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In this series of tips on persuasive writing, I’ve stressed the importance of talking more about the reader than yourself. Instead of describing what you’re going to do, describe what the reader gets as a result. Instead of talking about the features of your product or service, talk about the benefits to the reader.

If benefits are the way to go, let’s clarify three key terms:

A feature is a characteristic, attribute or property of your product or service. The reader may or may not value it.

An advantage is what your product/service does that others don’t do, ie what differentiates it from the rest.

A benefit is how your product/service makes someone’s life better in a way that they will value. It’s about the recipient getting a desirable, positive outcome, resulting in more persuasive writing. Example benefits include a well-behaved puppy, a good night’s sleep, a sizzling sex life, an ROI improved by 20%, staff turnover cut by 42%, twice as many leads converted into sales.

Too many writers confuse benefits and features, or simply list features without converting them into reader benefits. There are three ways to make that conversion:

  1. ‘So what?’
  2. ‘This means that you…’
  3. ‘This gives you…’

Persuasive writing, example 1:

Feature: Our firm has 3,000 competition lawyers in 20 jurisdictions around the world.

‘So what?’

Benefit: You get relevant, practical and current advice on competition law from local people who know the latest regulations and, in some cases, even know the regulators. What that means for you is insight into which of your new branded products will best satisfy the law in each particular jurisdiction and which ones carry the greatest risks in terms of anti-competitive activity.

Persuasive writing, example 2:

Feature: Our journal is peer-reviewed.

Benefit: This means that you can rely on the content, currency and intellectual rigour of every academic paper in our journal. Not only has it been written by an expert in that particular field, it’s been reviewed by one. Authors know that their work will only be published when approved by our review panel. So when you subscribe to BioGenetics Gazette, you know you’re reading scientific papers of the highest quality.

Persuasive writing, example 3:

Feature: We only publish the results of double-blind, randomised, controlled trials (RCT) of medical products.

Benefit: An RCT is considered the gold standard of clinical trials. This gives you the most objective test results, with minimal bias, that you can reliably base critical clinical and business decisions on.

The bottom-line on persuasive writing: when we talk about features, the predominant words are we and our. Yet when we talk about benefits, the predominant words are you and your. Using these magic words in your writing shows that your mindset has shifted to being reader-centric — another reason to major on benefits.

Scott’s book on persuasive writing — RHETORICA: persuasive writing for the 21st century, published by ReThink Press — is due out summer 2016, but you can get a sneak peek at his 18 March open course in central London (http://bit.ly/1Tenw6G). And if you’d like a 15-minute consultation with Scott, to assess your/your team’s writing and get three insights into how to improve it, click here to book a slot: https://calendly.com/scottkeyser91/15min. 

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