Let’s Talk About Benefits And The Major Problem Copywriters Have

By Jamie McSloy / October 4, 2017
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Let’s Talk About Benefits And The Major Problem Copywriters Have

In a lot of copy, you’ll see an obvious error.

I call that error the “fake benefit.”

You’ll see it in a lot of creative copy, where the copywriters are adept at creating slogans but less good at copy that sells in a direct-response fashion. That said, you’ll often find it in direct response marketing as well. Things like:

  • “Put two inches on your arms in six weeks”
  • “Have a full rolodex of new business contacts”
  • “Get the best new stocks into your investment portfolio”

Now, you might think that these are obvious benefits.

They are, and they’re a far-cry from the “list features” flaw that many copywriters still don’t get past.

Those things above are clearly things you want, right?

That’s what it seems. But you’d be wrong.

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Let’s face it; no guy wants two inches on his arms for the sake of it. No girl wants to lose two inches off her waist for the sake of it. Who cares if you’ve got a full book of business contacts or an investment portfolio with a ton of moving parts that you have to keep an eye on?


These are benefits, but they’re not benefits that people want in and of themselves.

Why does a guy want bigger arms? Probably to be more attractive.

Why do you want good stocks in your portfolio? So you make more money and can buy a car.

What’s the point in having a better stereo system? So your friends are jealous.

Copywriters almost always need to go one step further. Let’s address how.

The Easy Fix

The easy fix for a not-quite-benefit like I’ve described above is to ask yourself simple questions. Things like:

  • “Why do they want this?”
  • “Why will that make their life better?”
  • “What does this mean for the customer?”
  • “How will this make their life different?”

This can be done with the most mundane of products right through to the biggest expenses known to man. There is always a base desire, and that’s what you need to get to.

Boring Example

Take a post-it note.

It’s three inches square and you write notes on it.

Boring! Why would you need that?

Well, it can be used to help you remember things.

How does this help the customer?

They’ll remember important dates and figures.

Why is that going to help?

Well, remember that time when they forgot to file their taxes on time and had to pay a fine?

Or, got a girl’s phone number that they just knew they would remember because she was smoking hot?

What about the mother in law’s birthday present?

Yeah, but those are false benefits… what’s the real important thing here?

Your customer has thousands of thoughts and dreams that pass through their mind every day, and yet they slip away, dead, forever gone and never to return.

One of those thoughts might be the thing that saves their life, makes them a millionaire or gets them the partner of their dreams. It might be the thing that saves their marriage. And if it’s like all those other thoughts that they’ve had in the last hour, it’ll be gone forever and so will their opportunity for a better life.

That’s why it’s important that they can always store important thoughts, and a post-it note is a cheap, easy and reliable way to do that. A pack and a pen fit inside your pocket so it’ll follow you wherever you go. You’ll never run out of battery.

So on and so forth.

Exciting Example

Mike has just hit the jackpot and won the lottery. You’re a million-dollar yacht salesman. What do you tell him about yachts that’ll make him buy one of those instead of a private jet?

  • It’s got a super-duper motor?
  • You can dock in Monaco?
  • Prince Whoever of Wherever owns one?
  • It’s more economically efficient than the competing models?
  • It’s a touch of luxury and a hint of elegance on every soft wave?
  • The seats are coated with the finest leather from Milan?

Give me a break.

Imagine a guy who has just won the lottery thumbing through the average yacht brochure. Talk about taking one of the most exciting products in the world and making it as interesting as a sleeping pill.

Why would a guy buy a yacht anyway?

Because he’ll be looked at in the same way as an oligarch or prince.

Yeah, but what does that benefit him?

Girls, money, power, bragging rights.

The ability to sail a yacht on the open ocean means you get more privacy from the prying eyes of the common folk. The powerful engine means you can floor your yacht and overtake Sheik Whoever from Whereverstan. When it comes to yachts, jets and luxury cars, it’s mostly about the girls though.

Anyone who advertises a luxury product without consulting the oracle of luxury that is the James Bond series is doing it completely incorrectly.

Final Thoughts

I should wrap this article up, but it’s a pretty straightforward how-to piece. It essentially boils down to a couple of components:

  1. Seek the primal need or desire
  2. You can almost always go one step further in giving people what they really want

Remember, people aren’t honest about why they’re buying stuff, and probably don’t know themselves in a lot of cases. It’s your job to dig down and find the things that really click.