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Increasing Readability: Features vs. Benefits

You might be tempted to think that a discussion of features vs. benefits would be sterile, to the point, and uninteresting. Well, think again. Here’s a quick pop quiz you can take right now. Think of a regular yellow pencil with an eraser on it. You know, the kind that costs about 79¢ a dozen. Now, grab a sheet of paper. On the top left-hand side of the page – write features, and on the top right-hand side of the page – write the corresponding benefit. Write as many features and benefits as possible. Be as specific as possible. To help get you started, one feature is that it’s six inches long. That’s a feature of a pencil. Now, what’s the benefit of a six-inch long pencil? Go ahead – write it down.

Make sure you actually do the exercise, it’s pretty revealing. When you’re done, compare your list to this list. We’ve listed 20 basic features along with the following corresponding benefits. See how your list compares:

FEATURE/BENEFIT

1. Six inches long

Lasts an average of five months

2. Clay / graphite composition.

Lead doesn’t break easily, even under high writing pressure

3. Pre-fired graphite.

Produces dark, legible line

4. “E-Z-rase” additive in graphite.

Easily erasable, yet doesn’t smudge

5. Core-locked Lead

Won’t break inside of pencil

6. Made of specially grown pine

Easy to sharpen, yet break resistant.

7. Hexagonal shape

Easy to hold onto while writing

8. Lead is cradled evenly along

Sharpens quickly and reliably every time the entire length

9. Bright yellow paint.

Easy to see / find

10. Paints are non-toxic.

Can chew on pencil without danger of
poisoning

11. Silver-embossed pencil name

Easy to remember when re-ordering

12. Silver-embossed manufacturer

Reinforces brand awareness
name

13. Silver-embossed hardness number

Identifies hardness, won’t use wrong
pencil on test

14. Silver-embossed lettering (general)

Nice to look at; feels reasonably
classy

15. ‘Core locked USA’ embossed in

Encourages ordering American-made wood products

16. Metal ring grooved in two directions

Easy to hold while erasing; fingers
won’t slip

17. Seamless aluminum construction

Prevents scratching on metal seam

18. Bonded to wood by pressure

Eraser is secured, stays rigid
molding

19. “Flex-o-rub” composition eraser

Erases quickly and cleanly, with just
enough “give”

20. Eraser bonded to pencil with holder

Will never fall out during use and super glue

So, what do you think? Not bad for a pencil that costs 79¢ a dozen! Can you believe that we could even come up with 20 different benefits? You would think that a list of features for a pencil would include almost nothing! Think about this list and then think about your products or services. What kind of features can you think of? Write them down – anything and everything you can think of – and then write the corresponding benefit. This exercise can be very revealing.

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