By Stephen Bean | Jun 18, 2012
For the majority of small-business owners, many of the aspects of running their operations just come naturally. However, in most cases, writing technically correct advertising copy simply isn’t one of them.
In a nutshell, what I mean is that many owners of self-service laundries (as well as the operators of all different types of small businesses in general) compose advertising messages that, unfortunately, focus mainly on features, rather than on weaving in benefits. And this is the “grand daddy” of all technical marketing mistakes.
I’m convinced that the reason so many laundry owners commit this costly error is because they are too focused on – and preoccupied with – their services, their machinery, their building features or something else of that nature. As such, these store owners are operating under the false (and very expensive) assumption that these business features are the reasons why potential customers will want to patronize their coin laundries.
Here is my message (with both barrels) to all laundry owners who share this dangerous mindset: Features don’t get you more customers – benefits do!
More specifically, the proper combination of features and benefits result in the very best ads, but the emphasis must be strongly on benefits. This is true because, as I have mentioned in previous columns, all consumers listen to the same radio station, WII-FM – “What’s In It For Me?”
I read a lot of catalogs, because I am fascinated by how products are presented and by advertising copy that focuses on the benefits. All successful catalogs – and properly constructed ads – emphasize a strong benefit in the headline, and then go on to describe the essential features in the smaller print.
The popular Heartland America Catalog (heartlandamerica.com) of consumer products does an outstanding job in this regard. All of their product ads open with a headline purposely focused upon benefits to get the reader’s attention, show a photo of the product and then list the product features (size, etc.) – and it’s done in just that order.
Here are a couple of good examples from a recent catalog:
• For a metal detector: “Strike It Rich with This New and Improved Metal Detector.”
• For an ice cream maker: “Just Pour In the Ingredients, Flip the Switch and Enjoy the World’s Best Ice Cream in as Little as Ten Minutes.”
So, the benefit of owning the metal detector is to find a valuable metal, such as gold or silver – easy money with no real work. And the benefit of owning the ice cream maker is quickness and a great quality taste.
Then, once the reader experiences the impact of the “what’s in it for me” moment, the ads go on to answer that reader’s next logical sequential questions, such as what the product looks like, how big it is and so on. But the advertising hook that got the reader’s attention in the first place was clearly the immediate perceived benefit.
At times, the headlines in certain advertisements are literally so outrageous that they are actually hard to be believed by anyone who is thinking rationally. But, nonetheless, such ads still get plenty of attention and can be thought to be believable by those who are susceptible. This is especially true if the reader lacks maturity or is in a specific state of need and not able – or willing – to discern between what can be true and what’s too good to be true.
Of course, there are many examples of such “too good to be true” headlines. Here are a few of the most successful over-the-top ads that actually appeared in print – and sold a good deal of products and services due to the strongly presented emotional benefits in their headlines:
• “Give Me Five Days and I’ll Give You a Magnetic Personality.”
• “How I Became Popular Overnight.”
• “How a Strange Accident Saved Me from Baldness.”
• “How to Stop Worrying.”
• “The Lazy Man’s Way to Riches.”
Did you know that the consumer has more reasons to buy than you do to sell? You sell for one reason – to make money. However, customers are motivated by a number of primarily emotional reasons, which are essentially fear, greed, exclusivity, guilt and the need for approval. Even people who do their laundry at laundromats are motivated by emotional reasons, such as fear of running out of clothes and feeling guilty about wearing dirty clothes. Yes, of course, most people will tell you that there are practical reasons why they purchase certain products or services, but underlying that practicality will always be emotional motivators.
The key to increasing business is to use strategic headlines in your advertising that, while practical, really appeal to the emotional side of the prospective customer by strongly extolling the virtues of the perceived benefits to the recipient of the advertisement. You may not have thought of “advertising language” in this manner, but I can assure you that it is the key to the success of your store’s marketing program. Successful advertising professionals understand and leverage this concept well – and you, too, can operate like they do.
Here’s a list of features that I have taken directly from actual coin laundry advertisements, which unfortunately failed to supply the crucial benefits that these features enable:
• “Open 24 Hours.”
• “We Have 85 Various Size Machines.”
• “Always Attended.”
• “Lots of Close Parking.”
• “Drop-Off Laundry Service.”
• “Drop-Off Drycleaning.”
Each of these features is merely a factual statement about the self-service laundry that’s being promoted. There are no “what’s in it for me” benefits made obvious to the reader.
Now, here’s how to skillfully combine the feature with the benefit in your advertising copy to help elicit the appropriate emotional call to action from those potential customers who see your advertisements:
• “Open 24 Hours So You Can Wash and Dry When You Want To.”
• “We Have 85 Machines So You Can Always Find a Size to Fit Your Needs.”
• “Always Attended to Assist You If You Have Questions or Concerns.”
• “Lots of Close Parking So You Don’t Have to Walk in the Rain or Snow.”
• “Drop-Off Laundry Service Just in Case You Don’t Have Time to Do It Yourself.”
• “Drop-Off Drycleaning So You Can Save Time with One-Stop Shopping.”
See the difference? The copy above with the benefits attached is far more compelling and need-satisfying to the prospective customer.
Advertising mistakes are always out there just waiting to be made. Don’t continue to make them by assuming that people will buy your product or service just because you understand it and you’ve told them about it by describing the features. Always be sure to include the personalized benefit to them.
So, now you have the inside scoop on how to effectively use benefits and features. OK, laundry owners, it’s your turn to write some compelling ad copy.