The Insider Secrets Billy Knew About Turning Ordinary Household Products Into Muli-Million-Dollar Businesses…
How They Can Revolutionize Your Sales Process And Turn EVERY Product You Sell Into A Sales Windfall
Last week the airwaves were saturated by coverage of celebrities’ deaths.
If you’re a client of mine, it’s no surprise which one hit me the hardest. If you’re not, it was none other than Billy Mays, the greatest TV Pitchman ever.
In fact, when news of his death hit the airwaves, within the span of twenty minutes I received 5 text messages about Billy’s departure.
You might wonder why everyone was texting me about his death. Well, first off, I was a big fan of Billy’s. I told everybody I knew to watch and study the series Pitchmen on Discovery Channel.
And, second, my closest confidants knew I was considering creating a product with Billy on how to best sell through video.
Why would I want to create a product with Billy? Because Billy knew how to do something that very few marketers realize is even possible. He knew how to create and stir up demand for a product in less than two minutes.
That’s right, in less than 120 seconds he was able to introduce you to a product, get you to want it badly enough, and then get you to pick up the phone and crack open your wallet to order it. And once again – all in the span of two minutes.
It’s like the opening line of Pitchmen asserts “Two minutes of television wow that makes you buy now.”
And Billy was dammed good at it. Over the past decade the products he and his partner Anthony Sullivan sold on TV racked up combined sales of over $1 billion – and made each of them a personal fortune.
In 2008 alone their ads cumulatively ran for some 56,000 minutes on U.S. television at a cost of about $170 million, according to Icon Media. And just like A-level copywriters, these A-level pitchmen get a cut of every sale.
So, while banks are scrambling for bailouts, retailers are slashing prices, and industrial giants are cutting headcounts, Mays and Sullivan were thriving.
Why? Because recessions don’t daunt you when you are able to do the impossible – Getting people to buy something they didn’t even know existed in 120 seconds or less.
But, with Billy’s untimely death – all that has changed.
Unfortunately my product with Billy will never happen, the pitchmen series will probably not broadcast another season, and there won’t be any new Billy May’s pitches screaming through the TV at us.
Like I said, I was a huge fan of his show, Pitchmen. I watched every episode and took copious notes in order to improve my own marketing skills. And to honor Billy I’d like to share with you many of the gold nuggets I learned…
The Overall Sales Process
The overall sales process starts with picking the right product. Next, you create your pitch, taking the viewer (or prospect) through three steps (which I cover below) that make the sale. And finally, like all direct response marketing methods – you analyze your results. Based on the numbers you either tweak it, abandon it, or roll it out.
Now, let’s dive into the details. This way, by the time we’re through you’ll be able to apply Billy’s billion dollar selling techniques to your own products and be amazed at how powerful these techniques truly are.
Sales Process Step #1
Picking The Right Product
What makes the ideal product for Direct Response TV?
Well, obviously, it’s got to work. It’s got to do what you say it’s going to do. But that rule applies to all products (not just the ones sold through TV. So let’s take a look at some more criteria Billy and Sully used when they were evaluating products.
But before we do, it’s important to understand why Billy and Sully used strict criteria to choose a product. First off, they’re hired guns – which means they usually don’t have an emotional attachment to a product the same way an entrepreneur typically does.
Instead, because they (1) get a piece of the action, and (2) their reputation follows them from product to product, they are looking for the surest thing they can pitch in the format they use.
They want products they believe are destined for best-seller status (which keeps a steady flow of new products coming to them to endorse), and that delivers a positive experience to the product buyers (which builds their personal brands with consumers).
Here are the criteria Billy and Sully referenced during episodes of the Pitchmen.
Actually, first take a peek at this 22 second video from Billy laying out what we’re about to cover:
The Right Product is Demonstrable In A Way That Produces A WOW
If there was one product quality Billy insisted on, it was this.
Here in one of the last interviews he ever gave – Billy talks about the importance of demonstrability in the first 23 seconds:
You see, when a prospect doesn’t have the item you are pitching in front of them to see, touch and hold, it’s not so easy to create the sense of ownership that stimulates the urge to buy now. This is a major issue not only for Direct Response TV, but also for online retailers and internet marketers as well.
So, no matter what your product or service might be, you have to be able to SHOW (not tell) potential buyers what it can do for them and how it will make their lives easier.
Stated differently: a product’s purpose, function and success must be easy to explain and demonstrate if you want to sell it on TV (and it certainly helps online too). Complex concepts, or vague results don’t have a prayer!
There’s also got to be a visual “wow” factor that will capture the viewer’s attention and make them not only keep watching, but compel them to purchase. For example, in the OxiClean commercials stains disappear right before your eyes and Mighty Mend It repairs a flag that could withstand hurricane-force winds. Or better yet, how about the DualSaw’s ability to cut a car in half like it was hot knife cutting though butter
This is another reason why products based on “prevention” never sell well. You can’t really “see” the result because it’s almost impossible to come up with effective demonstraions that produce that WOW effect, for prevention based products.
We’ll explore the WOW factor in greater detail a little later on.
For now, think about your product and service and explore all the different ways you could help your prospects visualize it’s benefits and capabilities. The closer you get to SHOWING the benefits customers stand to experience with your product, the more persuasive your marketing will be. Video works best, but photos, testimonials, before-and-afters, all have their place too.
The Right Product Has Mass Appeal
In the online world this isn’t necessary to have a winner (because you can target much more effectively) – but if you want to have blockbuster success online it certainly doesn’t hurt.
However, when you are doing Direct Response TV, you can’t be as targeted as you can be online – which means you want your product to appeal to the largest percentage of your viewer.
