Selling sizzle instead of steak is an ‘oldie but goodie’.
I’m sure you’ve heard it before (unless you live under a rock on a planet in a galaxy far, far, away) and maybe you’ve given it more than a passing thought. Do you understand the reasoning behind the adage, and if you do, are you able to translate the advice into something meaningful that actually boosts your sales or helps your brand?
Before we dive into the how-to of this post, let’s examine the situation a little more closely; since we, as humans, have two sides to our brains, and some of us are more left brained and some are more right brained – at least when it comes to how we arrive at a decision – it stands to reason (see how I did that?) that a percentage of people aren’t going to see the logic in this advice.
Rocket science doesn’t get us to the moon; rocket engineering does.
Are you an engineer? Are you an engineer trying to fit into a marketers body? Yikes! This could be tough to sell if that’s the case. If you’re not laughing your socks off right now, then you probably are an engineer and you’re not really seeing the humor in all of this, since you believe that the correct way to describe and sell a steak is by talking about the properties, qualities, quantities and other factual items that might come into play.
There’s nothing wrong with that – if your target demographic is comprised of engineers, and if your competition is also marketing and advertising in a straight up facts sort of way. The odds of that being the case are miniscule (there’s a word that engineers can dig their teeth into, I’d say), and the first law of marketing and advertising is to start out by targeting the most likely demographic you have that will respond to your ad.
For the rest of us, the non engineer types, we need a little romance with our ad products, if you want us to get out our wallets and give you the contents. We’re a little less cerebral, a little less literal, and a whole lot more figurative when it comes to thinking things through. We care about the size, the quality, the facts, but we need to have them wrapped up in a pretty package with a nice bow, so that we have something lovely to unbox… it’s just our nature. Did I mention that there are way more of the non engineer types hanging around? Selling sizzle is the only way to get through to us, and we are also more likely to buy more often, and at higher prices, than those engineer types.
What’s the difference?
The difference in the two methodologies goes something like this:
(Imagine you’re looking at the menu of a nice restaurant)
Steak. 12 oz ribeye, cooked to order. Served with two sides.
I suppose if you like a big steak, are happy with most anything as the sides, and want it cooked medium rare, this might be ok, especially if the rest of the menu is written this way. One could, and should, figure that folks would buy their steak dinner, eat their steak dinner, pay their bill, and be on their merry way.
If you’ve ever run a restaurant then you know that the main course isn’t where the money lies, and it’s certainly not the profitable part of the meal. Appetizers, drinks, and desserts, these are the reason your favorite restaurant can afford to pay the rent and the employees and stay in business. It’s highly unlikely that very many customers are going to feel compelled to order much besides their steak dinner when you approach the topic without selling sizzle.
Let’s try this again, with a description from a purveyor of high quality, expensive beef –
TRADITIONAL CUT RIBEYE – PRIME-12 OZ.
The ribeye is blessed with the most natural marbling of all steaks and our Traditional Ribeyes are no exception. The eye of these USDA Prime Ribeye Steaks feature fine grained beef that has a smooth texture and deep flavor. The rich cap surrounds the eye and is considered to be the best tasting portion of the ribeye or any of the best steak cuts. Beef is graded by the USDA based on marbling and just 3% achieves the grade of PRIME BEEF. Simply stated, in the world of steaks these beautiful Traditional Ribeyes reign as king.
This is a perfect example of selling sizzle! The description of this beef is enough to make your mouth water, your eyes light up and your stomach beg you to pay top dollar for this cut of meat. If the entire restaurant menu is written this way, you’re going to need a second mortgage to pay your bill, and your proprietor will be making enough in profits to go home smiling.
Creating campaigns that tout your product features is a waste of time, if you’re looking to actually convert prospects into customers using those campaigns. You need to drill down and find the elements of your story, and work those into every piece of collateral, every ad, every campaign.
Make it personal if you can.
Living our dream
Our company started after a huge set back in our lives. We had to quit the family business where we created and conceptualized ecologically friendly gifts and stationery for children and teens distributed across 500 stores. Unfortunately like so many others we got caught in the economic meltdown so we closed our company, which was to say the least a devastating experience.
I spent a year being depressed and trying to find a job and the meaning of life (just kidding, my passion). Meanwhile my husband supported us by working for a engineering firm as the Vice President of Marketing. Although he was great at his job and it saved us financially it wasn’t the best place for him. We wanted like so many people to work in a job that we were passionate about.
Who wouldn’t want to buy from these people?? They talk personally about what motivates them, describe their setbacks before arriving at the place they are today, and have a positive spin on things. At no point in the opening paragraphs of their “about me” section have they mentioned anything at all about what they are selling right now (and they are a top ten online marketplace seller in a very competitive marketplace, for the record), it’s all about the story, not the products here.
I hope that it’s coming clear to you that people, mostly, are motivated by their emotions and not by their knowledge. No one ever decided to suit up and head for the moon because they thought it was a practical idea. The perceived benefits and results are what convince people to pull out their wallets and make a purchase; this is patently obvious when we look at how some of the worlds stupidest products (pet rocks? sea monkeys? Pokemon Go?) have been phenomenally successful.
Learning to talk about the benefits, not the products, is the way to engage with prospects and turn them into customers.