The Back-to-School Basics of Writing

The Back-to-School Basics of Writing

The air always seems to buzz this time of year as students get ready to head back to school in the coming weeks. Just as I observe my own children shift from their unfocused summer mindset to a more studious one, I like to reflect on the basics of the work we do here at Writing by Design—and it always comes down to benefits and features in writing.

The primary building blocks for writing new product concepts that persuade consumers—benefits and features—are also the same components we use to write about brands and companies in general. Whether we are developing concepts for testing or helping a new brand prepare for launch, staying grounded in benefits and features will help ensure our messaging resonates with consumers. It’s worth reviewing how these essential pieces play out in sales-minded communications of all types.

Benefits 101: Answering “what’s in it for me?”

Benefit writing communicates to a consumer why he or she should care about your brand, your product, your cause, your event—anything that you are trying to sell. One mantra we use here at Writing by Design is “what’s in it for me?” If a piece of writing—whether it’s on product packaging, on a company website or in an ad—fails to answer this essential question for the consumer, it won’t be long before he or she loses interest.

Also called promises, consumer benefits can be either functional or emotional—and sometimes a product can tout both. For example, newly designed re-sealable packaging on a food product would offer the functional benefit of money savings (product can be enjoyed for longer before next purchase) as well as the emotional benefit of peace of mind (consumer can rest assured food stays safe to eat in storage).

Benefits do not need to be unique. In fact, consumer benefits tend to deliver on a handful of the same promises, such as convenience, safety, comfort or peace of mind. Companies simply need to make a promise to consumers so they can squarely understand how the brand or product aims to improve their lives.

Features Refresher: Where the rubber hits the road

One arena where features shine is the auto industry. Watch any vehicle ad on TV and you’ll see the underlying benefit-feature structure. If a car promises greater safety, you can expect new airbag technology or highway sensors to be the focus. If the benefit is luxury or pleasure, smooth handling and interior design will likely take center stage. These attributes work to support the benefit of choosing the advertized vehicle.

While there’s often a bit of overlap among benefits, features should be unique and highly differentiated. For example, many vehicles on the market promise better safety, so manufacturers must lay claim to certain features—often in the form of proprietary technology—to better convince their consumers and gain a leg up on the competition. Because benefits must be supported by not just any feature but by one or two compelling, carefully articulated RTBs, features are truly where the rubber hits the road when it comes to selling a product or brand.

Earn an A+ in sales this year with clear benefits and features

Benefits and features, or promises and RTBs, are the starting point of writing that sells. Companies that can not only identify the benefits and features of their brand or product but also effectively communicate them to consumers are sure to be pleased with their sales report card at the end of the quarter.

If you’re not sure where to start when it comes to writing with benefits and features, Writing by Design can lead the way to good grades on your next new product launch—or any bottom-line boosting project, for that matter. Learn more about our new product concept and everyday business writing services, or tell us about your product.

Headshot of Patti Purcell, Writing by Design president

Patti Purcell brings 25+ years of journalism and marketing skills together to provide national and international companies with outstanding concept writing services via the company she founded in 2006, Writing by Design, LLC. She and her growing team, based in Wisconsin, have written hundreds of concepts and achieved many successful A.C. Nielsen BASES test scores over the last 10 years using their Crystal Clear™ concept writing methodology.