Benefits are verbs; features are nouns
Remember Verb, the superhero on “Schoolhouse Rock”? He was great because he could do so many things.
His theme song went like this:
I get my thing in action (Verb!)
To be, to sing, to feel, to live (Verb!)
That’s what’s happenin’
I put my heart in action (Verb!)
To run, to go, to get, to give (Verb!)
(You’re what’s happenin’)
Well, guess what? Benefits are verbs, not nouns. So when you’re writing about things, you’re not writing about benefits.
“Would you rather read a letter labeled ‘Dues Notice’ or ‘Get many new support, educational and marketing opportunities for the coming year’?” asks Jeffrey Gitomer, principal of BuyGitomer Inc.
Your conference isn’t a benefit. Your speakers aren’t benefits. Your product isn’t a benefit. Neither are your services, programs or ideas.
“It’s not about what you do,
but about what I can do after you’re done.”
— Alan Weiss, rock-star consultant and principle of Summit Consulting
What those things will do for the reader is the benefit.
And that takes Verb.
Put Verb in the headline.
The headline writer for this conference ad almost got it right. The deck — that essential one-sentence summary under the headline — is a benefit. How do we know? It starts with a benefits-focused verb:
Revitalize your sexuality
and justify your chocolate obsession
Sounds good to me. But the headline — “Women’s Health Conference” — is a yawner. So is the tertiary head naming the speakers. That’s because the conference and speakers are features, not benefits.
Here’s a headline that works, from a Recreation Products Insurance brochure:
Rev Up Your Sales.
Crank up volume.
Drive in profits.
Make a splash.
Launch more business.
I don’t know what it is, but I want two. (Hey! Why do you think Eat, Pray, Love was such a successful book?)
And here’s a headline that doesn’t work, from The Metropolitan Museum of Art:
2005 Annual Appeal.
But that’s not the worst “appeal” I’ve ever received. Once, when checking into a hotel, I saw a placard at the front desk offering room upgrades and other goodies for a modest additional fee. The headline:
Put Verb in the display copy.
Want to get your readers’ attention? Write in benefits, not features — especially in the display copy.
And that takes Verb, not Noun.
(Thanks to Tellabs communicator Ted Meister for reminding me about Verb.)