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Subscriber SS wrote to me asking: “How do I know which benefits I should emphasize in my copy?”

Specifically, she wanted to know whether to stress benefits or “ultimate benefits”.

What SS is referring to are the 4 levels of product description: features, advantages, benefits, and ultimate benefits.

Let me explain each, using as our product example an automobile tire.

>> Features are what a product is or has. So a feature of a tire might be “steel belted”.

>> Advantages are features or combinations of features your product has that others do not.

For example, if you had the only tire that was both double play and steel belted radial, that would be an advantage.

>> Benefits are what the advantages and features of a product do for the user.

The benefit of a double ply, steel-belted radial tire might be that the car handles better on wet roads and comes to a stop sooner.

>> Ultimate benefits, also called “the benefit of the benefit”, are benefits the product delivers at the highest level of value and importance.

Remember the Michelin tire commercial showing a baby sitting inside a tire?

That was showing you the ultimate benefit: Buy Michelin tires and you keep your family safe from harm.

Ultimate benefits are used just as much in business-to-business marketing as in business-to-consumer marketing.

For instance, the benefit of a new computer system might be that it saves time and reduces paperwork.

The ultimate benefit would be that you can finish your work by 5 or 6 and still get home in time to have dinner with your family.

SS asks which of these you should use. The answer is that you should use all of them—features, advantages, benefits, and ultimate benefits—to give your copy power and verisimilitude.

For instance, if you describe a benefit, showing how a feature of the product delivers that benefit makes the claim believable.

If you describe a feature that is an advantage, point out to the reader that only you offer it, and that the competition does not have it.

On the other hand, if you describe the benefits only and no features, your claims that the product can deliver those benefits will lack credibility. The consumer will wonder, “How does it do that?”

If you describe benefits, also tell the reader what ultimate benefits those benefits can deliver. You might think it’s obvious, but stating them reinforces the extra value your product delivers.

Bob Bly is the author of “World’s Best Copywriting Secrets” and has written copy for more than 100 companies including IBM, Boardroom, Medical Economics and AT&T. He is the author of more than 75 books and a columnist for Target Marketing, Early To Rise and The Writer. McGraw-Hill calls him “America’s top copywriter”.

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