This is the first in a five part series on secrets effective communicators use to cast vision,
communicate big ideas, and affect change.
The simple apple.
Can you describe it? Consider its characteristics. Not what it does, but simply what it is. Here, I’ll help. An apple is…
- a fruit
- crispy and red
- low calorie
- full of vitamins
Maybe you have other descriptions. These are the features that tell us what an apple is. But what does it do?
- keeps you regular
- helps you lose weight
- helps you live longer
These benefits are what an apple does.
This is the difference in what marketers call features and benefits, or F&B.
Features describe what something is. Benefits suggest how it will make your life better.
To cast vision you need to think not in terms of features but in terms of benefits. (if you’re concerned about pandering, consider that speaking of benefits is a form of strategic caring.)
Features come from the developer’s perspective. Benefits come from the user’s perspective. Features are insider. Benefits are outsider.
To communicate well, focus on the benefits.
This core concept is simple yet deceivingly difficult to implement. You’ve got to train yourself to spot the difference.
I used to speak about the creative use of screens in worship. I had a lot of grandiose ideas about why screens were vital to worship and ministry and the role of art and aesthetic experience in spiritual formation. But nine times out of ten, in the subsequent question and answer session, I’d hear the same question: Now, what kind of projector do you recommend?
I’d get annoyed at the “101” nature of it all. In my enthusiasm, I’d fail to recognize that people aren’t insider like me. I wanted to talk about details, nuance and the finer points of the features. But the people to whom I was speaking were rarely there with me. They were beginners; they wanted the basics. They needed clear benefits.
Longtime insiders lose sight of the user’s perspective. To overcome this dilemma, consider this principle:
Users focus on the end result. They’re looking for the fruit, not the seed.
One of our Peachtree ministries is an ongoing assimilation class called Exploring Peachtree.
The simple approach would be to talk about what happens at the class. That would go something like this:
Join us at our next Exploring Peachtree, where you will learn about the church, become a new member, and meet other new members.
Meh. I might go, I might not. It doesn’t hook me. Typical promotion emphasizes something’s features, as a set of data points. Instead, think about the benefits. What happens as a result of the class? Imagine an ideal scenario: at Exploring Peachtree, people will discover a class or program at the church that will help their current situation; they will find the beginnings of real community; and they will deepen their faith walk.
Wouldn’t it be great if this could actually happen?
With these benefits in mind, we looked for a story where just this thing happened:
Now, which works better? This list of features about the class or the compelling presentation of the benefit of the class?
We spend so much of our time and energy communicating what something is. We need to spend more time communicating what might be. There is what something is, and what it might be. In order to successfully communicate an idea, you have to show people what might be.
I like to tell people a basic principle: don’t tell me what you’re going to do. That’s talking about the seed. Show me the fruit. Tell of the results of your work. Let’s tell stories of lives changed by ministry. Give me a beautiful piece of fruit.