“If you succeed without failing,
it’s because someone else failed before you.”
—  Anonymous

Let’s face it, we all make mistakes.  So, the best thing to do is learn from them because the worst thing is to repeat them.  If along the way, you can help someone else avoid the same mistakes, that’s even better.

Producing an Infomercial can be fraught with problems and potential pitfalls.  Trying to avoid them is impossible just by second-guessing.  I have carefully researched why some Infomercials fail, and so the following comes from my own experience and a few hard-learned lessons, as well as those of other producers.  I offer these in hopes of sparing you the “agony of defeat” so you can experience “the thrill of victory.”

1.  Poor Product Or Service   One reason an Infomercial fails is that the product or service is simply not suitable for the direct marketing medium of television.  If it’s a poor product, the returns will make the program fail because you can’t sell enough real benefits to the customer.  A good philosophy in direct marketing is:  “A good program will be a success, a bad program will fail,” or as I see it, “A good product can be sold; a bad product can’t be sold.”  A significant part of any campaign begins with the quality and uniqueness of the product or service itself.  As one advertising man put it, “The best ad is a good product.”

2.  The Uncommercial Commercial   This means the Infomercial itself does not sell.  The production or marketing team failed to provide all the Key Selling Elements and Key Selling Messages as outlined in Chapters Fifteen and Sixteen.  Perhaps the producers, writers, directors failed to focus on selling the benefits of the product.  Perhaps the approach was to be an entertaining TV show as opposed to a thirty-minute commercial.  The primary purpose of an Infomercial should always be to sell.  Forget the notion of trying to create a “revolutionary, breakthrough soft-sell program.”  A commercial should be a commercial—its purpose is to sell.

3.  The Price Is Wrong   Another reason Infomercials fail is due to incorrect pricing of the product.  The product simply is not priced correctly.  It can be either too expensive or too cheap.  When we first helped introduced the “Think and Grow Rich” product on TV for Guthy-Renker Corporation, it was for only $89.00.  The product consisted of eight audio cassettes, a hard bound book, owner’s manual and a success profile.   At first, its sales-to-media-cost-ratios were only marginally profitable.   Guthy-Renker Corporation, who we co-produced the Infomercial for, along with Dan Kennedy and Jon Schulberg, decided to add five audio cassettes and some workbooks to the offer and raise the price point to $149.95.  The Infomercial was then profitable and Guthy-Renker eventually sold over 10 million dollars worth of “Think and Grow Rich.”

Infomercials also fail when the cost of the product is too high relative to the selling price.  Your mark up margin should be a minimum of five times that of the cost of the product.   One criteria in determining whether the product has a chance of success or not is to determine the product-cost-to-sales-price-ratio.  If the product cost is more than 20% of the selling price point, there may not be enough gross profit to cover all the expenses and royalties to make the direct marketing program a success.  The exceptions to this rule are products and services that can use the Infomercial to create name brand awareness and generate the bulk of their sales in other venues, or products that generate a continuing revenue stream through repeat sales or fulfillment.

4.  Media Mishaps   Infomercials also fail when the media costs are too high or you are buying the wrong media.  If you use the wrong media buyer, you may end up paying far too much or buying incorrectly.   Either way, the cost efficiency of your media buys will dramatically increase your probability of success.  Be aware that all media-buying services are not alike.  Those that deal more with volume of media dollars are likely to have better rates and lower costs, but may not provide as good a service.  Sometimes “boutique” media buying services will fight your media-buying battles better than the larger companies.  The important thing to remember is that the lower the cost of your media buys, relative to the viewing audience, the better your chance for success.  Interestingly, some Infomercials are very successful on national cable TV outlets, and not on local broadcast stations, and some programs profit well on broadcast but not on national cable TV.  Therefore, the media buyers are often the key to the success of a program.

5.  Lacks Audience Focus    Infomercials fail when they try to be too broad in their appeal.  You must seek a primary target audience who would be interested in your product.  The time spent to generate responses from an audience who will only purchase ten percent of your product is really a waste of time.  If the majority of your target audience is a particular psychographic/demographic, there’s no need to focus anything in the Infomercial outside this potential audience.

