Tuesday, February 25, 2020

#85- America's Two Greatest TV Pitchmen

Issue #85- Tuesday, February 25, 2020

http://dennyhatch.blogspot.com/2020/02/85-americas-two-greatest-tv-pitchmen.html


Posted by Denny Hatch


 America's Two Greatest TV Pitchmen:
They Could Sell Viagra to a Eunuch!

                          Billy Mays                          Ron Popeil

What Is the Secret of Success in Selling?
Piling on Benefits Like There's No Tomorrow!
Above are two marketing experts who sold ordinary products.
     Billy Mays glorified such plebeian products as a soap additive and a mechanical shovel for the garden as well as two dozen other gadgets and goodies.
     Ron Popeil (and members of his family) sold a set of cheap knives for kitchen and dinner table while a studio audience of consumers hung on their every word, frequently cheering and applauding.
     Watching these great performances is a riveting experience.
     The techniques they developed should be studied and picked up by consumer and business marketers of products and services and exploited by their salesmen, product managers, account executives, copywriters and designers at every level of the marketing process.

Billy Mays’ Assault on Your Senses
What am I talking about? Spend a jaw dropping minute and 57 seconds while Billy Mays hawks the ultimate gardener’s gizmo—AwesomeAuger.   http://youtu.be/bLDXfYDAziI

This was Mays’ breakthrough effort. He sold 6,000 of these motorized landscaping tools in the first 11 minutes on Home Shopping Network.
     In the following 12 years Mays went on to sell 25 more products with the same hysterical high-pitched intensity and frenzied gestures he brought to AwesomeAuger.
     Mays’ genius was to elevate rather mundane gadgets to life-changing necessities as he demonstrated more and more ways they could save you time and money and make your life easier.

I Erred…
I have always had sensitive hearing. I find loud noises painful.
Over a period of years, Billy Mays’ was all over television at all times of night and day like a cheap suit.
     Whenever I heard that piercing voice shout, “Billy Mays here with the….” I switched channels. His sound was like fingernails on a blackboard.
     Looking back, I should have watched and taken notes on every one of his 26 performances. He would have made me a far better publisher, direct marketer, consultant and copywriter. In short, I would have made a lot more money had I paid serious attention to Billy Mays.
     For example, look at the sequence of the AwesomeAuger commercial. At the outset Mays shouts:
“Just attach it to any size drill. Then pull the trigger…”
     Whereupon he pulls out of his quiver a wondrous collection of garden tools—digger, burrower, mixer, tiller and weed killer—all these for just $19.95!

Dealing with the Two Potential Deal Killers
The lurking questions that made his offer highly suspect:
   • “How can I be sure these attachments will fit my power drill?"
   • "What if I don’t own a power drill?"

WHAM! The Kicker! A Free Drill!
A $120 Value for Only $19.95!


A stunning climax! It’s truly a great deal!
     How can you say no?

Note: For the complete collection of every product Billy Mays ever pitched, click here.


Ron Popeil’s Stunning 
Knife Set Infomercial

I work at home. When I take a break—to get my head out of the direct marketing business—I sometimes turn on the TV and go around the dials.
     One show that used to stop me cold—I was hooked every time it came on—was a 30-minute infomercial selling a giant collection of cheap knives.
     This was a family affair, starring entrepreneur Ron Popeil along with his two daughters, Lauren and Shannon.
     Another other key player—and sheer delight—was Ron’s fast talking cousin, Arnold Morris.
     Wearing a high white chef’s toque and a blue apron, cousin Arnold was a wonderful old time pitchman from the midway of 19th century carnivals. As the two Popeil daughters keep appearing with new knives, cousin Arnold delivers riveting patter as he effortlessly slices, dices, chops and carves before a wildly enthusiastic studio audience.

 Benefits, Benefits and More Benefits!
 “Wait, There’s More!” You Can’t Say No!
These are attractive fun people. They love their product and believe in it deeply.
     What’s more, they are letting the viewer in on one whale of a deal that keeps getting better and better and better.
     Midway through the infomercial Popeil himself takes over and whips the audience into a frenzy. He finishes demonstrating a knife, throws up his hands and shouts, “Wait! There’s more!” or “I’m not finished yet!” Whereupon he produces another knife or three.

Screwy Arithmetic? Who Cares?
Throughout presentation are statements such as:

• These four steak knives sell at retail for $17.95 each!”

• “Isn’t it true, Ron, you sold this knife by itself for a retail price of $100?”

Tally up the “retail prices” quoted onscreen and the total is many hundreds of dollars-worth of cutlery. Yet this 25-piece set of knives, knife sharpener, kitchen shears and “Flavor Injector” costs only $39.99. (“3 easy payments of $13.33!” shouts the studio audience gleefully in unison.)

How Did Ron and Cousin Arnold Get Away with It?
The infomercial is a fascinating powerhouse where two master salesmen unleash spectacular theater. A viewer watching the studio audience laughing, cheering and applauding on cue—plus the avalanche of knives—will be immediately swept up in the drama and excitement.

• They forget the ancient caveat: “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

• Popeil & Co. created a “willing suspension of disbelief.”

• The infomercial was obviously a huge success, because it ran month in, month out. 

If you have never seen this masterpiece...
CLICK ON THIS LINK:   
Sit back, relax and enjoy the show.

Unhappy Endings
•Billy Mays was found dead in his Tampa, Florida home by his wife on June 28, 2009. The cause was hypertensive heart disease. Billy Mays was 50. His net worth was estimated to be $10 million.

• Ron Popeil, inventor and purveyor of the Veg-O-Matic, Pocket Fisherman, Showtime Rotisserie, Solid Flavor Injector, Automatic Pasta Maker and “THERE’S MORE!” sold his company to Fi-Tek VII, a Denver holding company, for a reported $55 million. The company was renamed Ronco. On June 13, 2018, Ronco changed its bankruptcy filing from Chapter 11 (reorganization) to Chapter 7, full liquidation and shut down. Ron Popeil, 84, is reportedly worth $200 million.

Takeaways to Consider
• If you are selling a product or service, work like hell to come up with every possible feature and make a giant list.

• Turn those features into benefits.

“People don’t want quarter-inch drills. They want quarter-inch holes.”
   —The difference between features and benefits. MBA Magazine

• Follow the legendary David Ogilvy’s thinking process when he created his great one-page ad for Rolls-Royce—with a headline so unique it garnered Ogilvy's place in the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations.

• With whatever you're promoting, don't be shy. Pile on the features and benefits.

• The two most powerful words in this infomercial:

“The prospect doesn’t give a damn about you, your company or your product. All that matters is, ‘What’s in it for me’?”
   Bob Hacker, Seattle Direct Marketing wizard

• Always listen to WII-FM.
   —Old marketing maxim
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Word count: 1191



At age 15, Denny Hatch—as a lowly apprentice—wrote his first news release for a Connecticut summer theater. To his astonishment it ran verbatim in The Middletown Press. He was instantly hooked on writing. After a two-year stint in the U.S. Army (1958-60), Denny had nine jobs in his first 12 years in business. He was fired from five of them and went on to save two businesses and start three others. One of his businesses—WHO’S MAILING WHAT! newsletter and archive service founded in 1984—revolutionized the science of how to measure the success of competitors’ direct mail. In the past 55 years he has been a book club director, magazine publisher, advertising copywriter/designer, editor, journalist and marketing consultant. He is the author of four published novels and seven books on business and marketing.

CONTACT

dennyhatch@yahoo.com

Note to Readers:  
May I send you an alert when each new blog is posted? If so, kindly give me the okay by sending your First Name, Last Name and e-mail to dennyhatch@yahoo.com. I guarantee your personal information will not be shared with anyone at any time for any reason. The blog is a free service. No cost. No risk. No obligation. Cancel any time. I look forward to being in touch!


IF YOU HAVE TROUBLE POSTING A COMMENT… Write Me!
Google owns Blogspot.com and this Comment Section. If you do not have a Google account, contact me directly and I will happily post your comment with a note that this is per your request. Thank you and do keep in touch.  dennyhatch@yahoo.com

Invitation to Marketers and Direct Marketers: 
Guest Blog Posts Are Welcome. 
If you have a marketing story to tell, case history, concept to propose or a memoir, give a shout. I’ll get right back to you. I am: dennyhatch@yahoo.com

You Are Invited to Join the Discussion!

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

#84 Bob Hacker: Direct Marketing Wizard

Issue #84 — February 18, 2020


Posted by Denny Hatch


Bob Hacker: Direct Marketing Wizard
Who Had the Best Job in the World!

As editor of the cranky newsletter WHO’S MAILING WHAT!—and later, Target Marketing Magazine—invitations poured in from local direct marketing clubs, conferences and Expos. They were desperate for out-of-town speakers.
      Ever on the hunt for contacts, subscribers, freelance clients, story ideas and—above all, advertisers—I readily agreed. I was on the road a lot.
     It was at the Seattle Direct Marketing Club meeting many years ago that I first encountered the big, bombastic bearded dude—now retired—shown above.
     Bob Hacker, founder of the HackerAgency, was a mesmerizing speaker. He knew his stuff and made sure everyone in the place knew that he knew his stuff. His long suit: data-driven campaigns based on proprietary, highly-complex testing techniques with one ultimate goal: coming up with a satisfactory ROI and constant refinements until business became hugely profitable cash cows.

