Marketing Copywriting, Maslen on Marketing

“I want” does get

Read any half-decent copywriting book and you’ll quickly realise that you’re supposed to focus on benefits, not features.

What is a benefit? Well, it’s anything that makes your reader’s life easier or better in some way. Top of my head? Save money. Now, although benefits will bring in sales, alone they’ll only get you part of the way towards your goal – which should be … MAXIMUM sales.

So what is the missing ingredient? Here’s a clue.

Why do so many married people get themselves into so much trouble – financial, legal and emotional – by having affairs?


My dictionary defines desire as an unsatisfied longing or craving. (In its noun form, anyway.) So let’s look at what people long for.

Here’s another clue.

It isn’t articles by “award winning writers and photographers”, as one publisher currently mailing me seems to believe. Mind you, the sales letter has clearly been written by the Editor, so I guess we can’t expect it to do any actual selling.

And it certainly isn’t “a fully searchable archive of over 50,000 articles” – the web copywriting cliché beloved of all business publishers with a website.

No. What people long for – crave – are much baser things than this. Here’s a little list (by no means exhaustive by the way)…

  • Social acceptance
  • High status
  • Freedom from debt
  • Excitement
  • Risk
  • Physical wellbeing
  • Respect from others
  • Better family relationships
  • To feel good about yourself
  • Sex (more, better, with different people)

Remember our old friend, AIDCA? Attention, interest, desire, conviction, action? Desire didn’t get in there because they had a spare seat and nobody wanted it. Desire was awarded full membership for life by the others because they knew it was so much more powerful than anything else on the list.

Here’s why.

People need lots of stuff. Right now I need a haircut. But I won’t get one for a couple of weeks because I can live with my shaggy locks for a while yet. So people don’t always buy what they need. Because they don’t want it.

On the other hand, when people want stuff, you can bet they’ll find a way to get it – even though they patently don’t need it. A friend of mine wanted a sportscar, even though he could use his wife’s car whenever he needed it. Practicality had nothing to do with it. He just wanted it. And take a look at the list above to figure out why.

So what does all this sweaty, panting desire have to do with us. Especially if we’re writing b2b copy?

Duh! It’s our job to sell stuff. And we’ll sell more if we get our reader wanting whatever it is we’re selling, rather than merely persuading them they need it.

So yes, by all means, write down a list of benefits of your product or service. You should definitely include them in your copy. The trick is to couch them in language that reflects your reader’s desires. This is going to feel like a stretch if you are selling a subscription to Sewers and Sewerage Magazine. But hey, you took the job. (And believe me, your subscribers are dying for social acceptance.)

One simple tip. People often long for stuff they think they aren’t allowed to have. So if you restrict supply in some way, you can have them salivating at the prospect of a treat that could be withdrawn. Unless they act NOW.

And I’m telling you this because

It’s harder to sell stuff to people today than it was yesterday. And tomorrow will make today feel like a walk in the park. So as copywriters we need to use every tool in the box. Desire’s right there in the top drawer. It’s a hand-finished, sandalwood-scented drawer lined with blush-red velvet, it’s labelled “private”, and you KNOW you want to open it.

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