There’s an old saying in marketing, “Sell the Sizzle, Not the Steak.” What
this means is that marketers need to promote the benefits of a product or
service and not the features. For instance, people buy a drill to make a hole
or they buy a light bulb to provide light.
When selling these products, it is often better to promote how easily the
product provides the benefits rather than offer a comprehensive list of the
product’s features (which many consumers may not even understand).
As a significant portion of the marketing industry has shifted online over
the past few years, it is even more important today for marketers to focus on
the sizzle. Marketing online requires focusing on sizzle for two key reasons:
1. Internet ad formats require sizzle. The most popular Internet ad
formats are textual ads on Google and Yahoo (including their extended networks)
and banner advertisements. As you are probably aware, textual ads have
significant restrictions. For instance, Google’s AdWords program allows the ad
title to have no more than 25 characters, followed by two lines of text with no
more than 35 characters each. With such limitations, marketers have to choose
their words carefully and focus on product/service benefits.
Likewise, although banner advertisements now allow, due to improvements in
Flash technology, several “screens,”they still have only a fraction of the
space that traditional print or television ads have.
2. Social networking sites focus on sizzle. Over the past 24 months,
social networking and social bookmarking sites have matured significantly. Sits
such as Digg, del.icio.us and Furl have gained popularity as places where
members find information and share it with others online. Digg, for example, is
a platform whereby members submit (or “Digg”) stories. If enough other members “Digg” the
story, the story rises in popularity on the site and gets more and more
As you might imagine, such sites tend to promote news items that sizzle.
They are seeking the sensational, just like commercials for the ten o’clock
news generally sensationalize stories so people watch it. In order to be heard
above the noise and get people to promote your company or product/service, you
need to promote your sizzle, or create something new that sizzles. The latter
is often called Linkbaiting, a process whereby a company creates buzzworthy
content that others feel compelled to link to.
Similar to the need for businesses to focus on the sizzle in their online
marketing strategies, businesses must continue to focus on selling the sizzle
in their business plans in 2007. While the substance of the business plan
remains critical, in order to stand out and get a fair review from investors,
businesses must identify the sizzle in their business opportunity.