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Features vs. Benefits: How to Hit Your Content Marketing Sweet Spot

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Features vs. Benefits: How to Hit Your Content Marketing Sweet Spot

Think about the last time you went to buy a product online.

Maybe you were on the hunt for some fuzzy snow boots, a 36-piece crayon set, or the latest cellphone upgrade.

You browsed the web looking for the perfect match; comparing your options and ultimately making your purchase.

What made you decide to go with one brand over another? All things held equal, there was likely *something* that convinced you to click that “Add to Cart” button.

Compelling copy has the power to influence us in all our online purchasing decisions. This nudge is often covert, but it can mean the difference between one brand making the sale and another being left in the dust.

In fact, a key component of effective content marketing is being able to speak your audience’s language. By understanding their pain points, struggles, and desires, you can effectively communicate the benefits your product or service provides over your competitors.

So, is it just a matter of hitting on all the features your service has to offer?

Or does it go deeper than that, speaking to the benefit-seeking buyer’s psychology of your target audience?

Let’s discuss.

Features vs. Benefits: What’s the Difference?

Simply put:

  • A feature refers to what a product or service does.
  • A benefit refers to the outcome or result a buyer is likely to experience after buying your product or service.

While it may seem like a no-brainer to hit on all the features your service or product has to offer, the reality is that consumers don’t typically buy things just for the sake of buying them. They buy a product or service to help them solve a problem.

Thinking back to the example above, you weren’t on the hunt for snow boots, a crayon set, or a cellphone just because you wanted some fur on your feet, a box of colored wax, or a sleek, handheld device.

No, you wanted something to keep your feet warm in the winter, to help you create a beautiful masterpiece, or to allow you to call your mom every night.

The appeal of being able to resolve your struggles (cold feet, nothing to do on a rainy day, your mom getting on your case) was what convinced you to seek out a solution and finally make a purchase.

The implied (or stated) benefits of these products spoke to your psychology. And they were enough to make you choose one brand over another.

Benefits & the Basics of Buying Psychology

Now, if you’re thinking “Um, I don’t remember weighing the benefits before I bought the product. I just knew what I wanted” – just know that this phenomenon isn’t always conscious.

In fact, the magic of effective copywriting is that it’s often able to speak to buying psychology at a subconscious level.

Psychology Is Powerful

The most powerful brands in the world have been able to master this by saying the right thing in the right way at the right time.

For example, Nike’s famous “Just Do It” slogan is simple, yet it implies that if you buy their products, you’ll be motivated to be more active, get things done, and live the healthy life you want.

All of this is communicated in just three simple words.

You can create a similar effect with your marketing once you understand how your audience thinks.

This is because buyers are egocentric in the sense that they make purchasing decisions based on what will benefit them.

Buyers Are Egocentric

One study by Cornell University found that owners and buyers often overestimate the similarities between their valuations of a product or service.

The findings show that there is a gap between what buyers are looking for and how businesses communicate the benefits of their own products or services.

If buyers are strongly influenced by the implied benefits of a product or service, then businesses and marketers would do well to communicate the benefits (how it helps the buyer solve a problem) vs. the features (what a product does).

If you want your copy and content marketing campaigns to be more effective, then you’ll need to tap into this psychology.

How to Figure Out What Your Audience Wants

You already know what your product or service does, and you’ve likely spent loads of time trying to communicate this to your target audience through your website content and content marketing campaigns.

But you may be missing the mark if you haven’t taken the time to research what it is that your audience truly wants.

Making a guess is not good enough. This is because the language we use isn’t always the same as what our audience uses. We can talk all day about “keyword rankings” but if our audience is looking for “more leads”, then the benefit of what our service has to offer will be lost in translation.

Therefore, it’s essential that we conduct thorough audience research to determine what it is that our audience wants.

Note: Make sure you reach out to people in your target audience. Identify people that fit the profile of someone who might be interested in your services.

Step 1: Ask

If you have an existing audience and/or client base, ask them what benefits they are looking for when buying your products or services.

You can do this by reaching out to them directly, posting a question on social media, or asking for feedback in an email campaign.

Try to avoid giving them suggestions because you want to hear their answers in their own language.

Then, write down their responses so you can look back at them when it comes time to write your content.

Step 2: Survey

Another way to ask your audience what they are looking for is to survey them with some common audience research questions.

You can create a survey using Google Forms or another templated survey form.

Be sure to reach out to people who have not purchased from you before, as customer responses can be biased and may skew your results.

Some questions to ask are:

  • What is your biggest struggle when it comes to [ topic ]?
  • What 3 solutions have you tried in order to overcome this struggle?
  • What didn’t you like about those solutions?
  • What’s the #1 benefit you hope to gain from [ product/service ]?

