Lesson 3. How to convert features and specs into benefits

Hello and welcome to the third episode of the course “Copywriting from zero in 30 days”. Last time we talked about the audience and its needs. Today we learn how to cover these needs in the text with specs, features and benefits of the product or service. We also take into account the differences between these instances and abstractions.

What are the features and benefits, specs and abstractions?

First of all, let’s deal with the definitions. Because it is very important to distinguish between these concepts in order to avoid confusion.

Features — are attributes specific to a product, service, or idea. For example, color, functions, form factor, materials and other properties.

Specs — are the characteristics of a product, service or idea that can be measured in numbers and compared. For example, dimensions, weight, price, time and other numerical indicators.

Abstractions — are the adjectives that do not form a clear image in the minds of the audience and which people perceive differently through the prism of their life experience.

For example, the phrases “a high house” or “a fast car”. It is not clear what is meant here. How tall is the house? For residents of the countryside, a building of 5-7 floors is already high. And for citizens of metropolis, even 10 or 20 floors may be a rather low building.

Likewise for the car. How fast is it? For one 70 km/h is already “Wow!”. And for another even 120 km/h is too slow. Since everyone understands abstractions in their own way, this is a problem. Therefore, copywriters often replace them with specifics — features, specs or benefits.

Benefits — are the audience’s needs, conscious or subconscious, covered with our product, service or idea. And that’s the crucial moment. Here is an illustrative example.

Illustrative example of features and benefits

Imagine that we sell an external SSD hard drive. It has a capacity of 250 GB with a read and write speed of 500 MB/s.

Example of the product with certain characteristics.
Example of the product with certain characteristics.

By default an “external” and SSD are the features. 250 GB capacity and 500 MB/s speed are specs.

The benefits will depend on who is our audience (what target group) and what the audience is looking for and interested in. Let’s say we have two different target groups: technical specialists and ordinary users.

Group A: technical specialists

Technical specialists usually know what they are looking for. And if they need a specific device with particular characteristics, these specs completely cover their conscious needs and automatically become benefits. If there are no other sellers in the market with the same product, then this target group with a high degree of probability will make a purchase from us. If they are, then the choice will depend on additional aspects: such as price, payment options, warranty and so on. We’ll talk about it a bit later.

Group B: ordinary users

Ordinary users often may not understand the specs. They just know that they need an external hard drive to store software, movies, photos, games and other stuff. So the ordinary user usually doesn’t know exactly which specs and features to choose. In this case, we need to turn features and specs into benefits, based on the client’s needs.

Let’s start with “external SSD”. This is a type of a hard drive. And it is a feature. Well, actually two features: “external” and “SSD”. But it may mean nothing to the most customers, who don’t understand the difference between HDD and SSD types. But these customers can remember or imagine their own user experience. That’s why we can tell them that with an external SSD drive, the operating system or another program starts in just 1 second and is always with the customer in his pocket or bag. So we close the need in a language, understandable to the client. Thus, turning features into benefits.

Example of turning features into benefits.
Example of turning features into benefits.

Let’s go further. Our product also has specs: capacity and speed. And according to numbers it’s pretty capacious and fast. But we remember that “capacious” and “fast” are abstractions, which are not informative. We also cannot use just the bare figures of 250 Gb and 500 MB/s for this target group, because it doesn’t correspond to the clients’ needs. They just can’t imagine this speed or capacity. So these specs may mean nothing to the audience. But we can turn it into benefits if we bind them to the amount of content. For example, if we say that the hard drive can hold more than 60 movies in FULL HD quality and each movie can be recorded in just 8 seconds.

Example of turning specs into benefits.
Example of turning specs into benefits.

More examples of features, benefits, specs and abstractions

Let’s take a look at additional examples of typical benefits in comparison to features, characteristics and abstractions. Let’s assume we sell a washing machine.

  • Abstraction: modern technology
  • Feature: direct drive
  • Benefit: as silent as a whisper, ensures a restful sleep for children
  • Abstraction: high speed spin
  • Characteristic: 1200 rpm (revolutions per minute)
  • Benefit: almost dry clothes
  • Abstraction: excellent energy efficiency
  • Feature: energy class A+
  • Benefit: saves up to 50 cents on every wash
  • Abstraction: holds a lot of laundry
  • Characteristic: maximum load – 6 kg
  • Benefit: сan wash 2 sets of bedclothes at a time
Visual comparison of features, benefits, specs and abstractions.
Visual comparison of features, benefits, specs and abstractions.

Please note: we use value categories and language specific to our target audience, describing benefits. It is very important.

Additional benefits (based on subconscious needs)

We have just considered conscious needs of our target audience and benefits that cover them. But we are far from monopolists in the market. There are many other similar products and brands. Therefore, the selection criteria for the audience are much broader. That’s where subconscious needs come into play. We talked about these needs in the previous lesson. Let’s take into account them as well.

  1. Self-preservation instinct. Here we must take into consideration the rationality and validity of the choice. That’s why we focus on reasonable price, reliability, durability, performance, warranty, etc.
  2. Social instinct. This instinct needs can be covered with social aspects and labels: general popularity, product bestseller status, positive reviews, brand awareness and reputation, etc.
  3. Procreation instinct. If the product is the best on the market, very expensive, not for everyone. If it has a unique form-factor, fancy cover or is beautiful in itself. Finally, if it attracts attention and allows buyer to feel superiority over others or stand out — all this covers the needs of the procreation instinct.

Industry benefits VS company ones

Every product or service has its own features and benefits. But you can often see situations when the same goods or services are sold by different sellers — competitors. In that case it is crucial to differ industry benefits from a company ones.

Industry benefits — these are advantages that a product or service has. And they are the same for all sellers.

For example, if we sell swimming lessons, then the industry benefits will be:

  • comprehensive muscle development,
  • stress reduction,
  • improved cardiovascular and respiratory systems
  • increased stamina and so on.

Regardless of which school or swimming pool the client chooses, he or she will receive these benefits anyway. Therefore, using such benefits we can simply lead customers to our competitors, which are closer, cheaper, more convenient, etc. This is not good. That’s why in order to create a full-fledged copy, we should use company benefits. So we can sell both the service and the seller.

Company benefits — these are the advantages in connection with the product or service that are specific to our seller. In example about swimming lessons it may be:

  • world champion coaches,
  • clean and safe water thanks to silver ion filters,
  • world class equipment,
  • a unique method of learning to swim in 5 lessons,
  • famous swimmers among the graduates, etc.

These are the benefits that we have as a particular seller, and not everyone.

Practical task for self-test

Now it’s time to practice. Here are some products and services. Try to formulate features, specs and benefits (both conscious and subconscious) for them.

  • Roses from the greenhouse
  • Digital weather station
  • Carpet cleaning service

And as an additional task, try to formulate the benefits of a particular seller. You will succeed!

Best regards, Dan.

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