Real Life Conversion Lessons: Features vs. Benefits

You’ve heard people ramble on about how your marketing copy should speak in terms of benefits and not features. I say it all the time.

But how do you actually put it into practice?

Take a look at the photo below. I took it in the Apple Store. It’s a battery pack you clip on to your iPhone to extend its battery life.

feature

But wait, what’s that in the bottom left corner?

It’s a feature! Awesome. This battery pack has a “capacity of 2000mAh”.

That’s exactly the information I needed in order to make a buying decision.

Really? No.

I couldn’t give a rat’s ass about that number. I don’t even understand what it means.

I want to know how this device is going to benefit me.

Here’s how it should be written:

“Increases your phone’s battery life by 50%!”

Oh snap. There’s another product right next to it.

benefit

Bingo.

That’s the one I’d buy. It speaks to my needs, it communicates quickly and easily, and it’s benefits-driven.

If you look closely, you’ll notice it’s actually the same company, with two different versions (iPhone 4 vs. iPhone 5) – so either they learned their lesson for the new version and like leaving old designs in stores, or their marketing departments don’t talk to one another.

Today’s Conversion Tip: Read the benefits.

Have someone read the copy on your landing page out loud. If you hear something that doesn’t make you care more about the offering than you did before you heard it, it’s not a benefit; it’s a feature. Rewrite it or remove it.

– Oli Gardner

About The Author

Photo of Oli Gardner

Co-Founder of Unbounce. Oli has seen more landing pages than anyone on the planet. He is an opinionated writer and international speaker on Conversion Centered Design. You should follow Oli on Twitter
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Comments

  1. Kalmer says:

    For me, it is different. I look exactly for technical data and the literal story about increasing battery life doesn’t give a shit to me. I want to know how many amper hours it lasts. For me as a potential customer, features mean the world and benefits nothing.

    • Oli Gardner says:

      The 2000 number doesn’t tell you what affect it will have. Whereas letting you know that it will double the amount of time between charges spells it out much more clearly.

      People definitely need different types of information, but I strongly believe that being able to identify with the outcome is a more effective way to communicate.

      • Kalmer says:

        Better than what? What if I actually have a better battery than that better one? If I read that something is better I suspect that they want just sell some new crap. “better” is a relative word but “2000 mAh” is an absolute knowledge. my battery has 1650 mAh and I have to recharge it every day while using the device actively. 2000 is not much better, 3000 would be. of course, people are different and some photographers do not know much about devices they use and then everything is relative to them, they believe. i want to know not believe.

        • Oli Gardner says:

          It’s not a battery to replace your current one. It’s a battery pack that extends the lifetime by giving you extra juice. Hence why the % increase in how long it lasts is the quickest way to understand why it’s beneficial to have it.

          • HarryDaMan says:

            Come on guys, this is exactly why we have features and benefits. Both. How, as a marketer or seller, you play these out, is up to you, but as a professional seller, I can assure you it takes both kinds. Now, Kalmer, while I can appreciate what you are saying, I can also say that you are definitely a minority. So if I am out to attract that proverbial 80%, I will choose benefits. And you can take that to the bank.

            • Mike says:

              Kalmer is part of a small demographics I would not worry about if I were the one selling those products. As Seth Godin says in “Purple Cow”, there will always be do-it-yourself’ers and penny pinchers and specialists. Investing too much effort into converting them is not a good idea. Kalmer can probably build his own battery, anyway;). No offense, I mean that as a compliment, but I wouldn’t target your demographics! Oh, and Harry is right on the spot, btw!;)

          • Chande says:

            I have to agree with the exact number, but it goes far beyond “is it feature or a benefit”. Look into types of buyers from Bryan Eisenberg and you’ll find two types: knows exactly and knows approximately. This guy NEEDS the number to be 100% about his purchase decision. Non-technical guy will look for the benefit.

  2. CNXTim says:

    In order to get to Benefit, the (lessons from Xerox), logical steps for the copywriter were;
    FAB
    Feature>Advantage>Benefit

    • Oli Gardner says:

      Exactly. Nice way of looking at it. Using techniques like that can make your features work *for* you rather than adding clutter or confusion.

  3. CNXTim says:

    Re Kalmer’s comments. There is the bravado/ego angle for someone nodding sagely at technical specs, even if this viewer doesn’t have a clue as to what it really means e.g. no point in my knowing the amp hours if I don’t have detailed knowledge of the power drain. So in this example, hours of ‘real world’ usage and percentage improvement is more valuable to anyone – including an electronics engineer.

    • Ryan Engley says:

      Agreed on the ego angle. I’m a hobby photographer and every time a new camera is released, review sites *obsess* over the tech specs.

      5-axis image stabliziation? Ok… cool…?

      Better image stablization so your pictures aren’t blurry in low light. Better!

      I suppose there are many photographers (and others) that just want specs but you’ll speak to a much broader audience if you can connect the dots from features to benefits.

      • Oli Gardner says:

        You’re so right on that example.

        Better image stabilization – awesome, that exactly what I want as a hand holding wildlife photographer. I didn’t really consider this brand of camera before, but maybe I should – I’ll now did into the finer details (and tech specs) because they communicated to me in a way I can understand.

        The more expensive the item the more time you spend obsessing over the finer details – cameras being a great example of that.

        What’s most relevant to me is that the immediate benefit association is what gets you to pick it up, turn it around and dig deeper. It’s the classic foot in the door scenario.

  4. Traditional advertising (packaging, billboards, print, etc.) are the worst offenders. Few benefits, rarely a call to action. Oddly enough, radio spots tend to be pretty good, maybe because they can’t rely on images – so they HAVE to focus more on copy. I thank Unbounce Blog for making me hyper aware of these things. There’s a side benefit to this; it can a long drive more interesting. You get to cringe at all the wasted dollars being spent on billboards… :-)

  5. Agree, benefits oriented copywriting really has a big impact on e-shops conversion rate. And for those who don’t believe it, they can always do A/B testing.

    • Oli Gardner says:

      Watching the reactions and outcomes of shoppers with a fly on the wall camera would be really interesting in a case like this.

  6. Hey Oli, great advice and great example. I know I sometimes get caught up in the trap of speaking in my own terms and I forget to explain in layman terms.
    We all just have to keep it simple.

  7. Michele says:

    Ha… two days ago, my 9-year old just wrote a 30-second commercial for a speech project at school. He advertised a toy safe. The FIRST thing I told him was list the features and why/how they benefit you. He didn’t get it at first but then he told me it has a lock. “Why does that matter?” It has an alarm. I said, “So what?” The light bulb went off and he wrote a great commercial as to WHY you can’t live without this toy safe. Marketing 101 (OK…so mama’s in the marketing biz).

  8. Dano says:

    In my opinion, features vs benefits for a tangible product is child’s play. Contrast that with copywriting and balancing features vs benefits in the online casino space for example – surely the most difficult in the world! It’s the art of convincing someone to pay for something online with absolutely no guarantee they’ll get anything for their money – other than hopefully an enjoyable gaming experience. And once they’ve lost the lot, you have to convince them to go back and do it all over again. I guess those are “Virtual Benefits”. #differentlevel