Point. Click. Profit. (As published in The Business Journal)

How to Sell a Steak, or My First Content Marketing Lesson

How to sell a steak or content marketing at its tastiest

Nearly five years ago I traveled to Chicago for a conference. For one of the dinners during our stay, my wife and I and a couple of friends found a nearby steakhouse with a high rating and decided to try it out. We entered Kinzie Chophouse to find a cozy atmosphere and comfortable chairs. Before we had too much time to really settle in, our server Michael introduced himself to our table and offered to tell us something about the fourteen different cuts of steak available. Were we considering steak tonight, he asked?

He proceeded, with an accessible yet authoritative vocabulary, to describe the characteristics of each selection: its provenance, color, fat content, marbelization, thickness, flavor, and seasoning. My mouth is watering just remembering the lecture. I asked some questions to clarify misconceptions in my mind about the steaks, and he answered patiently, allowing others at the table to contribute what they knew.

By the end of the presentation, we were all quite keen to order. And since by now we were educated steak aficionados, we were discussing the virtues of the various options around the table and whether we favored the dry-aged or bone-in Delmonico – the 8 oz. or 12 oz. filet, or perhaps the 16 oz. bone-in filet.

This was my introduction to content marketing, and it’s a perfect microcosm of the challenge of sales and how to get your customer invested in a purchase:

  1. Provide information and education to the prospect.
  2. Establish yourself as an authority on the topic of interest.
  3. Get customers asking questions, so they know enough to sell to others.
  4. Get the client excited to close the sale themselves.

At the core of the content marketing approach is a simple maxim: don’t sell; teach and listen. Our server didn’t leave us on our own to ponder the range of prices on the steak list from $29.95 to $48.95 (not including the $69.95 48 oz. porterhouse for “up to four persons”). Before we had the chance to develop objections, he prevented them, with an educational experience that we were primed for, and as a result the prices were placed into context.

We had come ready to eat, after all. But we could have had the Herbed Baked Goat Cheese Salad for $9.95 or the Jalapeño Barbecued Pork Tenderloin for $15.95. This is the server’s dilemma: there are many options that allow the customer to spend less, but their wage depends on a substantial bill. If the server simply throws out a recommendation for something extravagant, the customer will have great expectations that must be fulfilled. But if he merely offers the facts for the customer to make an educated decision and the customer bites on the $35.95 12 oz. Veal Chop, then the customer has convinced herself of its merits. So, the education process builds trust in the service provider, not to mention the confidence and incentive instilled in the customer to keep the sales process moving forward.

More than that, once the customer has finished dinner – provided the meal met expectations – she will be compelled to evangelize to her friends. Your customers will sell for you. There are multiple reasons for this:

  • To justify the expense in one’s mind. If others agree it was a good value for the quality, we can rest easier that the money has been well spent.
  • To be seen as a leader in thought or experience. We want the prestige from knowing things that others don’t yet know and want to know.

You’re probably already thinking of ways to leverage this approach in your own selling. If not, then I probably talked too much about steak and you’re reading this before lunch. In that case, we’ll talk about the perfect recipe for a landing page in this space next month.


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