Tag Archives: marketing

Persuasive Infomercial Sales Techniques

I don’t take infomer­cials very ser­i­ously, mainly due to how hil­ari­ous and absurd they are. How­ever I’ve now been won over and can see their poten­tial for cer­tain product–market com­bin­a­tions. How did this mira­cu­lous change come about? Through a sur­pris­ingly enjoy­able inter­view between Andrew Warner and the mas­ter of the infomer­cial, Tim Hawthorne.

From his many years of exper­i­ence (he cre­ated the fourth ever infomer­cial, devel­op­ing over 300 since then; has worked with some well-respec­ted com­pan­ies such as Apple, Nikon, 3M and Braun; and is respons­ible for about a bil­lion dol­lars in cli­ent sales), Hawthorne talks extens­ively and insight­fuly on the many infomer­cial sales tech­niques that his data show are the most per­suas­ive. Two items that I par­tic­u­larly liked:

The most per­suas­ive deal types:

Buy one get one free, or get the second one at half price. So you’re get­ting an imme­di­ate dis­count. Buy one and get a second one super size, so you’re actu­ally doub­ling or trip­ling the order. Buy one and the second is actu­ally going to be double the size. Drop a pay­ment. Let’s say that your offer is three pay­ments of $19.95, that’s your ini­tial offer. But wait, if you call now, if you order now, we’ll actu­ally make one pay­ment for you. So it’s only two pay­ments of $19.95. So that’s drop a pay­ment. […]

I think one of the most power­ful bonuses or premi­ums that you can offer is free ship­ping. A lot of people don’t under­stand the power of this. For some reas­on, if I’m going to pay $99.95 and there’s an addi­tion­al $9.95 or $14.95 or $19.95 for ship­ping, that addi­tion­al amount which is very import­ant to many vendors, if you can sac­ri­fice that, it has an amaz­ing impact on people.

Words and phrases that trig­ger action:

“Free” is still, I think, and will always be con­sidered the most power­ful word in selling. After that we would prob­ably think of words such as now, you or your, easy, eas­ily, guar­an­tee, break-through, revolu­tion­ary, fast, quick, instant, magic, new, spe­cial, exclus­ive, lim­ited time, risk free, only, save, money back, money back guar­an­tee, call now, and in terms of a clas­sic phrase, “but wait, there’s more”.

Every­body kinds of kicks around that par­tic­u­lar phrase and it’s used often. One of the reas­ons it’s used so often is that it’s so effect­ive.

Marketing Lessons for Startups

When Ilya Licht­en­stein offered free mar­ket­ing advice to star­tups (as a way of thank­ing the Hack­er News com­munity) he received over 150 requests and set to work. Cer­tain pat­terns star­ted to emerge in his advice, and so he decided to pro­duced a three-post ‘star­tup mar­ket­ing les­sons learnt’ series (parts two and three).

There’s some fant­ast­ic advice to be found in the series – for both those inter­ested in mar­ket­ing gen­er­ally and those begin­ners act­ively involved in the craft. For example in the Artic­u­late a Clear, Spe­cif­ic, Com­pel­ling Value Pro­pos­i­tion sec­tion:

I’m sure you’ve heard the old copy­writ­ing man­tra of “list bene­fits, not fea­tures”. Take that to the next level. Take the single most import­ant bene­fit of using your ser­vice, and make that your head­line. […] If you’re build­ing a B2B app to man­age payroll, “Cloud hos­ted SaaS payroll for your busi­ness” is not a good head­line. “Spend less time wor­ry­ing about payroll” is a bet­ter one. “Cut payroll man­age­ment costs by 37% instantly” is even bet­ter.