Obviously, if the product is seen as a potential winner among a wide range of ages, genders, races or other demographics, you’re stepping up to the batter box with a greater chance of hitting a grand slam.
On the flip side, the more “exclusionary” a product is (such as a product that is limited to a single gender – like a super push-up bra for women) the more strikes you have against you before you ever get up to bat.
Again, everything else being equal the larger the universe of potential prospects the better.
When I was more involved in CPA (cost per acquistion) advertising – an old veteran once gave me similar advice about which products seem to work best across multiple networks. He called it the “person on the street test.” Bascially, the street test was – “if I were to stop ten people randomly walking down the street, how many would be potential prospects for your offering?” Which is why you see so many CPA offers around weight-loss, making money, and free ipods and iphones.
Remember, marketing is a numbers game. The larger your prospective customer universe, the greater your chance of hitting it big.
So, to make your product more appealing to a more general market think about the features and benefits that make your current offering more niched or targeted and explore what impact it would have if you were to strip those out of the current product to shoot for a bigger pool of prospects. Or on the flip side, what could you add to your product that would increase the universe of prospects?
In most products there is either something that can be stripped away or added ( or both) that expands the universe of potential customers.
The Right Product Solves A Problem
Does the product provide a simple, inexpensive solution to a problem that annoys millions of people worldwide?
Does the product enable customers to easily tackle jobs they’d normally be forced to call high priced professionals to do for them?
Does the product make it easy to tackle messy chores without the hassle normally associated with it?
If the answer to any of the above is yes – your product has already passed this test – but if you’ve been answering no, don’t give up all hope just yet…
Because if you can prove that your product makes life easier for it’s owners you’re still in the game.
Bottom line, the best products relieve a perceived problem that the consumer has. However, in many cases, people aren’t always aware of the problem they have, so you need to show them.
For example – “Are you tired of knives that just don’t cut?” Sometimes people won’t think about this as an everyday problem in their lives, however once confronted with this, they will quickly see this as a problem they would like to solve.
Because the style of advertising that Billy and Sully leveraged was Direct Response TV (DRTV) it relies on prospects making an impulse purchase – meaning the ads have to make people want the product right now – or there’s no sale.
This means it’s not the arena for products that are preventative – the products need to solve a problem consumers have today rather than a potential problem they may face in the future.
On top of that, breakthroughs in NeuroMarketing have also recently revealed that it’s easier to sell the removal of a pain, than it is to sell progress towards a goal. So, it makes total sense why Billy’s criteria for picking a product allowed him to consistently pick winners.
Again, the key is in solving an existing problem your market wants solved right now.
If you’ve got your own product – think about it in the context “current nagging problem” to generate a more effective advertising campaign. Or, if you’re an affiliate marketer, evaluate potential products you’re going to promote by this very same criteria: prevention vs. problem-solving.
Just ask yourself this question:
“How does (insert product/service) make my prospects’ lives easier?
(When you reverse your answer to this question you’ll find the pain, problem, or frustration to target).
Your answer will reveal exactly where your advertising campaign should start.
The Right Product Gives Instant Gratification
The need to “have it now” has been ingrained in our current culture. Thanks to instant messaging, microwave cooking, and on-demand technology – we all crave instant gratification. This especially applies to products that take aim at our current problems and frustrations.
Think about it this way: If we want to lose weight, what we don’t want is a strict diet of calorie restriction, combined with exercise that makes us sweat, and the deprived feeling of saying no to desert. That approach takes. Nope, what we all want is the magic pill that we take at night so we can wake up skinny.
Since that example might be an extreme, try this one on for size – I know all the stores in my neighborhood that are open 24X7 (Walgreens, CVS, 7eleven, etc…). Why? Because when I want something I want it now, not tomorrow when the normal stores reopen – how about you?
So, when a TV spot identifies our problems or frustrations and shows how easily (and immediately) the product being pitched solves it – this is the spark added to the gasoline igniting the impulse purchase all direct response marketing relies on to get the sale.
That’s why the demonstrable WOW (Billy’s #1 criteria) is so powerful – because the subtext is immediate gratification. Oxiclean takes the stain out immediately, Mighty Mend It fixes tears in a heartbeat, and so on and so on and so on.
Whether or not your products work in an instant – you can apply this same approach in your marketing.
Case in point – a year ago I was gearing-up to launch a new coaching program named GPS. Originally I was thinking it was going to be a year long program. BIG MISTAKE. When sharing my plans with a friend of mine, Mike Filsaime, he said “Schefren, are you kidding me? Nobody wants to wait a year to get the result – you’ve got to make it a lot shorter than that”.
So, I turned GPS into a 30-day intensive program and sold over $2 million dollars worth in our initial launch.
And when I surveyed all my new clients as to the single biggest reason they bought – the number one reason they gave – it was a 30 day program, and they could see themselves sticking with anything for that long, and wanted the results that fast. (THANKS MIKE)
So take a look at your products and services and explore how you can deliver the results faster, how customers can see, feel, or experience the payoff as fast as possible, and how they can appear more like the magic pill that makes you skinny than the year long weight loss program that requires lots of effort and sacrifice.
The Right Product Is Unique
Another criteria that both Sully and Mays used in selecting their ideal product to pitch is the uniqueness of the product. In other words, the ideal product should have something special that is unlike anything else that is currently available, and one that addresses a common need.
The legendary copywriter Gary Bencivenga refers to this special spark as a “Uniquely Superior Solution.”
And no one was better than Billy at turning a product with a uniquely superior solution into a must-have product. In fact, Billy was quoted as saying he could “turn a (product with a) better design into a goldmine”.
But let me be clear – it’s not absolutely necessary for a product to be new and unique, but if it is, it’s chances of being the next homerun campaign multiply.
