Web, E-Mail Can Boost Infomercial Reach

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Thanks to the Internet, infomercial marketers have greater opportunities than ever to extend their reach and boost buy rates by taking their campaigns beyond television. The additions of e-mail and Web sites to infomercial campaigns are yielding strong returns on investments and are taking infomercial sales to the next level.


Infomercial marketers must be cautioned, however, that merely jumping aboard the Internet train is not enough to guarantee they will arrive at their destination. Several strategic and tactical elements must be thought out to help ensure the boarding ticket gets punched and the e-mail/Web site train pulls into Salesville.


For example, New West Products, makers of the Space Bag, a storage solution that reduces the volume of stored items by as much as 75 percent, has found that the incremental costs of layering e-mail and a Web site onto its infomercial campaign has paid off in multiples through increased sales. But this was accomplished through intelligent planning that followed many of the precepts cited below.


Use E-Mail to Cross-Promote, Up-Sell -- The great benefit of e-mail is its ability to serve as a powerful tool for cross-promotions and up-sells. Another very successful e-mail strategy is to use it for brand extensions, including new product releases and updates to existing products.


One of our infomercial clients used e-mail to sell its reconditioned product at a deeply discounted price. Because the e-mail recipients know and trust the company from previous purchases and from having received a monthly e-mail newsletter, the e-mail up-sell has been extremely effective.


We have found that e-mail is most effective when it serves as an "envelope" that must be opened (a la direct mail); i.e., it should lead the reader to the Web site. E-mails with HTML files that can be clicked and opened are also effective. Once opened, the viewer should see graphics that are similar in look (colors, style, etc.) to the infomercial.


Building the e-mail list is every bit as critical as the production process of the infomercial itself. Addresses captured from the Web site's customers or visitors are a great starting point, as is asking for e-mail addresses when customers call a toll-free number to order or inquire about a product (be sure to tell the caller why you want the address). Another effective tool for generating e-mail addresses is to offer a free informational e-newsletter, for instance, from a doctor who serves as a representative for a health-oriented infomercial product. Targeted, rented lists are fine, provided that customers have given permission to receive e-mails from companies (spamming is an absolute no-no).


Tie Web Site to Infomercial -- Generally, an effective infomercial will generate 60 percent sales and 40 percent inquiries. Those in the latter group want more information before they will make a purchase decision.


The availability of a Web site tying into the infomercial lets consumers get immediate access to information while they are still highly motivated from the television program. And it can save money.


Let's say a traditional infomercial-only campaign, using a toll-free number and telemarketing reps, generates 10,000 responses per month. At an average per-response cost of $2.25, the 40 percent of respondents (4,000 people, using the 60-40 split cited above) who call for more information will result in a $9,000 monthly expense, or $108,000 annually. If a Web site can cut calls to the telemarketing bureau by as little as 25 percent - this is a conservative number, based on our firsthand experience - the result would be annual savings of $27,000. This savings can be added to the additional sales that come from providing online information quickly to the consumers while they are motivated and interested from the television program.


Developing an online presence also is relatively inexpensive. A professional-looking site can be created for as little as $10,000, which quickly can pay for itself.


As with an e-mail campaign, design is critical. If the infomercial uses a primary spokeswoman, she should be featured prominently on the Web site's home page. The site should be professionally designed and fully integrated with the television creative.


Information on the site should be easy to peruse and download. It is a good idea to show the people behind your company and/or product whenever possible. Provide examples of product uses, benefits and so on. The Web offers an opportunity to provide greater detail than you could present on a TV program. Testimonial sound bites and letters from satisfied customers is a definite plus (and should be on the e-mail as well). The site must be kept updated, otherwise you run the risk of undermining your credibility with consumers.


The site's "order" button should stand out. Offline ordering options should be provided for those who do not feel comfortable submitting their credit card numbers online. It also is important to make sure your visitors know the site is secure.


The Web site address should not be shown on the television program until the product price is shown at least once. This will help ensure that Web site visitors are as prequalified as possible. Consider making a special "order on the Web and save on shipping" offer on the program to drive people to the Web site, thereby cutting your telemarketer costs.


Thanks to the Internet, infomercial marketers have at their disposal powerful new opportunities to boost sales - provided that these opportunities are approached with careful, strategic thought.
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