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I want to start this entry off with a little thought experiment.

Imagine that you’ve developed a cool product, and you’re ready to market it online.

Let’s say for argument’s sake that hiring someone else to write the sales copy for you is out of the question. Maybe you don’t have the budget for it, maybe you can’t find someone with the right experience, whatever. The point is, you’ve got a product you want to market online, and you’ve got to write the sales copy for it yourself.

What’s the first thing you do? Do you check out websites for similar products, and look at what they’re doing? Do you draw up a series of bullet points? Do you write a short description of the product, and expand from there?

Features and Benefits

Those are all pretty good places to start. However, they are not ideal. If you really want to write sales copy that stands out, the best place to start is to get to know your product. You need to make a list of the features and benefits of whatever it is you’re selling, before you can start writing about it.

Now, I know what you’re probably thinking.

“Of course I know my product’s features and benefits, after all, I developed the damned thing!”

But you’d be amazed at just how often marketers fail to properly identify their product’s features, and then figure out each feature’s main benefit. The internet is littered with sales copy that just goes on and on about the author’s life story and how his experiences led him to develop his product, without ever actually describing what his product does and how the product’s functionality benefits the buyer. 

Not only that, but a lot of reasonably well written copy still misses the mark with regard to features and benefits. Many copywriters will understand the importance of including features and benefits in their sales copy, but will consistently write down the wrong ones for the product they’re selling, or will use the wrong kind of language to describe them. The reason? They haven’t really put much thought into who the ideal customer is for a given product, and what kind of benefits that customer is after.

How to Prepare

As a solution to the problem of vague, meandering or slightly-off-the-mark copy, I recommend the following step process of what to do before you actually start writing copy. These steps apply whether you’re marketing your own products and services, or hiring someone else to do the work for you.

  1. Talk to customers who have purchased products similar to the one you’re selling. As an example, you cold go on a forum related to the industry or niche you’re targeting, and start a thread where you ask people what features they’re looking for in a given type of product, and what benefits they get from those features (remember, a feature is part of the product, a benefit is something the customer gets).
  2. Make a list of the 5 most commonly mentioned features and benefits you hear when talking to customers in the niche.
  3. Make a list of features and benefits that your product has, and tick off which ones correspond to what customers mentioned.
  4. Make a list of three adjectives commonly used to describe the main features you want to highlight. Again, if you’re not sure what these are, forums are your friend. Visit a forum in the niche, search threads, and identify 2-3 adjectives used to describe the most important features of the product you’re selling.
  5. Start writing your headline and opening paragraph

Although it’s tempting to start writing right away so you can launch quickly, it’s ultimately better to start by finding out about your ideal customer, communicating with some actual customers, and identifying their wants and needs. Once you have done that, you will be able to identify which features and benefits to highlight in your sales copy, and that will ultimately make your sales material much stronger overall.

 

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