Take Anthony Sullivan (Billy’s partner) and his product the Swivel Sweeper. While scads of floor-cleaning tools already existed, the Swivel Sweeper delivered a uniquely superior solution through it unique features and design.
Sullivan Productions jumped on the Swivel Sweeper as soon as it was shown to them. And after selling over 14 million units there’s little doubt the Swivel Sweeper’s uniquely superior solution resonated with the buying public.
In this day and age every marketer needs to understand; a product that’s simply better than its competition, and not markedly different, often doesn’t have enough going for it to break free from the current advertising clutter.
In fact, as counter-intuitive as it may seem, a product that’s different often can sell more than a product that’s simply better.
Think about the Imac or Ipod – both weren’t necessarily better than competitors’ products functionally, but both were different enough to stand out among the crowd – which in this day and age makes them better at gaining attention and achieving marketplace acceptance.
So, what makes your product unique? Even if what makes your product unique isn’t necessarily what makes it better, it still deserves a spotlight in your marketing. Because in the attention deficit marketplace we live in, different IS better. Remember, being different is more effective than being better itself.
The Right Product Is Priced Right (The Strike Price)
One of the themes difficult to overlook in the Pitchmen series was that almost every entrepreneur and inventor resisted the price Billy wanted to sell their product for.
To make matters worse, products often have to be produced at a cost that allows for a “five times” markup while still having an attractive offer price.
This high-markup is required to cover the costs of media, distribution, fulfillment, etc. . This required inexpensive, easily manufactured components. The price barrier isn’t as daunting though as you might imagine because most of the products Billy and Sully pitched eventually were produced in plants overseas (in countries like China) to get the costs down to easily provide the right margins.
Here’s a quick quote from Billy that pretty much sums up his feelings on the matter “I feel the magic number on the infomercial, the two minute spots, it’s kind of hard to get past $20. That seems to be the magic number. The best things in life are free and $19.95.”
This line of thinking is very much in line with the distinction many marketers (both online and offline) make between front-end products, which are designed for customer acquisition and back-end products, which are designed to increase the lifetime value of the customers already acquired.
In our business we’ve found the “Strike Price” for our front ends is $47. This is higher than May’s $19.95 but we don’t have the same constraints that DRTV places on Billy’s promotions.
So for you, no matter what type of marketing vehicles you use – do you know what your ideal price point is for attracting new customers? If you don’t this should become a top priority for you and your business because the odds are high your sub-optimizing your offers until you figure out your pricing sweet-spot.
The Right Product Has High Perceived Value
In all of his commercials, Billy always want to make his potential customers feel like they’re getting a great value for their money.
This is why his pitches typically included lines like “a $60 value all for only $19.99!” But you might be wondering – how do you make this convincing?
It’s actually pretty simple – by ensuring your product meets all of the requirements stated above. It’s been proven time and again – consumers almost automatically impart a higher value to unique products powerfully demonstrate they can instantly “solve a common problem. And that it doesn’t even matter if the products are made from simple materials with a simple design.
What this means for you is that by simply applying what you’ve learned up to this point your product will automatically be perceived as more valuable than it is intrinsically.
The Right Product Tests Well In The Field
Billy and Sully had to believe in a product before they would ever sell it.
If you watched any of the episodes, you saw that Billy and Sully really did test the crap out of a product to make sure it worked as advertised. And they did it *before* they were ever willing to shoot a spot.
In each episode, when the dynamic duo was considering a new product, they often took the product to the streets. They gave people free samples in exchange for their agreement to try out the product and give their honest opinions.
Like Sully said “There’s nothing more valuable then real people giving real opinions.”
For the Impact Gel foot soles – Sully took the product to The Lube Center where workers spend 8+ hours a day on their feet standing on concrete and asphalt. He wanted the workers’ opinions on how much they liked or disliked it, and what they would be willing to sell it for.
For the Dual Saw Billy and Sully took the saw to the Clearwater Fire Department to put it to the test and get the firemen’s opinion on how well it performed.
The goal was to find products that really did solve an everyday problem at a price people were willing to pay for the solution.
It protected Sully and Mays’ reputation as well as protecting both the inventor and the public.
Truth be told – no matter how well you can deliver a powerful a sales presentation, you won’t maintain a lucrative career as pitchman or build your business by selling worthless crap that doesn’t deliver on its promises. Eventually disappointments catch up to you. Mays understood this. He knew his reputation was his most valuable asset and he was laying it on the line with every product he pitched. So he protected consumers and his reputation accordingly.
You see, Billy came off as confident and sincere because he was. He did his homework in the field so he fully and completely believed the claims he was making.
We do the same in our company, Strategic Profits. We have a special group of VIP customers who get all our products in advance to test out and give us feedback. And if the feedback comes back less than stellar we kill the product and never even proceed on the promotion.
And this isn’t unique. We have a joint venture product we are currently field testing with AWAI (American Writers and Artist Institute). We think we’ve come up with a faster and easier way to develop skills as a copywriter. But before we ever roll it out – we need to make certain it works.
We also require joint venture partners to ship us copies of their product before their scheduled release if they want us to get behind it. The way it works is Brian (our COO) will negotiate the deal and begin working on our promotional efforts with our marketing team. At the same time a copy of the product is shipped to me and I get to have my intellectual way with it. If I am satisfied the promotion is green-lighted, if I’m not, it’s killed on the spot.
So what about you? If you want to be in a position where customers buy based on your recommendations, please realize it comes with a heavy weight on your shoulders. You stake your reputation on every single product you endorse and you need to protect it accordingly.
