Make it F-A-B: Lead with benefits, substantiate with features

November 9, 2012

Your readers don’t care about your organization and its products. They care about themselves and their needs.

So to sell your products, services and ideas, you need to show how your organization can fill your readers’ needs. To do so, transition your message from features into advantages into benefits.

Start with the feature.

The feature is an attribute of your product, service, program or idea. For instance, “The new MacBook Pro features the latest quad-core processors and up to 16GB of 1600MHz memory.”

However, people don’t buy features — not in products and services or in information.

Translate into the advantage.

The advantage is what the feature does — the reason that the feature is important. “That’s important because it makes computing faster and more powerful,” for instance.

But people don’t buy advantages, either.

Land on the benefit.

The benefit is why your customer will care — what the feature will do for them. For example, “That means you can do things that once were possible only on a desktop, anywhere the job takes you.”

People buy benefits.

The problem is, most readers can’t get from “quad-core processors” to “do things you’ve never done on a laptop” by themselves. In fact, sales research tells us that some 70 percent of our readers can’t translate from advantages to benefits without help, says Linda Miller, president of  The Marketing Coach.

So don’t rely on your readers to translate. That’s your job.

The verb is the story.

“A story should be a verb, not a noun,” said Byron Dobell, former editor of Esquire.  That’s another reason to focus on benefits: They’re the story.
Features are nouns — processors and memory, for example.
Advantages are modifiers like faster and more powerful.
Benefits are verbs, such as do, create and render.

Lead with the benefits.

Once you’ve identified your features, advantages and benefits, you’ll want to lead with the benefits and then substantiate with the features. Focus on your reader’s needs first, and then follow up with your organization and its information.

Here’s how it’s done, in a lead news release paragraph from a PRSA Silver Anvil-winning campaign.

Lead with the benefits:
Employers now have a better way to measure, monitor and manage employee absences … 

Substantiate with the features:
… thanks to UnumProvident Corporation’s (NYSE: UNM) expanded online Comparative Reporting & Analysis (CR&A) information services. 

How can you sell your organization and its products by focusing on your readers and their needs first

Copyright © 2012 Ann Wylie. All rights reserved.

Write copy that sells
Want more techniques for writing copy that sells products, services and ideas? Join Ann Wylie for “Writing That Sells,” a full-day PRSA seminar in Miami on Dec. 7.
Details here.

Ann Wylie

Ann Wylie ( works with communicators who want to reach more readers and with organizations that want to get the word out. To learn more about her training, consulting or writing and editing services, contact her at


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