.

    That's something even some technology consultants with twenty years in business have yet to fully understand. And it's not something you understand when the ink is still drying on your 'certs.'

    In other words years in business is the feature -- an explanation or demonstration of what you learned over those years is the benefit. If the topic is CSS code, then give examples of code. If the topic is features and benefits, give examples of a feature then explain how you translate it into a benefit.

    That's the point of a "clinic" type thread.
    Last edited by DCrux; Mar 29, 2007 at 03:01.


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