When you last shopped online, think back to the outstanding factor that made you commit to purchase. Say for example you were looking for the perfect winter jacket, you compared factors such as warmth, style, and functionality and of course price. What was the deciding aspect that made you commit to one brands product? Was it the fulfilment of a need/want or a feature of the jacket?
The power of strong content is an important factor in influencing decision making in online purchases. Compelling copy is writing/content that is interested to the reader and drives them towards the call to action. The deciding nudge towards purchase can often be subtle however it still means the difference between a brand making a sale and another brand being unsuccessful.
A crucial aspect of successful content marketing is being able to communicate in a way that resonates with your target audience. By understanding their aspirations, limits and financial constraints you convey to them the benefits of your product or service that exceeds the offering from your competitors.
When writing content is it best to focus on your product or services features, or should you lean more into speaking to the psychology of your target audience?
Below we will weigh up the advantages and disadvantages to both and how to find the balance that best suits you.
Benefits vs. Features
Before we begin it is important to establish the distinction between the two:
- A Feature refers to what a product or service contains or can do
- A Benefit refers to the result or outcome that the buyer is anticipated to experience after purchase
Although at first it may seem obvious to outline all the features your product or service has to offer, consumers don’t generally purchase a product just for the sake of it. They make a purchase to help fulfil a need or solve a certain problem.
Like the aforementioned Jacket analogy, you didn’t want to purchase one simply for the sake of having a jacket to wear. The benefit you wanted to gain from it, such as being warm and/or looking fashionable was the reason for the purchase. Being able to solve a problem and improve an aspect of your life was what convinced you to commit to buying the jacket.
The psychology of appealing to the extrinsic benefit of a product or service can often prove to be more of a contributing factor to purchase than stating the features of a product.
Often weighing up such benefits and features of a product is done at a subconscious level, yet it is still an important contributing factor in the purchase process. Compelling copywriting is able to speak to buyers at a subconscious level by utilising buying psychology.
A fantastic example of effective buying psychology is “Just Do It”. This Nike slogan is famous worldwide yet manages to convey so much about the brand using only 3 simple words. The message seeks to convey motivation to become active and achieve a healthy lifestyle. The success of this slogan shows that Nike possess a clear understanding of what benefits their target audience is seeking
Once you know your audience and how they think you can create a similar effect with your marketing and content. The process of buying is for the most part egocentric to the buyer, in that purchase decisions are made based upon what will benefit them.
Buyers are Egocentric
According to a study by Cornell University, there is a large gap between what the buyers are seeking and how the advertisers communicate the advantages of their product or service.
If a user has placed a great degree of importance into the implied benefits of the product then advertisers should communicate the benefits against the features. Tapping into this form of psychology would greatly help to make your content campaigns more efficient and effective.
Determining What your Audience Wants
As an advertiser you would have likely spent a lot of time dedicated to communicating the features of your product or service to your target audience. However without carefully taking the time to understand what it is your audience truly wants then your message may not be enough to convince them to purchase. Although aspects like keyword rankings may be used within the advertising sphere constantly it is not something your audience is likely to use as frequently, this may result in your meaning being somewhat lost in translation.
It is therefore essential to communicate with your target audience and conduct research to help gain further insight and understanding into their purchasing psychology. You can conduct this research using a simple 5-step process.
Step 1: Questioning
If you already have an existing audience or base of clients, asking them questions is a fantastic way to start. The key question is asking them what benefits they are seeking when purchasing your product or service. There are many ways to do this such as asking them in person, via email campaigns, or posting a question via your social media platforms.
Step 2: Surveys
A more comprehensive way to gain a deeper understanding of your target audience is through conducting surveys. However you should strive to survey people who have not purchased from your business, existing customers may have some conscious or unconscious bias that can skew your survey results.
Some example questions include:
- What is your biggest issue with [relevant topic of your choice]
- What have you tried to overcome this issue?
- What is the primary benefit you hope to gain from [your product or service]
- Which of our features are most appealing to you?
Questions in relation to SEO services may include:
- When it comes to SEO what aspect do you find most challenging?
- What solutions have you attempted to overcome this?
- What are the primary benefits you aspire to achieve from working with an expert in SEO?
