Email Marketing Best Practices for Small Businesses: Successful Emails Focus on Benefits Instead of Features

This the third post in an ongoing series on creating successful marketing emails for your business. In the first two posts, we discussed the importance of keeping an email short and creating a unique and natural voice.

So on to today’s topic. Write this down and use it as a starting point for all future email campaigns, “benefits sell, features don’t.” This isn’t to say features aren’t important, they definitely are. Features need the context of end-user benefit to show the value proposition of your product. However, don’t rely on the feature itself to demonstrate your product’s benefit.

Let me illustrate with an example. It’s great that you’ve recently integrated a flux capacitor into your latest line of widgets, but how does that help my business?

As marketers, we can sometimes lose sight of the big picture when promoting a service or product. There is a tendency to focus on a list of all of the shiny, fancy things our widget accomplishes while missing the important point—how does it help the end user?

Features vs. benefits

Let’s start with the basics. What is a feature and what is a benefit?

  • Feature: a description of an aspect of a particular product or service. These are typically matter-of-fact and explanatory. For example, “Dual band, 802.11B wireless card with SmartScan technology.”
  • Benefit: the end-result your customer will experience by using your product or service. For example, “Transfer gigantic files in seconds and say goodbye to buffering as you stream full HD video instantly with no lag.”

In short, customers buy things to solve their problems. Show how your product or service does that using benefit-focused copy.

Examples of feature copy and of benefit copy

To see this in practice, let’s pretend we are marketing a new state-of-the-art laptop.

New! Acme Power Laptop

  • Utilizes the latest quad core 4GHz processor with XYZ overclocking
  • Dual-band, 802.11B wireless card with SmartScan technology
  • 2TB Solid State drive with Zentec ultrawide BUS

If we dive into each feature, we can identify the main benefits. The resulting copy shows how this computer can help a user work more effectively.

New! Acme Power Laptop

Do more than ever before, faster and easier

  • 4GHz processor with XYZ overclocking—run your most demanding programs with ease and multitask like a pro
  • Dual-band, 802,11B wireless card with SmartScan—transfer gigantic files in seconds and say goodbye to buffering as you stream full HD video instantly with no lag
  • 2TB Solid State drive with Zentec ultrawide BUS—storage issues are a thing of the past; save all of your important files, photos and videos in one place, access and transfer them quickly and easily

Do you see how we were able to take each feature and reframe into an end-user benefit?

Admittedly, in the example above a technophile may understand the benefits of a 4GHz processor with XYZ overclocking, but don’t assume the rest of your audience gets it. Help them understand by tying the feature back to the end benefit.

Buyers want to hear about what’s in it for them. If you don’t communicate this you are missing a chance to show how your product or service can solve their problem or make their life easier.

Do not expect your audience to make the connection; clearly show them how you can help their business. Will it allow them to improve margins? Will it solve their inventory issues? Will it free them up to spend more time golfing on the weekends?

Features are definitely important, but the associated benefits show how useful they are. In addition, benefit copy helps educate your audience about unfamiliar features.

The inbox is your elevator pitch; keep it concise and effective. Your readers are in a hurry and need to understand quickly the value you bring. Highlight that value through benefits.

Go ahead; jot down a list of features and then their benefits. You’ll probably find writing product copy a lot more fun and see an improved response to your emails.

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