Sales Process Step #2
Ballying The Tip
Alright, so now we’ve got the perfect product or we’ve re-engineered our current product to get as close to perfect as we can.
Now it’s time to go to market.
The hardest part of making a sale is stopping people, whether they’re walking down the boardwalk, wandering by a booth at a homeshow, or simply channel surfing.
In pitchmen lingo, “ballying the tip” means drawing a crowd – getting people to stop what they are doing and start paying attention to your pitch.
And the only way a marketer will succeed in any marketplace is if they’re able to seize the attention of their prospects long enough to get their message across. To do that, we need to “Bally The Tip”.
Here are three primary ways Billy Bally’d The Tip…
Ballying The Tip Step #1 – Grabbing Attention
If there was ever a person whose voice was the EQUIVALENT OF CAPS-LOCK IT WAS BILLY MAYS!
Every commercial started with his booming voice – “HI, BILLY MAYS HERE…” which immediately cut thru the commercial clutter of TV advertisements.
It was like he secretly turned up the volume on your TV set as his commercials began.
And it wasn’t simply the “yell and sell.” It was his animated gestures, his obvious enthusiasm, the rhythm, rhyme, and cadence of his lines, his trademarked electric blue shirt and his unnatural jet-black hair and beard.
In other words, Billy knew how to grab and hold on to the TV-viewers’ attention. He had a magical way of preventing you from switching channels or ignoring his pitch.
Most marketing campaigns never get off the ground today because they don’t get the attention of their marketplace.
At our company, Strategic Profits, we are continually pushing the envelope in our marketing to get as much attention as we can muster. In fact, I wrote two free reports on this exact topic 2-years ago. Their titles are “The Attention Age Doctrine I” and “The Attention Age Doctrine II”. To this very day, I continue to get glowing reviews about those reports (and if you’re willing to opt-in, you can have both by going here: OPT-IN URL HERE).
Here are some examples of how we’ve created and seized attention in our marketplace:
My point in sharing these stunts is not to impress you (although I am proud of each and every one of them) but to share with you the great lengths we will go to get the attention of our marketplace. And in each of these cases it was well worth it – the worst performing of any of these campaigns brought in $2+ million and several of them brought in a lot more.
So what have you done, and more importantly, what are you willing to do to STAND OUT and grab the attention of your marketplace? Understand this – more and more is consistently required to stand out as your marketplace becomes more cluttered. At a bare minimum, you need to do more than what your competitors are currently doing.
Ballying The Tip Step #2 – The WOW Demonstration
We touched on this above when we talked about Billy’s number one requirement when picking a product was that it must be demonstrable in a way that produces a WOW.
You see, Billy knew that if you want to maximize your chances of making a sale you need to show the prospect an over the top demonstration. Why?
For one, it’s an incredible attention getter. Second, it’s the fastest, most effective way to dramatize and telegraph the benefits of your product. And third, it helps viewers come to their own conclusion about a product. And when prospects come to their own positive conclusion about your product, they’re more likely to believe in it and more importantly, they are much more likely to buy it.
Think about it – when you watch one of these over the top demonstrations (especially when it relates to a problem or frustration you identify with) you can’t help but picture yourself enjoying the product as it solves your problem or removes your frustration.
Don’t get me wrong – talking about customer benefits and product attributes are important, but what really commands attention like nothing else is the WOW! moment.
On Pitchmen, viewers got to see Billy orchestrating lots of WOW! Moments, like Billy holding a skunk (to demonstrate an odor-killing product), or him dangling from the massive H.M.S. Bounty ship (to prove the strength of Mighty Putty), or even bashing his hand with a mallet (to demonstrate the profound cushioning effect of Impact Gel insoles). It’s these over-the-top product demos that grabs your prospects by the collar and demonstrates the product’s benefit better than words ever can.
And Billy’s ability to make common products seem uncommon, with WOW Demonstrations, was world class. To do this, he made his demonstrations fun. They never got stale or boring. And when a demonstration started to become more common place (because of the frequency of it being played on TV) or lost its attention getting properties – Billy would often shoot a brand new spot with an even bigger and bolder demonstration just to recapture attention.
Most marketers miss the power of the over-the-top demonstration entirely. I guess it’s because they don’t realize regular claims with heaps of evidence are not even a fraction as potent as a WOW demonstration.
It all boils down to this – wherever you can in your marketing, Demonstrate – don’t describe.
So next time you’re designing a landing page, scripting a webinar, or shooting a sales video, ask yourself the same question Billy asked before he would agree to pitch a product — “How can I demonstrate this in a way that gets my prospects to say WOW?”
If you nail this – you’ll definitely see your sales spike (so don’t give up if it doesn’t hit you right away).
Ballying The Tip Step #3 – Leveraging His Personal Brand
One of the most unusual facets to Billy’s success is simply this: He was a celebrity endorser whose celebrity was based entirely on having endorsed things.
The primary reason for this was that he was on TV constantly. Over time, people felt like they knew him. And that familiarity led to trust. For most of us it was hard not to like him. And if you watched Pitchmen, it was impossible not to like him.
That’s important because a good sales pitch never stands on it’s own. The chances of making the sale increase dramatically when you develop a relationship with your prospect prior to the pitch. And that’s what Billy did – he built a relationship with TV viewers worldwide.
And his consistency only added to the feeling that we knew him. You knew everytime you heard his booming voice, even if your eyes were closed, you knew it was Billy, you knew he was wearing a blue shirt making large hand gestures, and that his black beard and slick backed hair hadn’t changed… these are all things synonymous with Billy Mays. And it’s one of the elements to establishing a personal brand.
That’s important, so let me state it another way – Billy Mays wasn’t only a man, he was a BRAND! And that brand was trusted by a large percentage of the TV buying audience. This is what ultimately made him so valuable.
