How to turn an IT product feature into a strong marketing message

Now seems to be a great moment for IT hardware and software firms. With digital infrastructure pretty much the only credible route for businesses nowadays, many B2B vendors, resellers and developers are booming.

It’s still a highly competitive market, however – and copy and content are good ways to compete.

This is anecdotal, but the quality of website and email content used by many small British businesses in the IT sector is… shall we say, not so hot. Many SMEs write their own marketing words, even though writing is not their strongest suit. This means businesses with well-written content can gain an advantage.

So, how might you do that?

One approach is to develop stronger marketing messages. Here’s how I usually go about it.

A common problem with IT marketing messages

This is again anecdotal, but I hope you’ll allow it given I’ve been writing for IT companies for eight years. The big problem with a lot of SMEs’ marketing content is that they talk too much about the product, and not enough about why the customer should buy it.

To put it another way, many IT companies get stuck on what their products and services do, and the technology inside them. Maybe it’s because many people who work in IT are passionate about technology. But what the customer really wants to know is: what’s in it for me?

Or, to put it more simply: IT companies often talk features, when they should be talking benefits.

Without clear benefits, decision makers won’t decide to buy.

The difference between a feature and a benefit

How do you know if you’re making this mistake? You need to be able to spot the difference between a feature and a benefit.

I’d define them as follows:

  • A feature describes something about the product or service you’re selling
  • A benefit describes a reason to buy the product or service you’re selling

Here are some examples. In this table, each pair of sentences is talking about the same thing – but the left sentence presents it as a feature, while the right sentence highlights its key benefits.

Feature Benefit
The Touch Bar offers a multi-touch Retina display at the top of the new MacBook Pro keyboard. The Touch Bar makes apps more accessible to new users, and more efficient for pros.
Nutanix software converges IT infrastructure, including compute and storage, in a single appliance. Nutanix makes infrastructure invisible, deploys in 60 minutes, and runs any application at any scale.
IBM Bluemix is a cloud platform as a service based on Cloud Foundry open technology. IBM Bluemix can help you solve your real, complex business problems in the cloud.

The three major differences are these:

  1. Writing about benefits shows the value of the product, whereas writing about features merely describes the product itself. The value could be totally lost on the customer.
  2. Writing about benefits answers the question, “what’s in it for me?”, but writing about features might not answer any customer question at all.
  3. Writing about benefits helps the customer relate to the product, by imagining how they would use it. Writing about features doesn’t really engage the customer.

Wait, it looks like those features and benefits are ALL important

If you looked at the table above and thought, “actually I’d probably include all that information in my content”, then fair enough. It is important to tell customers about features and technology, as well as benefits – especially if your customers are business decision makers.

But it’s still benefits that are usually strongest in persuading customers to buy. So, in most cases, it’s better to lead with benefits than features.

You don’t have to exclude features altogether. They’re useful when the customer wants more detail about your product – which often happens when they’re seriously considering a purchase.

How to transform any feature into a benefit in 2 easy steps

So, if you’ve got a website full of unpersuasive and un-engaging feature descriptions, how can you metamorphosise them into compelling customer benefits?

It’s as easy as this:

  1. Ask yourself, “how does this feature actually help the customer?”
  2. Use your answer as the foundation of your marketing message. Or, if the feature isn’t actually that useful, focus on a different benefit instead.

Simple eh? It’s just a case of looking things from the customer’s point of view – and asking, “what makes this feature worth investing in?”

If you need any help, please feel free to get in touch.

Last modified on January 23rd, 2017 by Neil Wheatley
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The undisputed world's tallest freelance copywriter, since 2008. Please don't write in if you're taller. Technology, software, games and property are some of my favourite markets to write for. My time is split between Manchester and Sheffield, UK and I work with clients all over the world.

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