Sell the sizzle, not the sausage

By: Marketing Donut

Date: 4 February 2009

Marketing copy should not be about features, but benefits: the good things that will happen when someone uses your product or service. This is sometimes summed up as 'sell the sizzle, not the sausage'.

Imagine a customer seeing your marketing for the first time. It’s a bit like a conversation between you and them – a sort of commercial blind date. When the conversation is over, they will decide whether they want to take the relationship further. So what do you talk about?

  • Yourself. Talking about the company, how long it’s been trading, who runs it, where it’s located, its principles and vision. This is the marketing equivalent of telling your own life story on the first date. Needless to say, it should be avoided. (Put this type of information in 'About us' on your website.)
  • Your products and services. A better approach, but don’t overdo it. This is a bit like describing your house, car or family to your date. They may be riveted, or bored stiff – it’s a gamble.
  • Benefits you offer. Effective copywriting spends most of its time here. Start with customers’ concerns and explain how your product will help them, in words they’ll understand. This is as near as you can get to listening instead of talking with your marketing.

Companies who write their own copy usually focus on themselves and their product, because that’s where their heart is. A good copywriter brings a fresh perspective by (politely) asking questions such as:

  • How does that help me as a customer?
  • How does that affect my decision to buy, or not buy?
  • As a potential customer, why should I be interested?

Any points that are too inward-looking should be reworked into benefits or scrapped. The end result should be text that talks directly to the customer’s own priorities.

It can be helpful to count the number of times you mention 'you' as opposed to 'we' or 'us'. Aim for at least twice as many mentions of the customer as of the company.

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