Case in point – In one episode of Pitchmen both Billy and Sully conducted an A/B split test for a product – The Grater Plater. They pitched the same product, wore the same cloths, said the same lines, with the same scenes and camera angles. And after a week of testing on TV, Billy’s version brought in 40% more revenue.
Now for those of you who don’t know – Anthony “Sully” Sulivan is a great pitchman – and he held his own when it came to delivery of his lines and executing the demonstration. (I already told you he sold 12 million Swivel Sweepers, right?)
The only difference – Billy’s Brand – so a personal endorsement from Billy boosted sales by all itself.
If you’d like to watch the pitch-off here it is:
I won’t belabor the point here – but personal brands are incredibly powerful. In fact, I wrote a whole free report on it with a partner of mine Jay Abraham. It’s called the Maven Marketing Manifesto and you can get your free copy here (but it does require an opt-in)
Sales Process Step #3
Nodding Them In
The next step is convincing potential customers that buying your product is not only totally reasonable, but ultimately a very wise decision.
It usually starts with questions designed to elicit a “yes” response.
“Wouldn’t you like to eat more fresh vegetables?” or…
“Are you tired of your car taking a beating? It gets dinged, scratched and knicked and you pay the price…”
These questions elicit a “yes” response. In fact, when done live, a good pitchman will literally nod in answer to his own question to get the crowd nodding along with him.
From there the pitchman will hit each of the major benefits of the product – with as many demonstrations as possible.
Next, the pitchman will share with you the secret that makes this product truly revolutionary and a must have item.
And of course, Billy was a pro at all this too. He regularly used several techniques to move viewers from merely interested into strongly considering purchasing his products.
Here they are…
Nodding Them In Tactic #1 -Going For Agreement or Acknowledgement
One of the tactics Billy used was the use of questions or direct statements aimed to get agreement (a yes response), or acknowledgement from the prospect about his pain or frustration.
Here are some examples from a few of Billy’s commercials…
“Everyone loves a beautiful garden… but not the blisters, bending and backaches that come with it…” The Awesome Auger
“You swat, you shoo, you spray, but those flies still don’t go away…” FLIES-Away
“No more squishing and squashing or flipping and flopping…” The Slider Station
“Tired fumbling with your tools or wasting time trying to find them? Did you ever wish you had an extra hand?…” The Tool Bandit
The goal here is to get the viewers to agree or acknowledge they’re frustrated or have a problem. This is the equivalent of the door to door salesman slipping his foot in the door to prevent you from closing it in his face.
Although this door isn’t a physical door it’s the door that leads to your wallet. And it get cracked open as soon as you acknowledge a problem or frustration.
As I said earlier, advances in Neuromarketing have proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that once a prospect has acknowledged a current pain (frustration or problem) the likelihood of them making a purchasing decision skyrockets.
So, as marketers you must know the frustrations and problems that are the bridge between your prospects wallet and your product. Do you know what those problems and frustrations are in your marketplace?
I’m constantly on the lookout for the frustrations, concerns, challenges and problems in our marketplace. And I do my best to incorporate them into all of our marketing as much as possible. For example, if you look at the majority of the free reports I’ve written this is the first topic they usually begin with.
That means that if you don’t know what is currently bothering your prospects you need to find out if you’re going to maximize sales.
Nodding Them In Tactic #2 – Enthusiasm Is Contagious
Regardless of what Billy Mays had in his hand in any TV spot, his enthusiasm for the product was obvious. And it was more than just his “boisterous speech”.
His enthusiasm conveyed confidence in the product, a true personal belief in the product he was trying to sell you.
Advertising guru, William Bernbach (founder of advertising agency DDB and responsible for winning campaigns like “Think Small” for Volkswagon Beetle), said this about effective advertising “You’ve got to say it in such a way that people will feel it in their gut. Because if they don’t feel it, nothing will happen.”
And that’s exactly what Billy was able to accomplish with his enthusiasm, passion, and urgency. Bottom line – energy properly focused sells.
Billy gave you a gut feeling that he, himself, thought he was selling a great product, something he would use himself. And that’s exactly what Billy was aiming for.
Think about it, if you don’t believe in what you are selling, then who will?
Both Mays and Sullivan swear that believing in the product is essential to being able to sell it. Which is probably one of the strongest reason they had such strict criteria for selecting the few products they would get behind.
When Billy and Sully were on Late Night with Conan O’Brien, Conan remarking on Billy enthusiasm asked “tell me if I am wrong, but it seems to me whatever you are selling is the most important thing in the world?”
And I think that’s exactly what Billy was able to covey
Here’s the spot on Connan (it’s not only funny it’s quite educational):
Are you that passionate about your product or service? Do you have complete confidence and belief in what you are offering?
If you love and believe in what you do, and are able to show that to your customers they will reward you with their purchase. You don’t necessarily need to yell like Billy (Billy referred to it as projecting), passion and enthusiasm is obvious when you see it or hear it around it. And both passion and enthusiasm can be easily conveyed by a skilled writer who writes with a fast tempo and short sentences.
Remember if you’re not excited by what you have to offer – who will be? And if you’re not, then find something you can be excited about and sell that.
Nodding Them In Tactic #3 – The Sinatra Test Convincer
In the best-selling book “Made To Stick” by Chip and Dan Health they reveal a method to create credibility in an instant. They refer to this it as the “Sinatra Test.”
