More and more, it seems like you need a degree in psychology to be an effective marketer online.

The idea of turning prospects into buyers of your product or service can be a little overwhelming, and some of the advice out there is downright contradictory.

If you’re like me, juggling lots of projects at once, you don’t have time to sift through it all.

Thankfully there are some proven methods that work, and that never change.

Many of these methods do involve psychology — neuroscience even — but as you’ll see, it doesn’t take an advanced degree to learn how to use them.

A few easy steps can send you on your way…

Benefits, not features

Brian Clark noted in his Copywriting 101 post:

“One of the most repeated rules of compelling copy is to stress benefits, not features.”

In practice it sounds simple, but finding true benefits is where the trick comes in.

How to turn prospects into buyers

Connecting your “functional product” to your prospect’s true desires can be tricky, and that’s why research and some basic neuroscience can go a long way to helping you make a sale.

Let’s face it, your prospects are lazy.

Pioneering copywriter John Carlton called the average consumer the “somnambulant blob welded to the couch.”

We’re all guilty of spending free time lethargically surfing the internet with the attention span of a fruit fly, and when it comes time to buy something we need… we bookmark it or decide to leave it for tomorrow.

Clark also reminds us:

“We’re not as logical as we’d like to think we are. Most of our decisions are based on deep-rooted emotional motivations, which we then justify with logical processes.”

Getting your audience emotionally motivated to buy is the key.

Here’s why…

How our brains fool us

Not only are you competing with a billion other sources of distraction, you’re competing with the human brain itself, an incredibly sophisticated piece of hardware.

As a culture, we’ve all grown very wary of bad solicitation, but at the same time we constantly crave new and better stories.

Neurological studies show that messages focused on rewards (read: benefits) can trigger activity in the brain that mimic the results of experiencing the actual reward.

In other words, presenting benefits in your copy that vividly describe the rewards of your product or service can fool the brain into experiencing those rewards as if they actually happened.

By tapping into the emotional root of your prospect’s needs, you prime them to take action.

This is why researching your target market is crucial to tap into the true desires of your audience.

The 4-step process for extracting true benefits

You can use a 4 step process to extract true benefits from your features to find the underlying desires of your readers or prospects and make them as compelling and rewarding as possible.

I’ll use a premium WordPress blog theme as an example for this process to extract some benefits of an actual digital product.

1. List all of your product’s features, what your product, service or brand has. Narrow it down to the features that are most likely to hook your prospect:

2. Examine what each feature does, or why you’ve included it:

3. Take your list of what your features do and ask yourself how they connect with your prospect’s true desires:

4. To get to the bottom of each feature’s true benefit, keep asking the question “What does this mean for your prospect on an emotional level?”:

“Benefits sell, features support”

Features have their place in your copy too, don’t get me wrong.

They play the supporting role to benefits and are most effectively used to justify and support the claims of your benefits.

By extracting the emotionally relevant, and most compelling benefits of your product or service, you are far more likely to get your prospects to pull out their wallets.

And they’ll be even happier once they actually experience your product or service.

Tip: Brian reminds us in his article about benefits that features are sometimes enough to sell a high-tech or business-centric product. The more critical, business, or tech savvy your readership, the less effective pure “emotional” copy is. And most products can benefit from the one-two punch of emotional benefits followed up with strong logical benefits, too.

Do you have more sure-fire ways for extracting true benefits from features?

Drop them into the comments below…

(About the Author: Kelton Reid is an independent screenwriter and novelist, as well as a copywriter for Copyblogger Media. Get more from him on Twitter @keltonreid.)