Step 3: Clarification
If you are not entirely certain on the meaning of a person’s response then it is important you seek clarification. The greater level of information you have the better off you are to understand the psychology of your audience. Seeking clarification is important in ensuring that you don’t make decisions based upon misinterpreted data.
The primary purpose of this whole process is about understanding how your audience behaves, what their struggles are, and the benefits they are seeking from your products or services.
Step 4: Counting
Although you are likely to get a wide array of responses, the more people you survey the more likely response patterns are to develop. Finding common answers is worth tallying and closely analysing.
Keeping a count of the most common responses and forming clusters of likeminded respondents can help you to understand where your advertising and content focus needs to be.
It is also recommended to pay close attention to the language used by the cluster of people with the most common responses. Finding similar styles and words used by them should be adopted into your content vocabulary in order to best appeal to your audience.
Step 5: Recording
Once you have finished conducting your survey and tallied their responses, you will have a strong record and understanding of what it is your target audience is seeking and what their struggles are.
It is imperative to keep a record and summary of these responses so you are not working based on memory. Additionally if you conduct another survey in the future being able to compare the new results with the old may provide you with a more comprehensive insight and understanding.
Utilising the exact language used by your audience is important however you must ensure that you discuss the benefits they are seeking not what you assume or wish them to be seeking. Keeping track of keywords in their language is an effective way to manage this.
Communicating Benefit of your Product or Service
Analysing and going back to your previous content may be a time consuming task, however in order to move forward you need to understand where you have previously made mistakes or need improvement. You should determine the degree to which your previous content focused on benefits over features, and how often it touched upon themes from your survey responses. Such findings may show you why certain posts weren’t successful.
To re-frame your content your may only need to make small adjustments, however if a near complete overhaul is necessary it is recommended to do so. The objective here is to ensure your written copy speaks concisely and directly to your audience and drives them towards making a purchase.
How to Tweak Your Website Content
When making changes to the content of your website it is best to start with your website copy, as this is the primary destination where you will turn traffic into clients or customers.
Utilising your findings from customer research (in particular benefits and language) you should tweak your content in order to appeal to your audience. Although many websites heavily focus on outlining their features, this does little to appeal to the audience beyond a surface level interest.
For example, if your business is focused on SEO then the most common response to a question such as “What is the primary benefit you wish to acquire from working with an SEO expert?” is more “Greater lead to client conversion”, then you should reword your content from:
“We will increase your leads with our SEO”
“We will improve your leads to client conversion rate with our SEO”
You can also use your knowledge of their issues and struggles by re-wording your copy, for example “Struggle with converting leads into clients? Weimprove lead conversion rates for our clients with our SEO”
In this example you are using your audiences own language and showing a clear understanding of their issues as well as providing the benefit they are seeking. This is all gained from your audience research.
Tuning your Marketing Campaigns
Regardless of the platform you use, all marketing campaigns provide the opportunity for you to clearly and effectively communicate the benefits your business has to offer.
When creating an email campaign for example, writing interesting subject lines outlining the benefits your audience seeks can instantly attain their attention. For example, “Need More Leads? We can help” or “How to convert leads into clients using or local SEO”
When using paid advertisements you can use your audiences language in your marketing content as well as in calls-to-action For example “Get More Clients”, would be more effective if you know your audience has greater focus on client over lead acquisition.
Fine-tuning your content with targeted language and benefits can be used over all aspects of your marketing, from social media ads to blog posts.
Write Compelling Blog Content
When writing blog articles the same benefits vs. features theory applies. Knowing what benefit your audience is after means you can write articles based upon that benefit. Using the same set of languages and keywords that they use will help to further engage them to read the whole article, as well as helping to enhance your SEO.
Benefits Will Always Beat Features
Focussing on benefits over features works. Customers are egocentric; a focus on what benefits them is more attractive than a list of product features. If you can effectively communicate how your product or service offering will help them to solve their own issues then they are significantly more likely to pay attention and convert to customers.
By utilising this you will be greatly ahead of your competition, as not only will your audience by provided the means to solve their issue, but also you will be able to establish a relationship with them built on trust by proving you can speak their language.