And from Find Your Tar­get Mar­ket, and Seg­ment the Hell out of Them:

When asked who their tar­get mar­ket was, many people respon­ded “small busi­nesses” or, worse, “any­one”. Alright, fine, you sell your SaaS products to small busi­ness in the US. But what kind of small busi­ness own­er con­verts the best for you? Which cus­tom­ers are most likely to be prof­it­able cus­tom­ers? Who is most excited about your product? You have been track­ing these things, haven’t you? You don’t have the budget to tar­get all small busi­nesses, so start with a spe­cif­ic niche or industry you think your product has par­tic­u­larly strong appeal for. Selling time track­ing soft­ware? Start pos­i­tion­ing as time track­ing soft­ware for account­ants, or dent­ists, or land­scapers. How about tar­get­ing a spe­cif­ic task or fea­ture and find­ing people look­ing for that fea­ture only? […] Build super niche land­ing pages or, even bet­ter, micros­ites tar­get­ing each spe­cif­ic mar­ket seg­ment you want to go after, emphas­iz­ing the spe­cif­ic bene­fits of your product to that group only.

Building a Brand In a Recession

The recent reces­sion saw sales of con­doms, guns and burg­lar alarms soar. This is because, when fear enters our mind in terms of los­ing our job or of not being able to pay bills, we focus on two of our most basic drives: fear and sex.

The key to selling and build­ing a brand dur­ing fin­an­cial crises, there­fore, is simple: man­age fear. Under­stand how it works and how it affects pur­chas­ing beha­viour. This advice on brand-build­ing dur­ing a reces­sion comes from Mar­tin Lind­strom, ex-advert­ising agency exec­ut­ive, author of Buy­ology, and one of TIME’s 100 Most Influ­en­tial People in the World, 2009.

First, there’s always good news in bad times. A stand­ard approach in this situ­ation is to address con­sumers’ prob­lems. And people always have prob­lems. The fact is we rarely know what we want, but we have no trouble point­ing out our dif­fi­culties. For example, no one knew they wanted an airbag, but every­one agreed they wanted safer cars.

It’s there­fore import­ant to ask your­self what sort of prob­lems are con­sumers facing dur­ing this eco­nom­ic reces­sion? There are many. […] Con­vert prob­lems into assets for your brand.

Second, add a prac­tic­al dimen­sion to an irra­tion­al decision. No mat­ter how much money you may have in the bank, or how secure your employ­ment may be, it’s now fash­ion­able to save your money and buy everything at a dis­count. What can a brand own­er do? Par­tic­u­larly in light of the fact that a dis­coun­ted brand typ­ic­ally takes sev­en years to recov­er!

The answer is simple. Add a prac­tic­al dimen­sion to the equa­tion. […]

Third, you have to sys­tem­at­ic­ally remove fear. Hyundai did it. And a stream of new banks are doing it. Both have suc­ceeded in identi­fy­ing why con­sumers are reluct­ant to spend. Once this is under­stood, then you can har­ness it and build a bet­ter product by address­ing the fear and find­ing a way to elim­in­ate it. Your sales may be down. But do you know why? People are cer­tainly buy­ing less, and explan­a­tions like, “Well, there’s a reces­sion going on out there,” are not help­ful. What’s import­ant is to under­stand the fun­da­ment­al role of fear, and then turn it around to strengthen your brand. Some of the world’s most endur­ing gro­cery brands were built on the back of the Great Depres­sion. Each one turned the threat into an oppor­tun­ity.

Narratives for Selling Premium Goods: The Grey Goose Story

People want to pay more in order to own lux­ury goods, but you need to give them a reas­on to do so. That excuse? A com­pel­ling story.

One man that sub­scribed to this idea was Sydney Frank, as is evid­ent from the strategy he developed for Grey Goose: the ‘super­premi­um’ vodka that Bar­cardi bought for $2 bil­lion in cash in what became the largest ever single brand sale.

In a 2005 New York art­icle pub­lished shortly before his death, you can read all about Sydney Frank’s marketing/branding strategy and the com­pel­ing story of Grey Goose vodka. This excerpt fol­lows Frank’s decision to have Grey Goose dis­tilled in France:

But why France? Does­n’t vodka come from Rus­sia, or per­haps, in a pinch, Scand­inavia? “People are always look­ing for some­thing new,” says Frank. It’s all about brand dif­fer­en­ti­ation. If you’re going to charge twice as much for a vodka, you need to give people a reas­on.