Here’s a blurb from page 151 in Made To Stick…
“In Frank Sinatra’s classic “New York, New York,” he sings about starting a new life in New York City, and the chorus declares, “If I can make it there, I can make it anywhere.” This is what is called the “Sinatra Test’ – an idea when one example alone is enough to establish creditability in a given domain. For instance, if you’ve got the security contract for Fort Knox, you’re in the running for any security contract (even if you have no other clients). If you catered a White House function, you can compete for any catering contract. It’s the Sinatra Test: if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere.”
An example from the cult-classic infomercial The Ginsu Knives; “The Ginsu is so sharp it can cut through a tin can and still cut a tomatoe like this.. It can chop wood and still remain razor sharp…”
The implication is if the Ginsu can do all that, it’s not going to ever get dull just using it in my kitchen
Here’s the famous commercial
Now, back to Billy.
Many of Billy’s WOW demonstrations were also Sinatra tests.
For example for his product, ‘What Odor,’ Billy picks up a live skunk and then just sprays himself with the product. Now that’s certainly a WOW but the implication is if it can get rid of skunk smell that easily imagine what it’ll do for the dog bed, litter box, or any other household smell.
For Mighty Mend It Billy displays two different Sinatra tests – the first one is when he takes the flag he fixed into a Wind Tunnel Testing Center. The next, is when he uses it to mend a parachute – and then a parachuter jumps from 13,000 feet with the parachute. The implication? If it works in those extreme circumstances it’ll certainly work on my jeans pocket, or the inseam in my pant, etc…
In internet marketing circles I’m known as the Guru’s Guru because I’ve coached over 80 of the top 100 internet marketing gurus on growing their businesses. For many of my clients this was (and still is) the Sinatra test that gets them signing up for my coaching programs. The implication? If all of these gurus are going to him then he must be the guy to go to – and for many that’s enough.
Are you using any Sinatra tests in your marketing? You definitely should. Here’s an easy way to start exploring for your very own Sinatra test in just two easy steps:
Step One: Find high profile users, sub-groups, or niches who are known for having the very same problems your product or service solves.
Step Two: If you’ve got some of those clients already – leverage it – if they’re not part of your customer base currently figure out how you can best entice them – even if you don’t make money on them – because they’ll provide rocket fuel to your marketing results.
Nodding Them In Tactic #4 – Effortless Benefits
In all of Billy’s commercials not only does he provide demonstration after demonstration, but the demonstrations all look so effortless. It a subtle yet extremely powerful way of saying “Hey! Not only are you going to get all this great benefits, but you’re not going to have to do much to get all these great benefits either.
Remember earlier in this post when I was telling you about that magic weight loss pill – you take it at night and you wake up skinny? Well this is the closest you get to it without misleading.
Check out Billy’s commercial for the Awesome Auger:
(Pay careful attention to the 35-second mark when Billy is using the product)
Doesn’t it all seem so effortless?
Did you notice how effortless Billy made it look when it actually zoomed in on him?
If I hadn’t pointed it out you might not have picked it up consciously, but your subconscious would have definitely caught it and, along with it, the promise of effortless results.
Here’s another example – The Zorbeez
(Notice how Billy holds the Zorbeez when he’s wiping up the first spill 9 seconds into the spot)
Notice how Billy is only holding the corners of the Zorbeez as he wipes away the spill? It seems so effortless, doesn’t it.
And once again if you weren’t looking for it you might not have noticed it consciously, but once again your subconscious would pick up on it.
Can you see how if Billy appeared to be exerting more effort (in either spot) the commercial wouldn’t convey the same level of ease?
Alright, now examine your marketing. Odds are higher than you might imagine that right now you are conveying the opposite of what Billy does so effectively in his commercials. You might actually be broadcasting (unknowingly) that your clients will have to work harder, than they really do, to get the results you provide.
Take a closer look at the words you use, the way you describe the experience, the pictures you’ve selected or the way you come across in your videos. When I’ve looked at the marketing of my clients businesses there’s almost always major room for improvement.
Nodding Them In Tactic #4 – Exposing The Secret By Introducing A New Mechanism
Famed advertising copywriter Eugene Schwartz wrote about an incredibly powerful advertising tactic which he labeled a “Mechanism” in his book, a direct marketing classic, Breakthough Advertising.
While I doubt Billy ever read Breakthrough Advertising, he consistently leveraged the mechanism tactic.
Schwartz explains that in a market where prospects have heard lots of claims, it’s not easy to create a breakthrough product simply through bigger and bolder claims (because they just become more unbelievable). Instead what’s needed is “a new device to make all the old claims become fresh and believable to prospects.” And that’s what a mechanism is – A new way to make promises and claims work.
A new mechanism is a different way of achieving the desired result. This gives prospects a fresh chance, a new possibility of success where only disappointment might have resulted before.
What Schwartz advised is to shift the emphasis from what the product does to how it does it. “Not accomplishment, but performance becomes dominant. Then once the prospect is told that there is a brand new chance of success – then the claims can be restated in full.”
To sum up what Schwartz was saying – by introducing a new way to achieve a result, the result becomes believable even in a sea of disbelief.
This is exactly what Billy did in almost all of his commercials. He would reveal the secret to why his product was capable of both the WOW demonstrations and living up to its claims.
“The secret is the hardened tempered ceramic designed that never dulls, it’s triple glazed so nothing sticks…” The Grater Plater
“The secret is in the X27 fiber technology, making zorbies over 27 times more absorbent than cotton.” – Zorbies
The secret the six carbon steel blades combined with the rotating action – each time you tap it rotates and chops at a different angle and never misses a thing” – The Quick Chop
Do you notice how revealing the secret behind how it works in these three products makes his claims seem more reasonable?
If so, you’ve just witnessed the power of introducing a mechanism.
