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: