Building Better Bullets Boosts Response

September 14, 2011 by

Getting prospects to read your marketing materials is a bigger challenge today than it's ever been.

Why? Because today’s overtasked business buyers tend to scan rather than read. They know they simply don’t have time to read everything that comes in front of them. They skim marketing promotions rapidly (the few they actually look at). If they don’t immediately find something relevant to their needs, they quickly move on, without a second thought. Poof, you've lost them.

That’s why it’s important to make all your marketing content easy to scan. And one of the best tools for making your content “scanner-friendly” is the bullet.

Why bullets matter

That’s right. The staple of PowerPoint presentations everywhere, the humble bullet is a powerful marketing tool for the 21st century, for several reasons:

  • They’re short and to the point, providing information at a glance.
  • They’re surrounded by plenty of white space, making them easy to read.
  • PowerPoint has conditioned business people to look to bullets for important information.
  • They break up pages into bite-size chunks, so the text looks less intimidating.
  • They seem to pop off the page, screaming “Scan me! Scan me!”

Tech buyers probably won’t read every word of your promotion, but they will scan your bullets. And if what they find in your bullets is relevant to them, they’ll want to find out more. And they’ll read more of your promotion.

But therein lies the problem. Prospects will only want to read more if your bullets are packed with information that’s relevant to them. And that’s where a lot of companies – and a lot of copywriters – fail with bullets. “The biggest mistake I see when I review copy written by my clients is bullets that are just features. No benefits,” says Steve Slaunwhite, author of The Everything Guide to Writing Copy. i

Build better bullets … with benefits

Features, you see, are mostly irrelevant to your prospect. Unless he’s looking for a particular, hard-to-find feature, he couldn’t care less. What matters to him are the benefits derived from those features.

The solution, of course, is simple. When you create a bulleted list of features, attach a benefit to each one.

As an example, look at the following list of features for a databus interface device:

  • Full Duplex Gigabit Ethernet interface
  • 10 UDP/IP ports
  • Processing of time-critical tasks in FPGA hardware
  • Configurable scheduler
  • On-board system timer
  • Cyclic data buffers

Now look at the same list, but with a benefit attached to each feature:

  • Full Duplex Gigabit Ethernet interface for easy, low-cost connectivity with any computer, operating system or application
  • 10 UDP/IP ports provide simultaneous access for up to 10 users
  • Processing of time-critical tasks in FPGA hardware – outperforms RISC processors
  • Configurable scheduler for periodic and “as required” data transfer and conditioning
  • On-board system timer for external synch, drift compensation and time-stamping
  • Cyclic data buffers prevent data loss and facilitate multi-user access

Even if you're unfamiliar with the technology being described, wouldn’t you agree the bullets in the second list are more meaningful and persuasive?

By the way, don’t worry if the text of a bullet extends to a second line. While bullets should be concise, they also need to express the benefit clearly. There’s no rule that says bullets absolutely must fit on a single line.

Take-away points

Remember: better bullets draw the attention of today’s overtasked technology buyers. Use them in your promotions and on your website.

But don’t just list features. Make your bullets relevant to your prospect: add a benefit to every bullet. In other words, build better bullets.

Want some help with a lead-gen campaign or some online content filled with scanner-grabbing, benefit-packed bullets? Call me at (+39) 011 569 4951. Or send an email to



i Slaunwhite, Steve, Secrets of Writing High-Performance Business-to-Business Copy, American Writers & Artists, Inc., 2009.

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