For example, if you offer SEO services, your questions may look like this:

  • What is your biggest struggle when it comes to SEO?
  • What 3 solutions have you tried in order to overcome this struggle?
  • What didn’t you like about those solutions?
  • What’s the #1 benefit you hope to gain from working with an SEO expert?

Again, you want to record their answers in their own words and save the responses until you are ready to write your content or launch a campaign.

Step 3: Clarify

Not sure what someone means by their response to your question?

Ask for clarification.

The more information you have, the better.

The key here is to understand how your audience thinks, what they struggle with, and what benefits they’re looking for when it comes to buying your product or service.

Step 4: Count

It’s likely you’ll get different responses from different people, but you may also find some similarities.

If you find a common thread between the responses, this is worth paying attention to.

Keep a tally of the most common responses. These are the ones you’ll definitely want to hit in your marketing campaigns.

Also, pay attention to the language they use. You’ll want to incorporate this language into your content as well.

Step 5: Record

After surveying your audience and tallying the responses, you’ll have a record of what your audience is looking for and what they struggle with.

It’s important to keep this information on-hand so you’re not working from memory when it comes time to launch a new campaign.

Using your audience’s exact language is important and it’s crucial that you hit the key benefits they are looking for – not what you assume they are looking for.

How to Communicate Benefit in Your Content Marketing

It’s time to re-frame the copy on your website and in your marketing campaigns to communicate the benefits instead of the features of your product or service.

This may simply involve a minor tune-up of your marketing content, or a complete overhaul is your copy is heavy on the feature-related language.

The goal here is to write copy that speaks directly to your audience and compels them to buy your product or service.

By making this switch, you can expect to increase conversions on your important pages, on your ads, and in your content marketing campaigns.

Tweak Your Website Content

The first place to start is with your website copy, as this is typically the main place where you are converting traffic into new customers or clients.

Many websites go heavy on the feature language because they think listing more features than their competitors will be what convinces someone to buy their product or service. However, this language does little to communicate the results a visitor can expect after buying said product or service.

Therefore, you should tweak your content to use your audience’s own language (provided by your audience research) to communicate the benefits of your offer.

For example, if you offer local SEO services and the most common response to your question “What’s the #1 benefit you hope to gain from working with a local SEO expert?” is “more clients”, then you’ll want to reframe your content from this:

“We help you get more traffic with local SEO”

to this:

“We help you get more clients through local SEO”

You can also speak to their struggles by rephrasing your copy like “Struggle with getting clients? We attract high-quality leads to your website with local SEO”.

Here, you’re using your audience’s own language to communicate what it is that you offer and what benefit they can expect from working with you – all based on what they told you they wanted.

Fine-Tune Your Marketing Campaigns

No matter the platform, every marketing campaign presents an opportunity to hit on the benefits of what you offer.

In email marketing campaigns, you can write compelling subject lines that mention the benefits your audience is looking for. For example, “How to Get More Clients” or “Need Clients? Try Local SEO”.

In your paid ads, you can use this language in your calls-to-action and ad copy. A CTA like “Get Clients” will be more effective than “Get Traffic” if you know that your audience is in search of clients, not traffic.

And, in your social media posts, you can be more descriptive in your captions when it comes to the benefits your company offers.

Instead of talking about the features of your products (like “100% wool” or “waterproof”), you can describe the benefits (“Keep your feet warm and dry all winter with our stylish, wool snow boots”).

Write Compelling Blog Content

Finally, you can reiterate the benefits of what you offer within your blog articles as well.

If you know your audience is after a specific benefit, you can write articles that lead them to the conclusion that your company offers exactly what they are looking for.

For example, it’s likely a waste of time for you to write a whole article on the traffic-generating benefits of local SEO if what your audience is really after is more clients.

Instead, you can publish posts like “10 Ways to Get More Clients with Local SEO” or “How to Convert Visitors Into Paying Clients”. These will be much more effective for your target audience.

Knowing the struggles your audience is phasing will also inform your SEO content strategy overall.

If your audience is concerned about getting more leads and clients, it may be worth targeting keywords like “how to get more clients” or “lead generation strategies” instead of “how to get traffic” or “how to increase seo rankings”.

Features Fail, Benefits Convert

There are many conversion-boosting benefits of talking about the benefits your brand generates for your customers vs the features your products or services have to offer.

Potential buyers are primarily concerned with how your company will help them solve a problem.

If you can communicate that, you’ll be miles ahead of your competitors who simply hit on the features of their products or services.

Not only will your audience understand right away that your offer can help them solve a problem, but you’ll build trust by showing that you speak their language.

That identification can lead to lifelong customers and can pay off for years to come.

Is it time to tweak your content marketing campaigns to better speak to what your audience is looking for?

More Resources:


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Jessica Foster

Jessica Foster is the founder and lead SEO Content Writer at Keys&Copy – a premier content agency that serves SEO ... [Read full bio]

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