Does Your Marketing Sizzle?

Author Thomas Sant wrote a recent article in which he quoted Elmer Wheeler’s famous line, “Don’t sell the steak – sell the sizzle.” Wheeler went on to say, “The sizzle has sold more steaks than the cow ever has, although the cow is, of course, mighty important.”
What Wheeler meant by “sizzle” is the compelling benefit that has primary appeal to the customer. In other words, that aspect of your product or service that grabs your prospects’ imagination and gets them excited about what will happen if they buy from you.  It represents the one clear benefit that is most closely linked to the customer’s interests or motivations. Or better said – their emotions.
Wheeler described “sizzle” as being the “best selling arguments” we can come up with, factors that have a real gut-level appeal to the buyer.  He thought this kind of appeal was spontaneous and irrational, and he used lots of food analogies to make his point – the sizzle of the steak, the bubbles in the wine, the tang of the cheese, the aroma of the coffee.  A good “sizzle” will have the same immediate impact on us as walking into a restaurant and smelling something delicious, like hot pizza.
Wheeler’s point is a good one.  Customers only want to know, what’s in it for them? What’s the benefit?  How will I be better off?  Unfortunately, the vast majority of sales presentations and proposals focus on features and facts.  They cover details of the product or service or, even worse, their own history.  But no sizzle.  No benefit.  No vision of how their world will be better.
A good “sizzle” should make absolutely clear the answer to the one question every customer has rattling around in their head when they are listening to your sales presentation or reading your proposal: Why should I care?
Another important rule to remember is this: What represents a “sizzle” to one person may be a “fizzle” or a whole bonfire to another person. Therefore, fit the “sizzle” to the prospect at hand.  If you want to increase sales, figure out your client’s Hot Buttons and lead with the most important benefit that ignites that interest.
We literally spend hours with our clients in the beginning of our relationship understanding what is important to their prospects and customers in order to determine their meaningful differentiators.  In other words, what do they do that nobody else does?  What are the unique features of their products or services? What separates them from the competition in terms of methodology, management techniques, facilities or resources?
Once you’ve got your list of differentiators, go verify their importance with your customers. Then you can begin to articulate the kind of value customers look for such as increased productivity, reduced operating costs, improved quality, whatever. This gives you a matrix of differentiators and value orientations.  Now you can rank each differentiator in terms of its ability to prove to your customer that they’ll get that kind of value if they choose you.  If it’s important, give it maximum points.  If it’s basically irrelevant, give it one or none.  When you’re all done, you’ll not only have your sizzles, you’ll know when to use them.  If you’re selling to a customer who’s looking for guaranteed compliance with regulatory standards, and you have three or four differentiators that help assure that, those are the ones you mention.
The next time your mouth starts watering at the smell of a big juicy steak sizzling on the grill, or the aroma of chicken roasting on a spit, remind yourself that your sales presentations and proposals need to create that same kind of quick, visceral impact on your prospects and customers.  Find the hook – – the sizzle – – the appeal to your prospect’s and customer’s interests that will make them excited and eager to learn more.

Posted by John Harden  February 19th, 2009

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