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Sell the Sizzle, Not the Steak

by Andrew C. MacDonald on December 20, 2009

This is a post I wrote for The Rentables Apartment Blog providing a rental marketing twist on an old saying.


A couple weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend a presentation by Steve Manning of WriteABookNow.com. Steve is a professional copywriter who also owns a rental property portfolio, and he shared some great marketing tips with a group of a group of real estate investors.

To boil Steve’s presentation down into a few words, you’ve got to “sell the sizzle, not the steak." You may have heard this saying before, but take a minute to think about what this means in the context of rental marketing. Conventional wisdom tells us we should advertise our vacancies the same way everyone else does, and this is a great idea if you’re looking for “conventional” results. If you’re looking for better results, then you might be interested in what Steve had to say.

Here is a simple example. A 2 bedroom 1 bathroom townhouse is a 3 bedroom 2 bathroom townhouse, just like a steak is a steak. There is nothing inherently interesting about a 3 bedroom 2 bathroom townhouse, but the real difference is how you present what you have to offer.

When selling the sizzle, you’re looking to do what the fancy restaurant does. Don’t just list off property details, paint a picture of the fantastic experience which awaits the customer (your tenant). Get prospective tenants who are reading your ad to picture how great life will be once they move into your unit.

By selling the sizzle, you can distinguish yourself from the competition and increase your monthly cash flow by attracting premium tenants at a premium price. This extra creativity goes a long way when advertising apartments for rent in Toronto or other markets with an abundant supply.

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