That’s a rather audacious claim, right? But it’s true. You can make your communications compelling. How? By understanding the difference between “features” and “benefits.”

A simple way to understand the difference is: features are about you and benefits are about the other person. When you communicate with anyone through any medium---face to face, email, phone message, whatever---it’s critical that what you say is focused on the benefits the other person will receive from taking in your message.

Almost every message is an offer of some kind. Here’s a simple example: Imagine that someone is trying to schedule a meeting with you via email. Which is the more compelling offer: that they send you one possibility for the meeting time or several options?

In the first case you have no choice. But more subtly, your time constraints have not been considered. The person expects you to conform to his or her limitations. Depending upon the rank, authority, and busyness of the other person, say the Director you report to or perhaps the VP of your department, their time constraints must be acceded to and yours are to be ignored. The demands on your time are not acknowledged and that makes their offer less attractive.

However, when he or she offers options the underlying message is that you are being recognized and respected for your schedule and that recognition is the benefit of the message. Why? Because it takes you into consideration. You are not invisible.

Here’s another example, this time with regard to a product. Say I am selling tires and I tell you that my tires will 1) last for 100,000 miles guaranteed, and 2) the tread design is a result of space age technology. Applying the definition---features are about you and benefits are about the other person---my offer is all about me and my tires. In other words, it’s all about features---life span and innovation. Even though the tires may be extraordinary, my offer is nonetheless focused on me.

I can go on to say that the average life span of a tire is 20,000 for cheap tires and approximately 60,000 for high quality brands. At 100,000 miles my tires will last 5 times as long as the cheap brand and almost double the other high quality brands.

But the question still remains. What are the benefits of my tires to you?

My tires will save you money. They save you the hassle of having to buy new tires. Because of the advanced technology they will make you feel safe with your toddler in the car or when your teenager takes the car out alone for the first time. There are many benefit possibilities but my original example offer above mentions none of them. When your message ignores benefits to the receiver their most immediate response, consciously or unconsciously, will be---what’s in it for me?

That’s the critical question the receiver of your communication will ask. WIIFM---What’s in it for me? Why should I read, or listen, or watch? And, whether you’re aware of it or not, that’s the same question you ask when someone reaches out to you.

Every communication, no matter how trivial, consists of features and benefits. Your objective is to consider the benefits the person receiving it will get.

A question you can ask before you send your communication is: “If I were receiving this communication what might be in it for me?” That will at least get you into thinking about the benefits.

Are features without value? Absolutely not. They can be used, if necessary, to support the benefits you’ve included. In technology, and for that matter in every industry, there are those who will connect with your communication solely based on features---the latest gizmo. But it can definitely help your message if you think through the benefits for them.

For the most part, when your message is all about features---all about you---it’s easy to resist: thrown into the trash or simply deleted. But when you create it based on the benefits to the receiver---in email beginning with the subject line---it becomes irresistible.

What examples do you have of communication that turned you off and those that were compelling?

Author's Bio: 

Judith Sherven, PhD and her husband Jim Sniechowski, PhD have developed a penetrating perspective on people’s resistance to success, which they call The Fear of Being Fabuloustm. Recognizing the power of unconscious programming to always outweigh conscious desires, they assert that no one is ever failing—they are always succeeding. The question is, at what? To learn about how this played out in the life of Whitney Houston, check out

Currently working as consultants on retainer to LinkedIn providing executive coaching, leadership training and consulting as well as working with private clients around the world, they continually prove that when unconscious beliefs are brought to the surface, the barriers to greater success and leadership presence begin to fade away. They call it Overcoming the Fear of Being Fabulous