If you have been around anyone vaguely interested in marketing, you have probably heard the saying “Sell the Sizzle NOT the Steak”. Another form of this expression is “Sell the Benefits NOT the Features”. Or perhaps you have heard it put like this, “Sell People What They Want, NOT What They Need”.
Anyway you say it, it all comes down to the simple fact that people “Buy on Emotion and Justify Their Purchases Using Facts“. As a small business owner you have got to work very hard at knowing when to sell the sizzle and when to sell the steak. Trust me, you are at a great disadvantage here. This really is where an outsider, such as someone who specializes in marketing, can be of great help to you. Someone who is not infected with the “we know what went into to making this” virus.
Face it, people don’t care how long you have struggled, how much money you have invested or how many years of your life it took to bring your service or product to fruition. Don’t waste valuable attention time by trying to sell someone on these things. Ask yourself one thing and one thing only. From the customer’s point of view – “What is in it for ME?“.
Of all the small business owners that we work with, this is without a doubt, one of the biggest road blocks that we deal with. Many times it almost seems as though people act as though we are trying to steal their child. I will admit to sometimes giving in. Rather than ending our relationship on hard feelings, I will bend if someone is so insistent on pushing their features rather than their benefits that they are on the verge of going ballistic.
In order to prove a point, take a look below at some of the greatest and most successful headlines ever written. Do you see anywhere that these headlines state the details about the actual product?
- “Learn How To Win Friends and Influence People”
- “You Can Laugh at Money Worries if You Follow Our Simple Plan”
- “You Can Improve Your Memory in One Evening!”
- “We’ll Sow You Profits Hidden in Your Farm”
- “Everywhere, Women Are Raving About This Amazing New Shampoo”
- “Great New Discovery Kills Kitchen Odors Quick – Makes Indoor Air “Country – Fresh””
Each of the headlines above could have been written differently to describe the actual product or the process that went into developing the product. That would have been a complete waste of time. You only have two seconds to capture the prospect’s attention. If they already have a need for your product, then their mind is already on autopilot looking for a solution. When someone yells out “I can fix your problem” you already have a captured audience. And get this, most people who are going to buy your product or service are already sold. The headlines actually sold them in two seconds. Everything after that is simply looking for justification for purchasing.
Now some people may unknowingly be looking for justification NOT to buy. But once you have captured their attention, they are usually sold or you won’t capture their attention. Of course there are exceptions to this rule. If the headline is so outrageous or infuriating that it stops people cold, then that is a different matter. However, even in those instances the person has already made up their mind about the ludicrous headline. If they continue to read it is again to justify their own already made-up mind.
My guess is if you have ever set down and tried to write out a video script or marketing material that concentrated on selling the sizzle rather than the steak, you failed. You may have thought that you were successful but go back a week later and look again. It will almost always seem as though someone has come in and re-written your sales brochure or script. Like I said, as a small business owner you are the worst person to try and write this kind of sales copy or make this kind of video commercial. You just cannot escape what you know. You know that you are spending more on higher quality material than your competition and you feel that this is a selling point. Trying to keep you from telling the world that is like strapping you to a table, putting a gag in your mouth and tickling you to death. But Your Customers Doesn’t Care. What they care about is that because you use higher quality material your product will last generations and the competitors’ will break down in a year and they will have to buy another one.
You may know that you spend thousands of dollars a year training your people to be the most qualified in the industry. But Your Customers Don’t Care! All they care about is that your people get it right the first time, that your customer does not have to wait too long and that your people are friendly. In order to achieve this, you may have to spend thousands of dollars a year training your employees and even sending them to charm school but – “Your Customers Don’t Care!”
So now it is time to try as hard as you can to put yourself out of your own mind and into the mind of your potential customer. Forget the details and start writing down the benefits. A good exercise is to try and develop a compelling post card that will entice people to purchase your product or service or at the very least call for more information. A post card is a good exercise because it forces you to be very concise. It forces you to eliminate words and use big bold fonts to stop people in their tracks.
Then put the design away and come back in a few days and look to see if you are still selling the benefits or the features. I bet you will be very surprised.