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  • Bill Petrie

Selling Your Hamburger

Leveraging the best learnings from the cutthroat world of restaurants

Whether you know me or not, all you need to do is look at my physique to recognize I love hamburgers. I like them smashed on a flattop, grilled over an open fire, and even stuffed in a clamshell made out of packaging that is decidedly unfriendly to the environment. Honestly, I’m not sure where my love of cooked ground beef lovingly placed in a bun started, but without a doubt, it’s my favorite food. Frankly, I can’t think of anyone I know who doesn’t love the occasional burger.

That being said, one thing I find most interesting about the mighty hamburger is that it means different things to different people. To some, it means grabbing a Big Mac at McDonald’s, while others immediately think of the mid-scale offerings of Five Guys or BurgerFi. Some think of cooking out at home over charcoal or propane, while others think of something made by Gordon Ramsay at one of his upscale restaurants. But, regardless of all their glorious variations, it’s still a hunk of ground beef between two slices of bread. In other words, at its core, the sandwich is still a hamburger.

Here’s the thing about trying to sell hamburgers: just because everyone eats hamburgers doesn’t mean that everyone will buy your hamburger. McDonald’s doesn’t focus their marketing efforts on people who prefer something more fast-casual like Five Guys or high tone, such as the “Original” Prime Burger at Morton’s Steakhouse. Similarly, Morton’s doesn’t market their hamburger to the In-N-Out crowd. Why? Because McDonald’s, Five Guys, and Morton’s each understand three things about their respective client base:

  1. What’s most important to them (quality, condiments, size, etc.)

  2. Their expectations regarding the experience

  3. What they are willing to pay for (and what they aren’t)

In other words, they know who their clients are and, just as importantly, who they are not. They know what they will (and won’t) buy and their expectations for every aspect of the dining experience. Then, they use this data to tailor their marketing efforts to the audience most likely to respond to their messaging. This is where hamburgers are not only an excellent source of deliciousness but they are also a great metaphor for sales.

The same challenges of selling hamburgers apply to promotional products – just because every industry purchases decorated nuggets of goodness we call branded merchandise doesn’t mean every company should be on your prospect list. Instead, follow the lead of the restaurants mentioned above: focus on the audience that is most likely to purchase what you are selling. By narrowing your focus to specific targets who will be most receptive to what you have to offer, you will dramatically increase your close rate while decreasing your frustration.

Remember, just because everyone eats hamburgers (or buys swag, merch, or promo) doesn’t mean everyone is in the market for YOUR particular hamburger. Take the time necessary to understand your audience, what they need, and how they want it delivered. Only then can you craft a metaphorical burger that will satiate them in the short term and create repeat business in the long run.

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