Ad-libs: Bridges take selling from Point A to Point B

Ad-libs: Bridges take selling from Point A to Point B

By John Foust
Raleigh, NC

BridgeOne of the most impressive bridges I’ve ever seen is the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. It is four and a half miles long and connects the eastern and western shores of Maryland. Rising high above the waves, it enables travelers to cross the bay in a fraction of the time the trip would take by boat.

Although most bridges aren’t quite as dramatic, they all serve the same purpose. They help us move from Point A to Point B, usually over water.

Words can be bridges, too. When we communicate, we use certain phrases to connect pieces of information. Most of these bridges are so subtle that we hardly notice them. But if we didn’t have them, communication would be as choppy as the waters under the Chesapeake Bay Bridge.

Language bridges are especially important in selling. Whether we are making a sales presentation or writing ad copy, bridges help us make the shift from the product to the person. Consider features and benefits. A feature belongs to the product (all-wheel drive, for instance), while a benefit belongs to the person using the product (better traction).

Without a bridge, a sales point is blunt and awkward. When you read or hear,“The vehicle has all-wheel drive. Get better traction,” it’s easy to sense the need for a few words to tie the two thoughts together.

Adding a bridge creates the smooth transition we need: “The vehicle has four-wheel drive. THIS WILL GIVE YOU better traction.” Now the focus has shifted from the car to the person driving the car.

There are plenty of bridges you can use to connect features and benefits: as a result…this means that…due to this…this creates…this allows you to…this promotes…this generates…because of this. Unless you’re talking to a stilted and formal person, stay away from stilted and formal connectors like “therefore” and “hence.”

Although it is more common to put the feature before the benefit, sometimes you can switch the order. For example: “You’ll get better traction when you drive, BECAUSE this vehicle has all-wheel drive.” Either way, a bridge is a bridge and will help you communicate more effectively.

In some cases, you may want to use a second bridge to lead to a more meaningful benefit: “The vehicle has all-wheel drive. This will give you better traction. AND your passengers will feel safer riding with you, especially in bad weather.” The second benefit is more important than the first, because it is emotional rather than logical. But you can’t convincingly arrive at the second benefit (feel safer) without starting with the first one (better traction). Obviously, this progression works only when there is a close relationship between the two benefits.

Word bridges serve two useful purposes. They separate features and benefits, helping audiences see each distinctly. And they link them together to create a smooth flow through sales points.

It’s all a matter of moving your message from Point A to Point B.


John Foust has conducted training programs for thousands of newspaper advertising professionals. Many ad departments are using his training videos to save time and get quick results from in-house training. E-mail for information:

(c) Copyright 2014 by John Foust. All rights reserved.