Beware the default benefit
Bit of advice to copywriters:
The adage that “people buy benefits, not features” is true. So if you want to persuade, don’t make your case solely on what your product is, aka, its features, but on what it does for your reader.
The usual accompanying adage, “people don’t buy quarter-inch drill bits, they buy quarter-inch holes” is just plain wrong. Like a drill bit, a hole is an is, not a benefit.
Here is what holes do: let you sink screws; drain water; create air flow; feed pipes, tubes, or wires; see what’s behind a wall; and more.
To find the benefit behind a feature, try appending the words “so you”: This bag has an easy-open tab [feature], so you [possible benefits:] won’t break a nail / won’t have to strain / won’t spill / won’t have to use scissors or pliers / won’t have your kids overhear you using words you’d ground them for using.
Whatever you do, beware the default benefit ...
Sooner or later comes this flash of would-be brilliance about your service: It saves time!
Guess what. Most services save time. It is the default benefit. It sets no one apart. If “saves you time” is where you’re headed with your copy, stop and think harder.
IT’S REMARKABLE, the assertions we grow up accepting that turn out not be true. (Go ahead and buy that red car. No, you won’t get more tickets.)
I stumbled upon taking an evidence-based approach to claims, and the importance of avoiding common thinking errors, some years ago. At the time, it was for me little more than intellectual entertainment. I mean, so what if people believed Bigfoot was real, the lunar landing was faked, or dogs predict earthquakes?
But if misinformation was ever quaint, it no longer is.
It has, in fact, become downright deadly.
Misinformation dehumanizes innocent people, sends gunmen into pizza parlors, scares people from life-saving vaccines, convinces people that windmills cause cancer, sends a mob to overthrow the government, convinces people that an electrical pulse is a heartbeat, lures the sick into trading proven medical treatments for quackery, and more.
I wrote a column for The Salt Lake Tribune outlining basic steps for evaluating claims. It’s short, and you can read it on this website by clicking here.
I hope you enjoy it. Better yet, I hope someone applies it.
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... where I share thoughts about writing. I don’t consider myself a writing authority, but that doesn’t keep me from presuming to blog like one. Oh, and I reserve the right to digress when I feel like it.