Diet Pills Typical Results AndertoonI’ve lived for decades with the classic idea that good marketing sells benefits, not products. People want holes, not drills. They want a good-looking body, not exercise or diets. So marketers develop messaging about benefits, what people really want. Sell the sizzle, not the steak.

Unfortunately, in lots of business categories, people don’t want the work, the repetition, or the discipline it takes to get those benefits. They want instant gratification, like a pre-written business plan that supposedly gets investment, or a pill that makes them lose weight without healthy eating or exercise, or success that can theoretically be bought instead of earned.

So it’s sizzle, but without the steak. It’s like the stories of snake oil more than 100 years ago. They’d say it would cure whatever ails you, make you stronger, happier, better in bed … and people bought it.

At least with the sizzle the steak is there waiting to be served. But what about sizzle that has no steak coming?

Entrepreneurship, unfortunately, is plagued with people selling the entrepreneurship equivalent of snake oil. Promising results without work. People want financing, web traffic, sales, and success. But can they just get the success, without the work? The results, without the planning, execution, management, risk, waiting and hoping?

And there, like it or not, is an interesting choice: Suppose you can get away with selling unrealistic or unattainable results … benefits that are one in a million … do you do that?


Tim BerryTim Berry

Tim Berry is the founder and chairman of Palo Alto Software and Follow him on Twitter @Timberry.