What’s In it for Me?

You sit down to write your marketing copy. Words flow easily about who you are and what your service or product includes. You can describe the what, where and when with finesse. The only problem is that the reader is going to ask, “What’s in it for me?”

It doesn’t matter if it’s a marketing brochure, a workshop description or website copy. It doesn’t matter if the reader is a devotee. It doesn’t matter how much you think they need your information or how interesting it is. In making a decision to sign up, purchase or read further, your customer is wondering how you can benefit them.

Why is focusing on benefits so hard?

It’s easy to dismiss the conventional wisdom that people make emotional decisions.
But we do, then we back them up with rationale. Sometimes we have to but our brains als0 require it. All humans want to reduce pain—a desire for more free time, a fear of looking stupid on a dance floor or a wish to feel more confident in our work.

Stating benefits requires taking a stance.
Taking a stance is scary. Features are just objective statements, but benefits ask you to explain why you stand out, why someone should choose you over someone else and why you even exist. These, and more, make up your road map. Without one, you’ll experience discomfort every time you sit down to write because the most important parts aren’t clear in your mind.

We don’t think our audience really needs it.
It’s easy to think that your product or service speaks for itself and that people should know how they’ll benefit. But if you think of benefits beyond the standard bullet list, and instead, as a way to connect to what people care about and why, you will win a set of return eyeballs, a supporter, an advocate, a future customer. It’s your job to connect the dots for them.

What can you do?

Tie a tangible benefit to each feature.
Think of features in a broad sense: “We’re the only organization fighting for the rights of sea monkeys” is a feature. Then go further and imagine the ultimate outcome, the one big reason someone needs your service or information. People ultimately want things like:

• Feeling safe
• Feeling valued or good about themselves
• Feeling confident and smart
• Saving or making money (so they can________)
• Having freedom or more free time (so they can__________)
• Feeling challenged
• Belonging (so they can not feel alone, so their life can have more meaning, so they can________)

You don’t literally need to  say, “so you can feel confident and smart.” Instead, you’re using this new context to shape your copy, which might be a list, but will more likely be fluid content.

Pick the right approach for your specific needs.
For one audience or project, you might eliminate features altogether (features broadly means dry facts). For another, you might focus on benefit-rich copy, including features in sidebars. For another, you might do the reverse, focus on facts and features while benefits play a supporting role.

You have to pick the right approach that matches your desired outcome. It’s not enough to think, “people need this great information” or “this is what we want people to know.” Help them see why.

Put yourself in their shoes.
Picture Dan receiving your new report on Blue Widgets. He’s got a pile of work and 50 unread emails. He’s curious to read the report because he’s got some exciting ideas to suggest, but he dreads plowing through it. Knowing that Dan has a potential valuable contribution to make, how will you cater to his “pain” so you both benefit?

Hire a professional.
When we’re too close to our own work, we can’t see clearly. An objective voice asks challenging questions that move us to a better place. If budget is a concern, explore benefits on your own, then hire a good copywriter to transform your raw materials to shape a good story.

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The bonus to focusing on what’s in it for them is that it makes you more solid and confident of what you offer. Your inquiry might also shed light on gaps or contradictions that have kept you stuck. There’s always a benefit hidden in our products, services or information. They key is bringing it to life, and more importantly, not making an empty promise.

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