Avoid fake benefits

‘Pat yourself on the back for choosing us’

“Clean your face,” demands a hotel soap wrapper. No, YOU clean YOUR face! I want to respond.

Avoid fake benefits

‘Clean your face’ is not a benefit How can you tell real benefits from fake ones? Image by Kristina Balić

I’ve been seeing a lot of messages like these: messages that sound like benefits but that really are not. Fake benefits.

These fake benefits mirror the structure of benefits messages — Do/this (Save/money) — but not their spirit. Instead, the structure is “Non-benefit-focused verb/feature.”

To move readers to act, avoid these three types of fake benefits.

1. Get our product.

Yesterday, I got an email with this subject line:

“Learn more about New Media Gateway”

While that looks like a benefits statement — it starts with a verb and the implied “you,” after all — it’s actually a fake benefits statement. Its real subject is not the reader, but the writer’s organization.

Instead of using your verb to point to your product, service, program or idea, write about what readers can do with your product, service, program or idea.

2. ‘Congratulations on choosing us.’

We tend to send these messages out after we win an award: “Pat yourself on the back for choosing us.”

With these benefits, we’re really writing about how great we are:

  • Get XYZ feature.
  • Reap many rewards.
  • Rely on our 75 years of experience.
  • Value the attention we pay to detail.
  • Appreciate our dedication to accuracy.
  • Pat yourself on the back for choosing us.

Instead, write about how the readers’ lives will be different because they chose you.

3. Go to your room.

These messages are actually tasks:

  • Take our class.
  • Stop by our booth.
  • Attend our conference.

Instead of telling readers what to do, let them know what they’ll get when they do it:

  • Learn to double your income when you take our class.
  • Get a chance at a free Apple Watch when you stop by our booth.
  • Network with peers — maybe even meet your next boss — when you attend our conference.

Nix ‘get our feature.’

The hardest part of crafting a benefits statement is finding the benefit, not writing the line.

So dig in. Think. Don’t be satisfied with a statement like “Get our feature.” Learn enough about the subject you’re writing about and your audience members to figure out what the former will do for the latter.

Remember what you learned in kindergarten: When you cheat, you only hurt yourself. But when you cheat on benefits statements, you hurt yourself, your readers and your organization.

  • Think Like a Reader

    Move people to act

    It’s counterintuitive, but true: The product is never the topic. The program is never the topic. The plan is never the topic. The topic is never the topic. The reader is always the topic.

    Think Like a Reader in Dallas

    Indeed, the secret to reaching readers is to position your messages in your audience’s best interests. (Most communicators position their messages in their organization’s best interests. Which is fine, as long as you’re talking to yourself.)

    Move readers to act with a four-step process for giving people what they really want.

    At Catch Your Readers — our two-day hands-on persuasive-writing master class on Oct. 2-3 in Dallas — you’ll learn a four-step process for moving readers to act by giving them what they really want. Specifically, you’ll learn how to:

    • Take advantage of the formula readers use to determine which messages to pay attention to (and which to toss).
    • Tap two rewards of reading you can use to boost audience interest in your message.
    • Answer the No. 1 question your reader is asking, regardless of your topic, medium or channel.
    • Make a two-minute perspective shift to focus your message on the value to readers — not on “us and our stuff.”
    • Use a three-letter word that magically makes your message more relevant to your readers.

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