I have to admit a guilty pleasure: I love infomercials. Actually it’s worse than that. I love junk mail, too. I even love those live demos at the home show where they sell overpriced pots, pans, knives, and miracle window cleaning fluid. I enjoy listening to every one of those pitches. Why? Because every one of them is a lesson in selling.
Actually I love marketing and selling. I’ve been marketing and selling something all my life. Every time I sit through a sales presentation and allow myself to feel the magic of a great performance work inside my brain convincing me I desperately need the very gadget they are selling, I am taking mental notes on what really works… and what doesn’t. There are a lot of smart, subtle techniques that work great, and you can pick them out if you are listening for them.
It’s true, I buy stuff from infomercials. I buy things I want and MOST of the time, I am glad I did.
Here are a few of my favorite purchases;
- Ginsu knife (TV knife) which I still use to this day, I bought it 26 years ago at a home show. Actually I bought 3 of them. My ex-wife took one when we split, I should have had it in the divorce agreement. It’s the best knife I’ve ever owned, and while I have tried using the newer models, they aren’t as good.
- NuWave Oven which I use about three times a week. It’s a fantastic system for cooking and it impresses everyone who sees it. I cook frozen salmon and veggies all at the same time in about 15 minutes.
- Vitamix which I bought 30 years ago and have used it several times a week ever since. It was designed to last a lifetime and so far it’s living up to that expectation.
Those all have been worthwhile additions to my life, and I wouldn’t have known about them if it weren’t for infomercials. I’ve had a few duds as well, most of them inexpensive products like the egg poacher or the multi-chopper, both pretty much worthless.
Here’s the Real Truth.
I enjoy them because I love the pitch. I learn what professional pitch men do and how they do it. I have used what I’ve learned from these people in my own work to great success. I am going to summarize a few of the best ideas I’ve seen while watching infomercials.
Focus on a problem people suffer from and how much it hurts. Put your prospect in pain first and then show them the way out.
- Using the NuWave oven as an example, they talk about how much fat their product will extract from your food so you don’t eat all that fat and gain weight or clog arteries. If cooked conventionally, I would have consumed about double the fat for each meal. The sales process started by showing me how painful it would be to continue the way I was preparing food conventionally, then, showing me how I can eat healthier, using less electricity to prepare food more quickly. Pretty simple, very effective. And the food tastes great!
Emphasize how your prospect will feel after they own your product.
- How does it feel when you apply one easy coat of NuShine to your car finish and see it glow in the sunlight, after just one application? It feels great, right? Show your prospect just how it feels to use what you sell. Demonstrate that feeling of pride and allow your prospect to place themselves in that picture. Imagining the benefits of using your product is exactly the way to change their mindset and get them to buy. Here’s where great testimonials play a critical role.
Create an incredible value, make it a time sensitive offer.
- We’ve all watched as the TV pitchman shows you just five easy payments of $29.95 and then graphically crosses one payment off, reducing it to “just” four easy payments, right? Add to that the urgency of that special price, valid only during their commercial. What a combination! Does it work? You bet it does. It works every time. How do I know? Because the ads keep running.
But wait… There’s more!
- “Would you like a second (item) free, just for the cost of shipping and handling?” That’s the pitch you get at the end of most order cycles. Just after you’ve surrendered your confidential information and credit card, the irresistible offer is unveiled. Do you need TWO? Probably not, but how can you resist? If you spring for the second one, you will likely give it away, creating yet another opportunity for the pitchman to win a new customer. It’s a simple way of creating an upsell. You may not be able to give away something free but take the opportunity and upsell something at the time of purchase. A low cost add-on may be a high profit item and extend the loyalty to your brand.
After everything it takes to get a fantastic product on the air, being pitched by a top-notch salesman, after filling a warehouse with inventory and after spending all that money on TV, what mistakes are made that costs them a fortune?
1. They ignore you.
- After I bought the Ginsu, the NuWave and the Vitamix, I never heard from these companies again. Imagine the money they left on the table, all the additional products they could have sold me and never even tried? We all know that a happy customer is a spending customer so why is it that most marketing companies don’t follow up? I know I would. I couldn’t imagine going through all the hard work of selling a client, a happy client no less, and then ignoring them! That’s just criminal.
2. They don’t ask for testimonials.
The most powerful selling technique, one that works for almost any type of sale, is the testimonial. Yet, not one of those companies I bought from asked me for one. Why not? We all have smart phones and could easily post a comment or upload a video. Even a contest for the best testimonial story with a small prize would create hundreds or thousands of video testimonials… all free.
3. They only use one medium.
What about the internet? I haven’t seen any of these marketers run banners or post to facebook while airing their infomercials. Maybe they do now, but I’ve never seen one. Take advantage of multiple impressions and stack ads together for maximum density and impact.
4. They “Improve” the product and kill it.
This one drives me crazy. I loved the original product and years later I want another one but unfortunately, it’s been “improved” and now it stinks! Take a look at the Amazon Reviews for the “new” Ginsu knife written by those who owned and loved the original. These reviewers tell the story. The manufacturers of the VitaMix did the same thing; The gleaming stainless steel kitchen trophy is now made from cheap plastic. The simple lesson here: If it works, don’t fix it.
The Ultimate Competition
In every selling situation you confront the hidden fears and secret desires of your prospect. What infomercials teach is how to systematically break down those fears by making the pain intense enough that the viewer will want to alleviate it exactly as prescribed by the expert sales pitch. This is the art, the science and the craft of a perfectly orchestrated pitch. How can you take a page from the best pitchmen in the business? Weave compelling stories that entice your reader to stay with you, don’t sell as much as educate, above all induce your prospect to act by clearly showing what they will gain by owning what you sell. That’s your art and craft, mine too!