Every day, I use a piece of wearable technology, the Spire stone. It clips to my waistband, monitors my breathing and records activity (as steps).
I dig my Spire because it alerts me when I haven’t moved for 30 minutes and when my breathing appears tense. It has increased my ability to focus, return to a state of calm if I’m not in one, and motivated me to walk more.
The first paragraph above lists features. The second paragraph describes benefits. Features are the “how.” Benefits are the “why.”
And “why” should be the focus of content—all content—but especially in technology, where makers too easily get caught in the “how we built this awesome thing” trap.
Three years ago I explored this topic at a BarCamp Nashville talk in which I displayed and critiqued the homepages of several tech products and services. For this piece, I went in search of some new examples. They were not hard to find. Both sites described below were “Winners of the Day” this year at cssdesignawards.com, with evaluations based on four scores, including one for content.
One site, for a new cyber security option, used the following as its hero text:
“We have created the best possible user experience for identity and access management that delivers the highest level of security, without using passwords.”
And then, “We saw cyber security solutions that were failing repeatedly because of burdensome user experiences that forced organizations to make unacceptable trade-offs between security and user experience.”
This gem was way, way down, at about panel 5 on the homepage: “No more remembering usernames and passwords for email access. No more identity theft.”
As we say in journalism, they buried the lead. That, or a version of that, is the hero section text. Instead, the company was too focused on patting itself on the back, producing heavy-handed, jargon-filled copy.
Here’s another one. The site for payroll and time clock software urges, “Get the most from your workforce. With [Company Name], you know when your staff work and how much to pay them, from 15 to 10,000+ staff.”
Well, I would certainly hope so! The meaty stuff is in the highlight blurbs right below but again misses the mark, focusing on how and not why. I’ll share two of them and how I might rework the text.
Blurb 1 Original:
[Company’s] rostering is the best tool for scheduling, communicating with your team and managing staff costs.
Eliminate miscommunication over schedules and better manage staff costs with [Company’s] rostering tool.
Blurb 2 Original:
TIME CLOCK ATTENDANCE
Record attendance accurately every time with [Company’s] electronic clock in.
PRECISE TIME TRACKING
Reduce errors, over-payments and staff effort reconciling time sheets with [Company’s] electronic clock-in.
The difference is subtle but important.
The suggested rewrites focus on the problems the technology tries to solve. They give customers reasons why your product or service may be the answer they seek.
Producing such content demands you think like a customer or client—not like a developer or entrepreneur.
For example, will customers:
- Save money or make more money?
- Save time or reduce effort?
- Decrease stress or increase confidence?
- Feel smarter or boost creativity?
- Have more freedom or less frustration?
Maybe the technology is, simply, really, really fun. Or makes communicating with colleagues easier. Or creates an experience that leaves the competition in pixel dust. The marketing adage, “Features tell; benefits sell,” is as true in the digital age as it was in the heyday of Madison Avenue power brokers. That’s because benefits tap into emotions. Features appeal to logic. Scores of technology companies, from startups to familiar brands, miss the chance to connect with customers by confusing the two.