Improve Your Business Writing by Highlighting Benefits, Not Features
It can be difficult to really grab the attention of people through business writing. As you sit down to write, remember that people like to see benefits instead of features. People care about what a product or service can do for them, not what it is.
- Features describe characteristics — a car having a 200 mph engine; an energy drink containing 500 units of caffeine; a hotel room furnished with priceless antiques.
- Benefits are what features give us — the feeling that you can be the fastest animal on earth (given an open highway without radar traps); the ability to stay up for 56 hours to make up all the work you neglected; the experience of high luxury for the price of a hotel room, at least briefly.
Benefits have more to do with feelings and experiences than data. Marketers have known the power of benefits for a long time, but neuroscientists have recently confirmed the principle, noting that most buying decisions are made emotionally rather than logically. You choose a car that speaks to your personality instead of the one with the best technical specs, and then you try to justify your decision on rational grounds.
The lesson for business writing is clear: People care about messages that are based on what matters to them. Don’t get lost in technical detail. Focus on the effect of an event, an idea, or a product. You can cover the specs but keep them contained in a separate section or as backup material. Approach information the way most newspapers have always done (and now do online as well). Put what’s most interesting or compelling up front and then include the details in the back (or link to them) for readers who want more.