Hacker was also a rara avis who had the cojones to fire clients. Some of his reasons for doing so:
   
Abusing my staff.  You start yelling and swearing at my people you get one warning. If it happens again you’re done.

  Not paying their bills on time. We had 30 day terms.  Clients expected us to drop mail on time. We expect them to pay on time. 

A pattern of not allowing us to do our job.  As an aside, we only proposed things we knew would work since we’d already tested these ideas time and time again.  Why would somebody with no or little experience not follow our lead? When the client dictates dumb ideas, you’re gonna get fired anyway, so let’s get it over with.
 
 In short, the title of Hacker's book sums up his business philosophy:


Hacker on the Speaking Circuit
    During that period, I was on the program committee for Direct Marketing Days New York—the very best industry expo then and better than anything since. I told the directors about this dragon killer I met in Seattle who deserved more exposure than could be had in the boonies of America’s 129th city in area and 18th in population.
    He came. He saw. He conquered.
   Within a couple of years Hacker became a sought-after speaker on direct marketing show circuit, where he kept audiences rapt with his rapid fire delivery and memorable bon mots. He filled the largest auditoriums with his slide show and take-no-prisoners approach.
     At the end of his presentation he would invite the audience to give him a business card and receive his latest free special report. 
     Whereupon he always left the room with pockets stuffed with business cards (a.k.a. client prospects). 

A Sampling...
If you outsource, one of the most important decisions you’ll make is hiring the right resources to help you. General agencies and design firms can’t do direct marketing when return on investment (ROI) is the prime criterion for success. ROI means by-the-numbers program development, measurement and control.

• Truth be told, general agencies and design firms don’t want to be measured objectively—they prefer subjective judgment. And they’re almost proud of their organizational anarchy, which works OK in advertising creative development, but can kill you in direct marketing program development and management.

• Unless an agency thrives on tight control and objective measurement, it shouldn’t play the direct marketing game at all. Most general agencies we run into will tell their clients, “Yeah, we do direct,” even if they don’t know a good offer from a box of rocks.

• Advertising people hate being held accountable for sales. Good direct marketing people insist on it.

• Direct marketing is copy-centric. Advertising is more often driven by design.

I was once showing a piece of work to a brand new client. “Gawd, that thing is ugly,” said the client.
     “Thank you.” I said, “We had to send it back to the design team three times to make it ugly enough to hit the response rate targets. Thanks for noticing—most clients miss it—I’ll thank the team for you.”
     He was flabbergasted, to say the least. But he also approved the work.
     Was the program ugly enough? You bet. We had to generate 3.3 percent to hit target. The program did 5.4 percent. From then on, he demanded that every program had to be “at least as ugly” as the first one we did.”
• It’s amazing how good numbers can change people’s attitudes about good vs. bad creative.
     
Memorandum
From:  Robert Hacker
To:      Denny Hatch
Date:  Feb. 11 at 8:38 PM

Here's another one. You could make a
Harvard Business School case out of this. 
It was back during the dotcom craze.  I got a call one day from a new startup that was selling jewelry over the internet. They wanted to spend $500,000 in the next quarter on direct mail and wanted our help.  The objective was to drive traffic to the website and make sales with a marketing cost-per-sale no higher than 21%. 
     I set a meeting, got a lot more information, and went back to the office to do some research.  About a week later, I sent the prospect a four page memo.  In it, I respectfully declined the work.  Here why:

1. When we reviewed data sources, we could find enough highly targeted prospects to test, but not enough to give us rollout potential.  If there’s no rollout potential, why test?

2. We showed her lots of math.  When we worked backward from the cost-per-sale target and ran models based on current internal conversion rates the cost-per-click couldn’t be more than $3.50.  To hit that target, we’d need to pull an initial response rate of over 14%.

3. Given the data, product and price point of those products we didn’t think that we, or anybody else, could hit a 14% or higher response rate.   In addition, refer back to #1 above

4. So we respectfully declined the work and recommend that the money be reallocated.

     I emailed the memo at 10:31. My phone was ringing at 10:33. 
     “What do you mean you won’t do the program?”
     “I think the memo says it all," I said. “We think it’s too risky and not a good use of your money.”
     “But you don’t understand,” she said, “The Venture Capitalists are telling us that we HAVE to spend the $500,000 next quarter.” 
     (An aside here: VC’s are some of the worst marketers I ever worked with, right up there with lawyers and accountants.)
     “It’s too risky,” I told her.
     “We have to do it.”
     “Show them this memo and then ask them again.”
    “I can’t. They’ll think I’m weak.”
     We both took a breath.  “What if I can show you how to do direct mail next quarter AND reduce risk at the same time?
     “Do it.”
     So I wrote a recommendation.  In essence it reiterated all the risk analysis of the first document and concluded that because the risk was high we should test first.  I proposed testing an 18 way split test and a $100,000 budget.  Then, after we read the results we could rollout, re-test or reallocate the funds.
     I sent the recommendation over.  Got an immediate callback.  “MAYBE YOU DIDN’T HEAR ME, WE HAVE TO SPEND ALL $500,000 NEXT QUARTER, RISK BE DAMNED!”
     I can take a hint, we did the test.  To reduce risk we mailed 6 different packages with multiple offer splits for each package, thus testing 18 offer/creative executions.  They all bombed.  We all got fired.  
     Quelle surprise!
     The big lesson here is, if you have a highly experienced agency or vendor that tells you “don’t do it." don’t.

