I watch a lot of infomercials. I own a Magic Bullet, Grip and Flip, Slap Chop and countless other "As Seen On TV" items that are little more than cabinet clutter. Each thing I've bought from an infomercial could be resold tomorrow, unused.
I will watch infomercials for hours, sometimes stepping into the feminine realm of QVC, because I love stuff, lots of stuff. The last time we moved, the biggest box my wife and I moved was a box of my shoes. What does my need to buy stuff and my love of shoes say about me? I don’t know. Maybe insecurities are harder to notice when you’re wearing a fine pair of leather chukka boots with wooden soles and you’re gripping and flipping a fried egg at the same time. So here are seven lessons I learned from infomercials about sales, or, at least, selling.
When selling something, touch it, rotate it and squeeze it. The other night, each commercial break, I watched an attractive woman and an older gentleman sell food on TV. I’ve never bought food from TV, but the way the man would gently press on the turkey breast so juices ran over the carving board made me want to spend $57.21 on a hunk of meat that would conveniently arrive at my house a week before Thanksgiving. Cut chocolates open and squeeze the caramel out. Macaroni and cheese, squash it with a fork to show how gooey it is. If you’re selling me something, show me how it works in your hand. Clap the Grip and Flip. Slap the Slap Chop. Pulse the Magic Bullet. Show me it’s fun and juicy and malleable.
Give me more, or give me what you were going to give me but only after offering me half at first.
If you’re selling something, you already know what you have to sell at what price to make a profit. So, initially offer me half and then 10 minutes into the pitch double the offer. Let me convince myself I’m getting twice the value. Let me identify a bargain.
Make a cake and a potpie.
Make your product flexible. If you’re selling a cooking item, it should be able to make both entrées and desserts, salty or sweet. Eventually I’ll want a smoothie and corn chowder. I’ll need hot queso dip that is good for both dipping and spicing up quesadillas and I’ll also want pound cake.
Save me time.
Think about how much time you spend chopping peppers. Think about it. It takes two minutes to chop a pepper, and if you go a lifetime dicing peppers with a knife, you will have missed two and a half hours of your children’s development. You’re chopping peppers with a knife? Nice. You just missed your kid walk for the first time. Oh, mincing garlic the traditional way? Your little girl just walked out the front door and got into a ’87 Firebird with a guy named Tank. And Tank is seven years older and knows things your girl doesn’t. Do you slice fruit for smoothies? By hand? How much time does that take you? And for a lifetime you’ve sliced strawberries for smoothies without this tool? Great, now your son is a circus performer on a riverboat casino. He lives in Branson and eats fire and wears a big red nose that squeaks when kids pinch it. Are you happy?
Tell me my life will drift away like an untied canoe if I don’t buy your product.
Use humans, then flashy graphics.
I trust people, so use people to sell me something. As an American male, I trust older people more than I do young salesman. And I trust former starlets and I trust women in tailored pencil skirts. I trust fake eyelashes. I trust former body builders. I trust people who have been to the top of a mountain, or a hill or once stood atop a chair. Use people to sell me things, and then hit me with bright graphics with flashing numbers.
Don’t shy away from comic book language.
Pow. Bam. Wowza. Poof. Zam. Weeeee. Zip.
If you are selling me something with cups (e.g.,the Magic Bullet), remember we Americans have problems in crowded settings keeping track of which cup is ours. Daily, parties screech to a halt when drink cups get confused and no one knows whose cup is whose and everyone leaves in frustration. Give me primary color identifiers I can screw on the top of the cups so my friends and I can keep our individual portions of spinach artichoke dip separate.
Infomercials are wonderful ways to pass time and spend money. They are the performance art of sales. Infomercials gave us the ShamWow, so I give them their due.