Understanding The Product – Fundamentals Of Copywriting Part 1

Reading Time: About 5 minutes

OK, so when it comes to the fundamentals of persuasive copywriting, no matter what you’re selling or who you’re selling it to, there’s a few things we always need to consider before we begin. It’s like setting the foundation for a building… The more solid the foundation, the more solid the building.

So today we’re going to touch upon one of the corner stones of a solid foundation…

Understanding the product.

We’re going to identify some key features and benefits that appeal to your audience. And we’re going to talk about understanding your offer (the product or service you’re presenting).

So if you’re ready… let’s get started…


Understanding the product

The first step in copywriting is to learn everything we can about what we’re promoting.

We want to understand our product or service so deeply that we can effectively pick out the features and benefits that already tap into what our target audience desires.

If we’re selling health supplements to vegans (for example) we need to know that our product is 100% plant based. And it also helps to know which plants went into making it, and how they were cultivated (no animal based fillers or fertilizers in our supplements)


So take some time to study your product, and learn everything you can about it. That way you can figure out what makes your product unique, and what benefits will appeal to your customers.

Of course if you’re selling your own products then you should already know your products inside and out.
You know the features and benefits, understand how it works and what makes it special, and you have some idea of who would want what you’re selling (target market). This is a great starting point because you won’t need to do deep research about the product just to figure out what it does.

But if you’re writing for a client, or even if you’re selling a new product in your own line, then understanding what you’re selling is crucial.


To get you started, here’s a few questions you can ask your self…


1: How would you describe the product, or service?

To keep it simple at the beginning, just write down a two or three sentence description of what you’re selling.
Don’t worry about coming up with a long detailed answer right away. You can always add to it later (I usually add more as new insights come to mind) But first we just want to get a foundation on paper so we have a starting point.


2: What’s unique or special about this product?

So now that we have a short description of our product, we can drill down a bit more and figure out what makes our product different from the competition.

The idea is to identify something unique or special about your offer. We’re looking for a hook that makes your product stand out from the crowd.

What does your product offer that the other similar products don’t? Is it better? Faster? Stronger than anyone else’s? Made in a special way? Is it more durable or easier to use?

If you can’t come up with a unique hook in your product, then we’ll need to find it somewhere else. (your guarantee, fastest delivery, special bonuses, etc.)

But if there is something that makes your product stand out from the competition… Write down anything you can think of that makes it special or unique.


What we’re doing here is trying to differentiate ourselves from the competition. Which can eventually turn into our unique selling proposition (USP). A USP is something unique that separates you and your offer from the competition.

Note: At some point you’ll need to figure out your USP. Because if you’re the same as everyone else, then you become a commodity. And commodities always end up competing on a lowest price strategy which turns into a race to the bottom. And even the winner doesn’t make much profit.


3: Turning features into benefits.

OK, now that we’ve described our product, and started figuring out what makes it different from the competition, it’s time to start turning features into benefits…

Basically, features are more logical (what the product is) and benefits are more emotionally charged (what the product does for the end user).

By writing down a complete product description along with a list of the features, and then writing a benefit next to each feature, you’ll have the bare bones of what you’ll need to write your promotion.


So what I’d like you to do now is draw a line down the center of a piece of paper (or virtual paper if you prefer to work on a digital screen)

On one side we’re going to create a list of your features. (This is everything your product or service has, does, or can do) Write down as many things as you can think of because every feature is important. This doesn’t mean we’ll use them all in our copy, but you never know which ones will resonate powerfully with your audience. So write them all down.

On the other side of the line we need to turn all of those features into benefits (This is what your customers gets from your product)


Here’s an example of features -vs- benefits:

A feature is a soft bed, or a firm mattress… The benefit is a comfortable nights sleep

A feature is a 1 Gig hard drive on a 20 megapixel camera… The benefit is hundreds of high quality photos in the palm of your hand.

A feature is biodegradable packaging… The benefit is you get to feel good about helping protect the environment.


So what features does your product have, and what big benefit do those features provide?


4: What problem does it solve or what pleasure does it bring?

Most people are only motivated to take action for one of two reasons — to increase their pleasure or to minimize pain. In the question above, we started identifying benefits. Now we’re going to take it one step further and figure out the motivation behind why those benefits are important to your customers.

Basically, we’re just taking the benefits and drilling down a little deeper to why those benefits are compelling.
One of the simplest ways to do this is to say to yourself “which means” at the end of each benefit.

So from the example above, what’s the deeper benefit of a good nights sleep?

Well, let’s drill down and find out…


You get a more comfortable nights sleep, which means more energy throughout your day. More energy means you’ll be more productive, which means you’ll be able to complete your goals faster and easier, which means you’ll be moving towards success more easily, which means…

OK, hopefully you get the idea.


Of course these deeper benefits depend on who your target audience is. Some people might want a more comfortable nights sleep to minimize chronic back pain so they can get through the day with less pain medication.

Usually, focusing on minimizing pain is more effective than focusing on the pleasure provided, because more people are motivated to move away from pain than towards pleasure. (I’m not saying it’s good, or bad… it’s just reality)

Put another way… People might pay you a few bucks for the promise of better health. But they’ll give you their last dollar to cure a disease they already have.


Both approaches can be tested to evaluate their effectiveness. But if you can bring both (moving towards pleasure and moving away from pain) into your copy, you’ll have a formula for some powerful motivation with your audience.

So what pleasure does your product promise, and what pain does your product alleviate?

Write it down now.


OK, by now you should have a basic understanding of how to identify the core features of your product. And we’ve started tapping into the difference between features and benefits. Plus a little about motivating your buyers based on what’s in it for them.

I’m going to end this post here and let you get started. Because if you actually do the few steps listed above, it should keep you busy for a little while.


Next time we’re going to expand a bit more on defining your target audience. Because understanding your product is important, but understanding your target audience is more important. I’ll explain why in the next chapter…


Until then,
Here’s to writing more persuasive copy… more often…

All the best,

Posted in Copywriting Fundamentals.

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