Sell the sausage, not the sizzle

We are not sure who first stated the well-used phrase “sell the sizzle, not the sausage.” We would be the first to accept that it does have relevance in marketing and, in particular, advertising. Clearly benefits and attributes are part of promotion, and aspirational and exciting messages are important. Having said that, it does appear the times are truly changing. There is much research, for example, indicating large percentages of people are at least suspicious of statements and promises that are made in marketing messages and adverts.

Social media has without doubt led to the sharing and storing of information that influences the buying decisions and desirability of products and services. Customers are now more influenced than ever by recommendations and factual data from trusted sources and especially from the new social feeds and platforms.

 The sausage itself we feel is now equally crucial — if not more so — than the sizzle. No matter how attractive all forms of marketing are, the consumer can now easily validate the product or service claims across a wide selection of options. If the excitement and attraction, is not as claimed, it is now almost inevitable that the review process will be even more critical and likely to result in negative press.

It is for these reasons that the actual experience and service delivery is even more important than the marketing messages. In our present environment the customer experience actually becomes the memorable marketing, and operations become a major player in the promotional world. This has always been the case, but in recent years the importance has magnified. It has also had a clear influence on the promotional messages that are being used, and more and more we are seeing advertising aimed at stirring our emotions and connecting with what we can and should honestly expect from products and services.

This, in our view, is never more true than in the hospitality sector and is, as a consequence, an important part of our operating strategies. Without wishing to minimize the complexity of this opportunity, we think there are six basic necessities:

1. Simple and explicit team communication is vital. Each team player needs to understand what is expected both from the perspective of their challenge and what we are trying to deliver. This applies equally to back-of-house staff as it does to the front. As our products and services are changed and developed then so must our teams’ knowledge and understanding.

2. Customer satisfaction is history! Today customers need to be delighted. How this is measured should be by continual customer interface and feedback. It simply is not sufficient to take photographs and evaluations at a particular time of inspection or assessment, no matter how regular.

3. Identifying and sharing important and essential touchpoints between our people or products and the customer is essential. This will ensure we excel in the areas that are genuinely important to the consumer and their needs and preferences.

4. Admitting failure to both our people and our customers can be therapeutic. It demonstrates honesty and sincerity in being ambitious in getting it right and is a valuable part of the learning process. Often it works well in customer retention.

5. Ensuring everyone involved in delivering experiences via the product and the services at various times is essential. If this is combined with feedback and discussion then it becomes invaluable in the continual search for perfection. Our staff is often the closest to the sharp-end feedback, and that experience with usage is a great cocktail of important ingredients.

6. Real competitor analysis can provide useful information and stimulate both thoughts of how to and how not to. So often we hear that this is covered when, truthfully, it is only on the basis of lip service. Attention to detail and process in this area can really help differentiate your customers’ experiences and your product.

In reality, if your product lives up to the sizzle, you have both great marketing and a perfect product that customers will return to time and time again. There is also a good chance you will save on traditional marketing expenses!

We would love to hear your views and strategies in ensuring your product lives up to the sizzle.