EpiPHany Corner | For Persuasive Communication, F-F-B is Good, but N-F-F-B is Better

If you are involved in advocating for environmentally responsible standards, strategies, products, or projects, this simple tactic can dramatically increase your success. First, some well-established definitions:

  • A “Feature” is a characteristic of something (standard, strategy, product, service, or project) that is easily understood or demonstrated.
  • A “Function” is how the feature works to provide one or more benefits.
  • A “Benefit” is something positive that is gained as a result of a feature or features — and their respective functions.
  • A “Need” is more fundamental and is what makes the benefit relevant.

The basic way to introduce a feature (the handle on a cup for example) would be simply to point it out and say “this cup comes with a handle — how cool is that?” Over the years, professionals in marketing and sales conceived Feature – Function – Benefit (F-F-B) approach to persuasively communicate “why to choose” a particular product or path. We now know that beginning with the Need first, then Feature – Function – Benefit (N-F-F-B) is a far more persuasive approach.

Staying with the cup with a handle example:

The N-B-F-F method is considerably more impactful for three reasons.

  1. It begins by stating a logical, and recognized Need — usually resulting in a nod.
  2. It finishes by pointing out the Feature and Function that meet the Need – often results in another nod.
  3. Most importantly by far: It keeps you from bringing up Features or Functions that you cannot connect directly to a recognized Need.

Note that the graphic includes Need Categories. Indoor air quality (IAQ) is a generally recognized Category. When you aware of a particular Need, a child with early asthma symptoms for example, that is a powerful motivator. However, even if you do not know of a particular Need, IAQ is generally recognized as an important Category of Need.
As long as you begin with a logical and recognized Need or Category of Need, the person or audience is already nodding with you, and order of F-F-B can be modified to fit the actual circumstance.

The EpiPHany here is the impact gained by introducing recognized Needs or Need Categories in order to establish the relevance of Features, Functions, and Benefits that you are presenting. The reality is that the more you know about the needs, priorities, and preferences of the person or persons with whom you are communicating, the more persuasive your efforts will be. Asking questions and listening to the answers helps establish your positive intent and your credibility. In the process, you gain trust and influence.

Author: Jay Gentry