by Arun Sinha


A friend who owns a chain of dry cleaning stores once said to me, "I have five key benefits for customers. How should I show them in an ad?"

My reply: "Figure out the single biggest benefit or the one that appeals to most of your customers, and lead with that. Then, once you have the reader's attention, you can mention the other four."

What’s true for a dry cleaner’s ad is true for marketing communications in general. Every marcom piece -- whether it’s a brochure, web site, ad, case study, or e-mail blast -- must be written around a central theme. This theme is your top benefit or selling point. It’s how you differentiate yourself from your competitors.

Your other benefits need to be brought up, too. It would be folly for my friend to only highlight one major benefit and ignore the rest. But a marketer has to be careful how he presents the subordinate benefits, or the reader will lose track of the main one.

Everything Including the Kitchen Sink

Many corporations write brochures and ads that take an "everything-including-the-kitchen-sink" approach. That is, they cram their ads full of all kinds of benefits in the hope that one of them will resonate with a reader. The result is that almost none of them do.

Imagine yourself as the recipient of such a brochure. If the first benefit presented doesn't appeal to you, you would have no reason to read on.

Picking one major benefit is sometimes seen as a risk. What if we pick the wrong one? That concern can be dispelled by careful and dispassionate market research. What you learn from your research will help you select your central selling theme. It may even guide your business strategy.

Learning From the Best

The major marketers of America do this routinely. Wal-Mart's central theme, for example, is everyday low prices. But the reason shoppers return to Wal-Mart time and time again is not just because of its low prices, but because Wal-Mart offers a cluster of benefits. The stores have helpful floor staffs, well-stocked shelves and an immense product selection -- all of which contribute to a pleasant shopping experience that draws consumers in.

Wal-Mart's marketing never mentions these benefits. They hang their hat on low prices.

I’m sure you can think of other leading marketers that, in your mind, have one attribute that defines them to their publics. If it works for them, there must be a way to make it work for you. Let’s learn from the best.

Arun Sinha is president of Access Communications, a digital marketing, content creation and web development company in Stamford, Connecticut, USA. Visit for more information on copy writing, websites, and Internet marketing.

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