B2B Advertising: Sell the Steak

There's an old saying in advertising: "Sell the sizzle, not the steak." Appeal to emotions, be entertaining and keep it short because no one has time to read anymore. The idea is that if your ads stand out for their sizzling originality, you'll get customers to eat more steak.

Pair of steaks on a plate

Many successful consumer campaigns are built on selling the sizzle. But in business to business (B2B) advertising, you're probably better off selling the steak. Sure, you can be creative and unique, but your main goal is to tell decision makers how your product or service will solve their problems.

Here are five tips to keep in mind for more successful B2B advertising:

1. Just say it. Companies are looking for ways to boost productivity, improve quality, save time, reduce expenses and increase sales. They won't waste time on a message if it doesn't explain quickly how they're going to benefit. If you can save them money, tell them how -- and how much. If your company's quality is better than your competitors, tell them why. Or better yet, use customer testimonials. Real-life success stories go a long way toward credibility.

2. Don't be afraid to go long. If you can deliver a convincing message in a couple of sentences, do it. But if you're selling a complicated product or service, take as much space as you need to explain the benefits. Your sales letter might need two pages instead of one. Consider reducing the size of a photo to include more hard-hitting copy. White space and style are nice, but filling the pages with reasons to buy is even better. Don't be afraid to go into detail, but cut through the clutter with a message that targets your customer's needs and offers solutions.

3. Talk benefits, not features. Most advertisers spend too much time talking about the features of their products or services. Features describe your product, but benefits are the positive results that your customers derive after using your product. Chasing after prospects who can't use your products is expensive and wasteful. By highlighting the benefits, you help to "pre-qualify" the prospects so that a higher percentage of sales leads have a true need for your product.

4. Be repetitive and consistent. Once you decide on the right message and format, stick with it. Successful B2B campaigns require a long-term investment. In some cases, you get lucky and your first offer hits prospects at exactly the right time.

But more often, prospects will read your ad, decide it might be something they can use in the future and file it away in their memories. The next time they see the same message, they might still not buy, but they recognize your company. The third time they see it, they might request a catalog or CD. And so it goes, until one day, they have an urgent need.

Customers will eventually call you because your ads, letters, brochures, website and email marketing are repeatedly delivering a strong, solution-oriented message. Persistence pays off and a customer relationship is born.

5. Be creative, not cute. You don't have to take all the fun out of it. But if you can sell your benefits in a creative way without being silly, you have the best of both worlds.

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