Now it’s your turn – and for this you have to roll up your sleeves and do some research. But while sifting through the research you’ve got to keep your creativity switch flipped on. This way when you find that hook that’s buried somewhere in your product or service you can dimensionalize it and bring it to light for your marketplace as a new mechanism.
I can tell you it’s worth the effort – it’ll instantly make your claims more believable, and it injects what we talked about earlier, a uniquely superior solution, into your product or service.
Just remember it could be ANYTHING that you’re capable of romancing enough to make it impactful. So be creative here – it’ll be some of the most profitable creative work you ever do.
Nodding Them In Tactic #5 – Eliminate The Alternatives
Another classic tactic Billy used in his commercials was to compare his product with the products you already owned. He wanted to contrast his superior solution with the frustration your current products were producing.
In other words he didn’t force his viewers to connect the dots to figure out his product was offering a uniquely superior solution.
Instead he spelled it out by showing the sharp contrast. This way, the viewer, came to this conclusion: Billy was offering a uniquely superior solution to other alternatives.
“You can’t mince garlic with one of these (holding up a food processor) and if you use a press it’s a mess” – The Grater Plater
“It’s faster than a knife and the only tears you’ll (while showing you an onion being chopped) cry are tears of joy” – The Quick Chop
Do you see what’s going on here?
By eliminating competitive products in this manner, and having the prospect come to the conclusion themselves, believability increased as he pushed them through a process that ends with the thought that buying this product is indeed a very wise decision.
Experts in Neuromarketing tell us how a sharp contrast is often needed to help make a buying decision. So in a sales context, the absence of contrast – especially when a prospect has difficulty understanding the differences between your product and others- brings the prospect’s decision – making ability to a halt.
Sharp contrast helps your prospect’s emotional brain make a decision more quickly and easily
Now it’s time to look at your marketing. How much contrast do you have in your messages?
And don’t make the mistake in thinking that the only contrast you can provide is between your product and competitive products. You can also provide effective contrasts wherever you might have an advantage.
To get your brain going here are some specific areas of contrast to begin thinking about:
- Without Your Solution/With Your Solution
- You/Your Competitors
Sales Process Step #4
The Chill Down
The trickiest part of the selling process is being able to transform the momentum achieved in step 2 – Ballying The Tip, and step 3 – Nodding Them In, into orders with cold, hard cash in hand.
This is what veteran pitchmen like Billy refer to as “the chill-down.”
Rather than meekly asking if anyone would like to buy one, the pitchman starts to apply the pressure. He gives direct commands to “order now.”
But world-class pitchmen like Billy never stop there. They tighten the vice grip of buying pressure on the prospect by sweetening the deal – “But wait there’s more…” to include additional items or “Order now and we’ll double the offer…” to give you double, or even triple the quantity you’d expect if you’d only order right now.
And of course, like any direct marketer, Billy would then remove all risk for taking action right now off of his prospects’ shoulders and place it on his.
Because this part of the sales process is critical, let’s spend time going over each Principle of the Chill Down in-depth:
The Chill Down Principle #1 – Introduce Price
What’s not obvious until you start studying Billy’s pitches is when in the pitch he first introduces the price.
You might think it’s at the end of the pitch – but if you do, you’re way off.
Billy usually introduces the price about ½ way through the spot – sometimes as late as 2/3 in to the spot but never later.
Why? Because in order to maximize sales, the most important work happens after you’ve introduced the price.
You see, the first half of the spot is designed to get viewers to consider buying the product – by exposing the pain, showing the wow demonstration, creating the contrast, etc…
What takes viewers from possibly buying a product to – leaping off their couch in a mad dash, grabbing the phone with credit card in hand is – what happens after the price is introduced.
How? Keep reading and I’ll break it down for you.
The Chill Down Principle #2 – Sweeten The Deal With Value and Urgency
In each of Billy’s commercials as soon as he introduced the price he immediately started improving the offer.
He used two primary strategies to build what felt like unstoppable momentum towards driving the purchase.
Strategy 1 – He added additional products to the offer. Using phrases like:
Strategy 2 – He doubled or even tripled the offer. Using phrases like:
Strategies like these are proven to turn indecisive prospects into rabid buyers.
Here’s how the two strategies come together for The Tool Bandit:
“You’ll get the original tool bandit for $19.95
Who needs a tool box when the tool bandit saves you time, space, and money?
But order right now and I’ll send you a second tool bandit absolutely free
Just pay shipping and processing
And here’s the best part
I’ll send you a set of my world famous Hercules hooks a $10 value free
You get not one but two original tool bandits and our world famous Hercules hooks
a $50 value for only $19.95
You can watch Billy work his magic here:
What the added extras and doubling the offer are designed to do is increase the customer’s willingness to pay the $19.95 and urge the viewers to act now. If they’re on the fence when first hearing the price – by adding more and then doubling the offer it’s usually enough to push them over to the sales side.
These type of incentives are incredibly powerful. People love special offers, and there will be an emotional response and a sense of urgency, especially the way Billy presented it and phrased it.
What I mean by that is this: Since the commercial would be running for a while Billy couldn’t have a time limit or an expiration date – but the way he described it made you feel that you needed to order now to get all the extras.
Do you include special offers in your marketing? Maybe an added bonus if they buy the product or service your currently pushing.
If not, you should consider adding one pronto because right now you’re leaving a lot prospects on the fence and all you need is a little more to nudge them into the sale.
The Chill Down Principle #3 – Reversing The Risk
If you’re familiar with any sort of direct response marketing – you should already be familiar with the concept of risk reversal. That’s because it almost always a necessity when selling anything through direct response.
You see, in every purchase decision there’s a risk involved. And if you’re not offering risk-free money-back guarantees then your asking the prospect to take on all the risk. And when you’re selling through the mail, internet, radio, or TV there’s even more risk for the buyer.
