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Features vs. Benefits in Copywriting

The simple reason most website copy fails before the first word

Originally published in Better Marketing

Picture this: You’re sitting down to write for your website. Your meta tags are in order. You’ve got your list of SEO keywords and long-tail search phrases. You know your product inside and out. You’ve got testimonials and professional photography and a streamlined payment system ready for action.

And then … ?

Far too many DIY marketeers just throw down some fancy words to dress up their product’s features — overlooking the most vital element of copywriting: the benefits.

So here’s the citizens’ rundown of features and benefits in copywriting.

Features vs. benefits is more than just semantics

Though related, features and benefits aren’t synonymous. One usually informs the other, but they have entirely different functions in content and copywriting.

Here’s the nutshell definition:

  • Features are the components of a product or service — what you get.

  • Benefits are the story — what you experience.

It’s easy to list the features. They’re factual. They don’t change based on audience. They might even appeal to someone who’s specifically looking for that set of features. But what about the people who don’t know what they’re looking for? Can’t you help them too?

Assuming you’ve hooked them in from a search engine through a steady offering of relevant quality content, the next step is forming a connection between their pain points and your solutions.

And it comes down to storytelling.

Features are the stones; benefits are the bridge

Why does the story matter? Because that’s how we’re wired. We’re creatures of the story. Stories are how we sort and make sense of our experience here. It’s how we decide who to trust and what to avoid. It’s how we connect or reject through space and time.

And it’s how we decide what to buy.

Features are good for comparing two options. But benefits are how you cast what you’re selling into a customer’s story stream: Imagine yourself with this experience. Now go back to living without it.

Which is better?

And how much is better worth?

The answer depends on how powerful the benefits are. Benefits are the lifeblood of marketing. Without benefits, copywriting is just an empty heart pumping stale air.