It’s a total cliché to talk about how busy we all are “these days.” For me, truly busy times come and go, but there is never any shortage of distractions clamouring for attention.

Earlier this month my colleague Shawn Anctil wrote about Jeffery Gitomer’s assertion that you have just nine seconds to capture the attention of visitors to your website before they get bored and move on. Personal experience tells me that the window of opportunity in other mediums is probably even shorter. How long does it take to turn the page of a magazine or change the radio station? No time at all.

So what do you with those precious few seconds? Don’t waste time on what matters to you about your product, tell your potential customers what’s in it for them.

Features vs. Benefits

At Marketing Breakthroughs we put a huge emphasis on ongoing professional development, and I’m currently taking an advanced copywriting course. One of the big themes of the course is distinguishing features and benefits in order to write really effective ads.

Features are the facts about your product or service. Technical specifications, colour, cost, location—these are all examples of features.

The features of a Big Mac include two beef patties, pickles, onions and 42% of your recommended daily intake of sodium. 10-hour battery life, a 7.9-inch display and pricing that starts at $329 are features of an iPad mini.

People are interested in features, but benefits are what actually motivate them to buy.

Benefits aren’t facts, and they aren’t tangible. A benefit of a Big Mac could be the comforting experience of eating something that tastes exactly the same as it did when you were a kid. A benefit of the iPad mini could be the opportunity to align yourself with a really cool brand.

There is no end to the possible benefits of what you’re advertising. The marketer’s challenge is figuring out the one that will resonate most with a product or service’s potential customers, then coming up with clearest, most compelling, and most unforgettable way to communicate that benefit at a glance.

By focusing on what your customers really care about (rather than what you care about, or what you think they should care about) you can take best advantage of those critical seconds and generate real results with your marketing dollars.