What can we learn from the late pitchman Billy Mays?

The same week that Michael Jackson died also saw the passing of Billy Mays, the instantly recognizable pitchman whose informercials for products like Oxyclean filled the broadcast airwaves.  Though many advertising purists turned up their noses at his high-volume, direct marketing approach, there was no denying his phenomenal success in generating billions of dollars in sales for his clients.

Did he know something about advertising that would benefit your marketing?  While you may not want to copy his look (unnaturally black beard and drab blue work shirt) or his delivery (maximum decibels, minimum subtlety), adopting some of the proven tactics of direct response television marketers could turbo-charge the effectiveness of your efforts.

1.  The more you tell, the more you sell — try to include a complete sales presentation in your advertising materials.  Ask yourself if you’ve given them enough information to respond.

2.  It’s about them, not about you — people (including ourselves) are primarily motivated by self-interest.  Your advertising should focus on their needs, not your achievements.

3.  Solve a problem — Define the problem.  Feel their pain.  Tell them how you are best equipped to solve their problem.  The problem is the headache, and you are the aspirin.

4.  Be passionate — the founder of the Body Shop empire, Anita Roddick, said, “Passion persuades.”  Billy Mays sold products with an incredible amount of energy and enthusiasm.  Does that come through in your communication to consumers?

5.  Include a powerful offer — No matter how expertly produced your advertising might be, it usually takes something extra to overcome inertia.  Make responding worth the consumer’s while with a valuable offer.  It could be free information, a small gift, or a special bonus.  The easiest thing for a consumer to do is nothing.  Reward them for taking action, and you’re likely to see your response grow significantly.

To many of us, abandoning image advertising to embrace the direct marketing approach used by practitioners like Billy Mays is a scary idea.  Why not try one or two of the ideas above, and test it against your current advertising?  Let me know if this information is of use to you, and whether you’d be interested in more marketing tips like this.

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