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Tell Them Why They Should Buy

Aug 21, 2008
I just returned from a one-day trip to Chicago. In the bumper-to-bumper traffic, it actually took over 7 minutes to drive 1 mile. Under normal circumstances, I might have found this a bit frustrating, but since Chicago is a mecca for advertising, I actually enjoyed sitting in the car studying the myriad of billboards dotting the landscape.

One billboard in particular caught my attention. It was a cut-away shot of a new minivan, the one with the pop-up table in the back. The billboard showed the interior of the van with four captain's chairs encircling the pop-up table with a headline that said "Your Table Is Served".

I actually think it's a neat minivan (although the exterior is a bit boxy) and I have to wonder why no one thought to put a table in a minivan before now. But I think the billboard missed the mark.

The billboard showed an empty minivan - no people, no smiling faces, no family activities. Just the minivan and the table. Unfortunately, no one buys a minivan for the table. They buy it for the lifestyle the minivan promises: the kids happily playing with each other, getting along just like best friends, smiling and enjoying each other's company, as the family comfortably floats down the road on their family vacation.

It's hard to convey that impression without including the family in the photo. Without the picture of the smiling kids all getting along, it's just as easy to look at the empty minivan and mentally hear, "Mom, he's touching me!"

I know you've probably heard it all before, but even a high-priced Chicago advertising agency has forgotten the lesson. So I thought it was worth repeating... people buy products or services for the benefits, not the features.

Unfortunately, as small business owners, we sometimes have a hard time distinguishing the two. We know our product or service backwards and forwards, inside and out; we might have even created it from scratch. For us, the features are the benefits because we know so well what the features will bring.

But it's important to remember that we are not our customers. Our customers don't know our products inside and out. They do not make the mental leap from features to benefits. We need to show them, to spell out exactly what our product or service will do for them.

Here's an easy exercise to help you highlight the benefits of your product. Grab a sheet of paper and draw a line down the center. On the left hand side, list all the features of your product: its color, its size, its durability, etc. Then, for each of those features, ask yourself "So what?" What does this do for the customer? How will this help the customer? What will the customer get from this? How will this solve the customer's problem?

Use your answers to develop benefit statements for each of your features.

Make your benefit statements emotional. Link them to universal motivators whenever possible. If you're having a hard time uncovering the benefits, close your eyes and imagine your customer using your product or service. What is she doing? What is her life like? How are things different for her now that she has your product?

Replace your features with these benefit statements in all your marketing materials. Bullet point your benefit statements in your sales letters. Use your benefit statements on your website. Include your benefit statements in your headlines.

Find pictures representing your benefits to use in your brochures and sell sheets. If your product offers fun-filled family rides, show pictures of the children smiling and getting along. If your product saves your customers tons of time, show pictures of people relaxing and enjoying their new-found freedom.

Remember, your customers do not live and breath your product like you do. You must tell them, in no uncertain terms, exactly what your product will do for them and exactly why they should buy your product.

Action Item
1. List at least three features of your product or service.
2. Ask yourself "So what?" in order to create a benefit statement for each feature.
3. Find a picture representing at least one benefit statement that you can use in your future marketing.
About the Author
Karen Scharf is an Indianapolis marketing consultant who works with small business owners and entrepreneurs. She offers several whitepapers, free reports and checklists, including her FREE Can-Spam checklist and FREE email pre-flight checklist to ensure your emails get delivered, get opened and get read. Download your copies at http://www.ModernImage.com.
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