Think about it – they are buying a product that they can’t see, touch, try-out, or feel how it’s made.
So if your goal is to maximize sales – you must eliminate as much if not all of the risk the buyer perceives. The concept is simple, if you believe in your product you should bear all the risk. And when you do that – sales always go up.
Sure, you might get some refunds but they’ll be a small fraction of the increase in sales you’ll get from making their purchase decision risk-free.
The Chill Down Principle #4 -The Direct Command
Sales trainer and motivator Zig Ziglar once said “Timid salespeople have skinny kids.”
And one word you would never use to describe Billy on camera was the word timid.
This is one area where many marketers get weak-kneed – they don’t tell prospects exactly what to do next in an authoritative tone.
These two phrases are sprinkled throughout the second half of Billy’s pitches:
When you think about it, if you’ve done all the things we covered so far, what else is there to do?
Especially when you’ve surfaced the prospect’s pain, you’re certain your product will solve that pain, you’ve provided demonstration to prove it, you’ve compared and contrasted it with the alternatives, you’ve sweetened the deal beyond comprehension and you’ve reversed the risk.
The only step left is to close and close hard – which as we’ve already stated is easy if you really believe in your product or service.
Sales Process Step #5
Test, Tweak, Abandon & Rollout
The Numbers Don’t Lie (about the results from testing)
The Pitchmen show always ended with results.
After watching Billy and Sully pick the product, craft the pitch, and run it on a limited test basis – we the viewer got the inside scoop on whether or not they had a winner on their hands or not. These tests would accurately predict whether the commercial could be profitable on a large scale.
If it was a winner, the enviable rollout was planned. If the spots didn’t pull, the product was scrapped and Billy and Sully moved on.
This is one of beauties of direct response marketing – since everything is trackable (especially online) you can very clearly see whether your ads are making you money or not.
This way you can rollout your winners on a much larger scale, and you can prevent big losses by cutting loser early.
But Billy and Sully took it one step further – which is not uncommon for professional direct marketers. What they had isolated were several cheaper markets where commercial could be run cheaply and would accurately predict how the campaign would do on a full rollout.
Joseph Sugarman, a direct response legend (he sold millions of Blu-Blocker sunglasses), in his book Advertising Secrets Of The Written Word, tells how he would test all his ads in the Southwestern edition of the Wall Street Journal because this was the cheapest and smallest edition of the Journal to test. And he had figured out a way to read those results that would accurately predict his performance on a national level.
If this is a new concept for you – it shouldn’t be. At our company we first test a product to our own email list. If sales are disappointing we usually stop right there. If sales are better than we anticipated we’ll go out to our affiliates, buy pay-per-click advertising, start an organic search engine optimization strategy and so on… This way we waste the least amount of money and time on dogs and we spend the majority of our money and time riding our winners.
This is an absolute must if your going to grow a business using direct marketing – and if you’re not familiar with this sort of approach you need to get familiar sooner rather than later
Other Lessons From Billy
And “The Pitchmen”
Lesson #1 – The Real Entrepreneurial Experience
Another reason I loved the show was it showed the hard cold reality of the entrepreneurial endeavor. A perspective that’s sadly missing from most opportunity seekers who dream about starting a business online and buy the latest get-rich-quick business in a box.
Pitchmen showed the real struggles of entrepreneurs and inventors. It followed entrepeneurs who had mortgaged their house, spent their kids’ college fund, and invested all their life savings trying to bring some gadget to market or birth their business.
And just like in real life – some of these stories of immense struggle ended with a homerun that made them wealthy, and others struck out, left with a pile of debt and no immediate plans on what was next.
Lesson #2 – Striving The Be The Best In The World At What You Do
Billy loved selling, and people loved buying from him. He built a billion dollar sales empire on nothing but his ability to pitch the right products he selected to pitch.
He turned products like OxiClean, and Orange Glo into household names.
He was one of the best in the world at what he did. When a company or entrepreneur had a lot riding on the results of their infomercial and needed to hire a pitchman. Billy was the guy everyone wanted to hire.
Why? Seth Godin answered it best when he said, “If you’re the best in the world, the phone rings.”
But make no mistake Billy didn’t start out as the pro he ended as.
Billy started by selling washing machines on the boardwalk of Atlantic City. He sold things to people on a one on one to basis, up close and personal. He refined his methods by years of seeing what worked and what didn’t work.
He worked on commission, so if he didn’t sell often he didn’t get to eat.
From those humble beginnings Mays built an empire that continued on an upward trajectory until his untimely death. That’s why his early death hit me so hard – he was at the top of his game, all his hard work was finally paying him huge dividends, giving him celebrity status, and giving him a second chance to be a better father to his three year old daughter than he was to his 24 year old son (when he was younger Billy was on the road travelling from tradeshows, mall shows to fairs making his pitch). And then at the very apex he unexpectedly died in his sleep.
For me – there are two important lessons:
One, the sacrifices and hard work that is often the backstory of anyone who gets to the top of their field. Billy paid his dues and made many sacrifices. And his hard work, positive and gracious attitude helped him make that climb and do it with a style that was uniquely his own
The other is how precious life is. And no matter how much you’re willing to sacrifice to get to the top of your market you have to try your best to balance where you want to end up with making the best of where you are today.
One last thing about the kind of guy Billy was – and I think it speaks volumes about who he was as a person, not a pitchman. He never forgot about those veteran pitchmen who taught him the tricks of trade back on the boardwalk in Atlantic City. To pay those old-timers back he established Four Blind Mice, which donates profits to provide health and retirement benefits for Atlantic City pitchmen.
May Billy Mays Rest In Peace.