“Niet­z­sche explains that human beings are look­ing for the ‘why’ in their lives, […] we refer to this ‘why’ as ‘the Great Story.’ The Great Story must be enti­cing, mem­or­able, eas­ily repeat­able, and about what you want your brand to be about.”

For Grey Goose, the brand was about unrivaled qual­ity. Grey Goose’s Great Story hinged on the fol­low­ing key points: It comes from France, where all the best lux­ury products come from. It’s not anoth­er rough-hewn Rus­si­an vodka—it’s a mas­ter­piece craf­ted by French vodka artis­ans.

It uses water from pristine French springs, filtered through Cham­pagne lime­stone.

It’s got a dis­tinct­ive, care­fully designed bottle, with smoked glass and a sil­hou­ette of fly­ing geese. It looks fant­ast­ic up behind the bar, the way it catches the light […] It sure looks expens­ive.

It was shipped in wood crates, like a fine wine, not in card­board boxes like Joe Schmo’s vodka. This catches the bar­tender­’s eye and rein­forces the aura of qual­ity. Nev­er for­get the influ­ence of the bar­tender. […]

And now the most import­ant piece of the story—the twist that brings it all togeth­er: Grey Goose costs way more than oth­er vod­kas. Waaaaaaay more. So it must be the best.

This descrip­tion of Grey Goose’s Great Story per­fectly cap­tures the essence of the art­icle.

Market Segmentation and the PRIZM NE System

Mar­ket seg­ment­a­tion is a meth­od of group­ing people with sim­il­ar char­ac­ter­ist­ics, primar­ily for mar­ket­ing pur­poses.

A num­ber of years ago, USA Today described in detail the inform­a­tion large con­sumer seg­ment­a­tion busi­nesses track and use to group us. It’s an eye-open­ing read:

The [con­sumer seg­ment­a­tion busi­nesses] are pin­point­ing who lives where; what they’re most likely to read, drive and eat; how many kids they have; and where they shop. And they are doing it with unpre­ced­en­ted pre­ci­sion. They are going far bey­ond the char­ac­ter­ist­ics of people in cer­tain ZIP codes to details about people in spe­cif­ic neigh­bor­hoods — even indi­vidu­al house­holds. […]

Most of the inform­a­tion they gath­er is pub­lic: the Census and gov­ern­ment records of births, deaths, mar­riages, divorces, prop­erty deeds, tax rolls and car regis­tra­tions. What’s not pub­lic, people give away. They do it every time they fill out a war­ranty card, answer a sur­vey, buy a car or use their fre­quent shop­per­’s cards at drug­stores and super­mar­kets.

The art­icle notes that there were/are five com­pan­ies that offer this ser­vice to busi­nesses, and I decided to look fur­ther at the ser­vice offered by the old­est of these com­pan­ies: the 30 year-old Nielsen Clar­itas PRIZM NE sys­tem.

The sys­tem is fas­cin­at­ingly craf­ted, split­ting indi­vidu­al U.S. house­holds into 66 demo­graph­ic­ally and beha­vi­or­ally dis­tinct ‘seg­ments’. Each of these seg­ments con­tain inform­a­tion on a mem­ber­’s likely: age range, edu­ca­tion level, race, homeown­er­ship status, employ­ment status (and job type) and their typ­ic­al life­style pref­er­ences (e.g. likely travel des­tin­a­tions, favour­ite shops, typ­ic­al hob­bies, likely read­ing habits, etc.). These 66 seg­ments are then fur­ther seg­men­ted into one of 14 broad­er social groups by tak­ing into con­sid­er­a­tion their afflu­ence and loc­a­tion (i.e. urb­an, sub­urb­an, second city and town and rur­al).

These two doc­u­ments I man­aged to find are def­in­itely worth flick­ing through if you’re inter­ested: