11 Insider Tactics for DRTV Success

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Direct response television is a rough-and-tumble business. Few products have enough mass appeal to work on television. And conservative estimates reveal that only one in 20 products tested turns a profit. Those that are successful have their market share eroded almost immediately by knockoff artists. It is enough to turn your hair gray and make your teeth chatter.


But if you can stand the heat in this gadget-filled kitchen, here are 11 tactics that insiders use to improve their odds for success:


1. Offer a unique product. Retail is still king because it is faster, easier and cheaper for most people to buy at a local store. So if you want people to buy from you on television, you must offer them something special. The Hairagami lets women fold their own hair into complex styles. The Taplight lets you instantly add a little light fixture anywhere. Louie The Loud Mouth Bass looks like a plaque but starts moving and singing when it senses that you are near. The more different your product, the better. Just remember you need at least a 4-to-1 markup, preferably 6-to-1, to make money because of the high cost of media.


2. Make a direct pitch. Ron Popeil got his start selling food choppers, shoeshine spray and plastic plant kits on the street, in stores and on the fair circuit. He was a pitchman. And DRTV grew out of this direct selling approach. If there is any real secret to success, that's it.


3. Solve a problem. This is the classic DRTV formula. Can't reach that bolt? The Squeeze Wrench promises to work in tight places where pliers, ratchets and wrenches won't fit. Not all television products solve a problem per se but often offer something unique for a better price - like a USA Quarters Map for only $5 as opposed to $20 or more for others.


4. Push your USP. Your unique selling proposition positions your product and sets it apart from all others. The IGIA Laser White is the "world's first and only laser toothbrush." Always show how your product is the best, the easiest, the most, the first or the only.


5. Dramatize benefits and results. The infomercial for the Showtime Rotisserie spends little time on the product itself, demonstrating instead all the mouth-watering food you can make. George Foreman doesn't just tell you that his grill drains off fat; he cooks some burgers and shows you the fat dripping off into a dish. People believe what they see. Dramatize features and benefits in the most dramatic way possible.


6. Make a powerful promise. This should be your primary benefit or claim stated clearly and directly. The Steam Bullet promises to "clean and disinfect your entire home with just the power of steam." Mega Lip promises to boost your own natural collagens and plump up your lips "within 29 days." Just be careful about overpromising. Don't disappoint customers or invite lawsuits.


7. Establish high perceived value. Your price should already be attractive. But you can make it even more so with a technique that I call "perceptual contrast." A commercial for the Euro Sealer points out first that "an electric sealer costs over $200." Then it offers you the Euro Sealer for just $19.95. Contrasting the higher price with the lower price makes the lower price seem even lower.


8. Add value with extras. The Popeil Pasta and Sausage Maker seems like a good deal at $99.95. But when you see that it comes with a recipe and instruction booklet, instructional video kit, 12 pasta shaping dies, pasta measuring cup, automatic pasta cutter, Italian sausage horn, 12 feet of casings and Italian spice seasoning - all at no extra cost - the deal appears even better.


9. Use real testimonials. You will be tempted to script them or hire actors. But you should resist this temptation. Real words from real people always look and sound more believable.


10. Make a strong guarantee. A 30-day money-back guarantee is standard, but don't be afraid to strengthen it. One simple way to do this is to incorporate your promise. The Ab-Doer guarantees "you'll lose at least two inches from your waist in just the first 10 days or your money back."


11. Be realistic. Most DRTV programs have a life span of about eight months, so plan for obsolescence. Don't ignore retail, upsells, offer inserts and back-end list exploitation. Money is green no matter what channel you use.


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