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Factor 27: features

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You spend several years working on a project.  You know it inside out.  You are ready to sell it.  So what do you do?

You tell everyone about the details - about all the bits you have put into the project.

And yet that is exactly what you should not do.  You are selling the features - the details of the service or product, rather than the benefits that will accrue to the user.  This is what happens all the time - far more products and services are sold through features rather than benefits.

The reason that features should not be used can be seen in the original three laws of direct mail.  The laws say that we have to see the situation from the perspective of the recipient of the direct mail, not from the point of view of the company doing the selling.  And that means we have to think primarily of the benefits to the recipient.

Of course, sometimes features are benefits - which is what can make the whole thing confusing.  A car that goes from zero to 100 mph in five seconds has the feature of this massive acceleration, and the benefit of fast acceleration to those people who like acceleration for the sake of it.

But the feature of the upholstery of the car should be sold as the benefit of comfort for most people - although some will like the leather for the sake of having leather.

Fortunately such confusions do not crop up all the time.  Mostly features and benefits can be quite separate.

Let us consider the gym.  You want to sell memberships to the gym, so you can talk about all the machines that the gym has.  But you will get more sales if you can talk about the benefits - getting fitter, feeling better, making friends, an ideal way to wind down after a hard day at work...

The best solution to the features and benefits split is to focus initially on the benefits, and then leave the features to the inner sections of the brochure.  In simple terms, the first thing that the recipient of your mail shot sees should be benefits all the way.  So, before you write anything at all, sit down and ask, "what is the greatest benefit my customer is going to get out of this."  Once you know that, focus on it, and put it in your headline.

What is the benefit of this website?   It will help you produce far more effective mailshots - and that is its benefit.   The feature is that it sets out the theory of direct mail, in order (hopefully!) to make everything more understandable.  That's of some interest, but the real benefit is the higher response rates you should be getting by applying everything that is written here.

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Free analysis of your mailshot

This article is written by Tony Attwood, Chairman of Hamilton House Mailings Ltd.  If you would like to discuss the writing or design of your mailing campaign, or indeed a single mailshot, with Tony, without cost or obligation, just call 01536 399 000, or email Creative@hamilton-house.com   You can also send Tony a copy of your latest advert and he will call you back with his thoughts on how your response rate could be raised - again without cost or obligation.