P.S.  After our client got fired, her boss waited about three weeks and then called to chew me out.  I asked him if he had ever read our initial analyses and recommendations.  He said “no”.  I told him to cool his jets and I’d email them right over.  I did.  I got a call back.  “Why didn’t she send these on to me and the board?”
     “You’d have to ask her, but she sounded scared to death of you and your board.”

Takeaways to Consider
Check out Issue #23: DOWN-‘N’-DIRTY, QUICK-‘N’-CHEAP: Bob Hacker’s Revolutionary New Testing Technique.”

"Ugly works!" —Bob Hacker

• Why in the subtitle of this post do I suggest Bob Hacker had the “best job in the world?”

• It’s an old joke. A crusading journalist interviewed a prisoner in the county jail to see if he were being mistreated.
     The jailbird said he loved it. He had the best job in the world!
     “Describe it.”
     “They was like terrible floods last month and the sewage plant overflowed into the streets. We was ordered to make up a bucket brigade. I was the last guy, up to my waist in raw sewage filling my bucket dumping into the bucket of the next guy in line. He passed it on to the next guy and on to the next guy all the way to the first guy who emptied his bucket into the garbage truck.
     “You call that the best job in the world?”
     “Oh, yeah!”
     “How can you call that the best job in the world?”
     “Don’t you get, bro? I don’t take no shit from nobody!”
 
 About Bob Hacker
Over the years, clients such as IBM, Hilton, Hyatt, Symantec, AT&T Wireless, GNA, Airborne Express, Microsoft, Expedia, Oracle, Washington Mutual, and more, continued to help built the company.
     He and his wife and COO, Jo Anne, sold The Hacker Group to Foote, Cone & Belding (FCB) in 1999 and they continued to work for the new ownership for another three years, before retiring from the agency in 2002. After the second glass of wine, he’ll tell you about the four things he’s most proud of during The Hacker Group era:
• The agency grew every year, so he never had to lay off staff.
• The bonus program changed a lot of lives for the better.
• Turnover was low—under 5%.
• FCB had 205 offices worldwide. With a staff of only 85 in Seattle,  The Hacker Group generated more than 20% of FCB operating profit while Bob and Jo Anne were still involved. Within FCB at that time, The Hacker Group was called “The Cash Machine.”  
     When not relaxing at his home on Bainbridge Island, Washington, Hacker can be found fly fishing off the shores of the Yucatan Peninsula, Christmas Island or British Columbia.

###

Word Count: 1745 



At age 15, Denny Hatch—as a lowly apprentice—wrote his first news release for a Connecticut summer theater. To his astonishment it ran verbatim in The Middletown Press. He was instantly hooked on writing. After a two-year stint in the U.S. Army (1958-60), Denny had nine jobs in his first 12 years in business. He was fired from five of them and went on to save two businesses and start three others. One of his businesses—WHO’S MAILING WHAT! newsletter and archive service founded in 1984—revolutionized the science of how to measure the success of competitors’ direct mail. In the past 55 years he has been a book club director, magazine publisher, advertising copywriter/designer, editor, journalist and marketing consultant. He is the author of four published novels and seven books on business and marketing.

CONTACT

dennyhatch@yahoo.com

Note to Readers:  
May I send you an alert when each new blog is posted? If so, kindly give me the okay by sending your First Name, Last Name and e-mail to dennyhatch@yahoo.com. I guarantee your personal information will not be shared with anyone at any time for any reason. The blog is a free service. No cost. No risk. No obligation. Cancel any time. I look forward to being in touch!


IF YOU HAVE TROUBLE POSTING A COMMENT… Write Me!
Google owns Blogspot.com and this Comment Section. If you do not have a Google account, contact me directly and I will happily post your comment with a note that this is per your request. Thank you and do keep in touch.  dennyhatch@yahoo.com

Invitation to Marketers and Direct Marketers: 
Guest Blog Posts Are Welcome. 
If you have a marketing story to tell, case history, concept to propose or a memoir, give a shout. I’ll get right back to you. I am: dennyhatch@yahoo.com

You Are Invited to Join the Discussion!