 6.  Failed To Test     Many Infomercials fail because of improper or inadequate testing during the initial media test.  Testing is as key and vital an element in the overall marketing of an Infomercial as is the creative process or the media buying aspect.  Testing means to test various product offers with different price points, to test the various creative approaches to making a sales presentation, to test a variety of testimonials, the music, and the graphics.  In other words, you want to test everything that is essential in a good Infomercial.  Just remember:  you can’t test too much because in DRTV you are always in a state of testing.

7.  Underestimating The Upsell     The lack of a good up-sell product can also create an Infomercial failure.  With an effective Infomercial, 15 to 40 percent of all your customers who purchase the initial product or a service should be stimulated to buy additional product during the in-bound telephone call.  This is called an up-sell.  Without a significant number of upsell purchases, an Infomercial can fail.

8.   Not Continuing To Sell     The lack of after-market or back-end sales can severely hurt the chances for success in an Infomercial campaign.  This refers to converting inquiries to new customers and working the customer relationship by providing new opportunities every time you communicate with them.  For example, once a buyer receives the product in his or her home, there is an opportunity for that person to buy additional products.  This is called back-end sales.  Never forget that the best customer you will ever have is the one you’ve already got.  By offering your customer additional products, or the same product at a discount, or continuity programs where the customer can continue to buy on a regular basis, the Infomercial will prove to be far more successful.  In addition, if there are no plans for retail mass merchandising, you will fail to capitalize on the Infomercials initial success.  For every one product you sell on television, you may sell six to twenty products in the aftermarket and in retail.

9.  Undercapitalized and Overextended     A lack of capital or improper financing can devastate a good Infomercial campaign.  Without the necessary funds to develop a good product (with good packaging), a comprehensive marketing plan (based on adequate research), and a powerful, high-quality sales presentation, the campaign will end in failure.  You need plenty of capital to produce an excellent Infomercial and more capital to test it, measure the results and make necessary adjustments, test the results again, and so on.  Plans should be made in advance to re-edit and fine tune the program.  Additional capital should always be reserved for more production and re-editing.  And then, of course, enough money should be available for manufacturing and inventory of the product, your shipping and fulfillment requirements, in-bound and out-bound telemarketing of your product, your general overhead and, most importantly, the media buys during the “roll out” (expansion of the media buys nationwide) that can require a great deal of money.

10.  No Road MAP (Marketing Action Plan)     One of the most important and essential ingredients in a successful Infomercial campaign is the comprehensive Marketing Plan that details all of the action steps necessary for the company to meet or exceed its sales goals.  Without it, there’s a good chance your Infomercial will fail.  The plan should include the various Integrated Marketing Strategies that will be utilized to sell the product or service and the techniques used to reduce financial risk.  The Marketing Plan will allow you to know exactly what and how to sell your product or service.  A detailed Marketing Plan becomes your road map.  Or, as the great Yogi Berra once said, “If you don’t where you’re going, you’re probably going to wind up someplace else.”

11.  Right Message, Wrong Messenger    Utilizing the wrong personalities or television talent in an Infomercial can destroy all the other benefits and selling messages of the product or service. With the wrong celebrity, host, spokesperson or testimonials, the Infomercial can fail due to lack of credibility and trustworthiness. 

12.  Poor Product Offer    Related to the first reason, an Infomercial can fail if the product offer is wrong.  This means the positioning of the product, its price, and the bonus products could all be incorrect.  Perhaps the product offer needs to provide more perceived value, therefore, more premiums should be offered.  Perhaps, the focus of the offer should be on a FREE gift or another product that can be a part of the package.  Designing the right product offer can make or break an Infomercial program.  Market research from actual customers can assist in determining what a good product offer is.

“Call Now 1-800 -  How to Profit from Direct Response Television Advertising”  Copyright 2006  Rodney H. Buchser

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