Bullet Points — Some Pros and Cons

Joe Swatek October 23rd, 2013
Marketing Insights

Bullet points in your marketing copy can be an advantage. At other times, you should avoid using them. How can you tell the difference? These examples might help you.

It may seem simplistic, but let’s define a bullet point. It’s a dot icon followed by very brief descriptive copy, like this…

  • No minimum balance
  • No monthly service charge

If you have descriptions of your banking products on your financial institution’s website, I can be fairly certain the descriptions include bullet points. Not unusual at all.

The problem, especially when it’s a marketing promotion, is the long, long string of bullet points.

Why? Because bullet points indicate features. People want benefits. Bullet points tell people what your accounts include, but not why they should open the accounts or how those features benefit them.

For example, online bill pay is an account feature — a bullet point. The ability to pay bills anytime, from any online device, and schedule recurring same-amount payments, all without the need to use envelopes or buy postage stamps, is how bill pay benefits the customer.

Notice that “No monthly service charge” doesn’t need more descriptive copy to tell people it’s a benefit. It obviously saves the accountholder money. But for features like bill pay, e-statements, debit card, mobile banking, and so on, you need to point out the benefits so people realize how significant they are, personally, to them.

So break out those features (especially when they’re the same for every account), add descriptive copy, and turn overlooked bullet points into attractive benefits. This advice applies to all your banking products and services.

I’m not completely against bullet points. Add a few and they’re useful, like those two shown above. Bullet points help condense ideas. In their own way, they can highlight advantages for the reader. Let me show you an example.

I wrote an email promotion for a conference that encouraged marketers to sign up. In my freewheeling first draft, I had a paragraph like this…

You’ll find fresh perspectives for crucial issues like how to generate revenue throughout the life of an account, how to manage costs, and how to use data in your system to your advantage.

During my first read-through, it was obvious that paragraph could be converted into an eye-pleasing, easy to comprehend list of bullet points…

You’ll find fresh perspectives for crucial issues like…

  • How to generate revenue throughout the life of an account
  • How to manage costs
  • How to use data in your system to your advantage

Now you’re wondering, why are these bullet points better? Part of the reason is readability. The ideas get lost as a string of words in a paragraph, but are easier to scan and stand out more when shown as bullet points. Remember, this is an email promotion. People begin by scanning or quickly reading the message to see if it interests them.

There’s another factor in play. Call it the curiosity factor. Let’s compare a typical checking account list of bullet points to the conference promotion bullet points…

  • Online Banking & Bill Pay
  • e-Statements
  • Free Debit Card
  • Free Mobile Banking

Is there anything in that list that makes you curious or that has a “wow” factor? No. Simply a list of features.

Now look again at the conference bullet points…

  • How to generate revenue throughout the life of an account
  • How to manage costs
  • How to use data in your system to your advantage

Many readers of the email promotion will ask, “What’s that about?” or think, “I’d like to know that.” These bullet points are like teasers you use in marketing materials. They make the reader stop and think, wonder, question.

The reader has completely different reactions to these two lists of bullet points. The hoped-for reaction to the second list is the one you want to produce.

This is a brief discussion and it doesn’t cover every situation. But I hope it gives you a better idea of when and how to use bullet points in your marketing materials.


This content is accurate at the time of publication and may not be updated.