Monday, March 31, 2008

It's Alive!

"You cannot bore someone into buying your product." - David Ogilvy

That quote is how copywriting guru Steve Slaunwhite, author of The Everything Guide to Writing Copy, introduces the core copywriting task of making your product/services' benefits come to life for the prospect. Benefits sell better than features, and tangible, fleshed-out benefits sell best of all.

Consider those TV ads for the OnStar system. They don’t just talk about the benefit of having a system that can detect when you’ve been in an accident and call for help. They bring it to life with a dramatic picture of a person sitting stunned in a car after an accident hearing a reassuring voice addressing her by name and saying, “don’t worry, help is on the way, and I’ll stay with you.”

That’s how to bring the benefit to life: create a scenario or tell a story with the benefit in the starring role. You can do it in the third person, as above, or in the first person, by using customer testimonials that highlight in a practical way how the benefit improved their lives. Similarly, you can use poignant before-and-after scenes to show the benefit in action.

These techniques are especially effective, of course, if they evoke an appropriately strong emotional chord in the prospect - fear, pride, embarrassment. These emotions can be elicited on the flip side, too, as consequences of NOT buying the product or service. Just be careful not to overdo it - if you evoke too much fear, for example, the emotional backlash can negate the story’s message.

Talking about benefits rather than features is something all good copywriters do. The best copywriters make those benefits come to life.

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