DRTV – Insider Tactics for Successful Direct Response TV Ads

DRTV or direct response television advertising is a rough and tumble business. Few products have enough mass appeal to work. Conservative estimates reveal that only one in 20 products tested actually turns a profit. And those that are successful have their market share eroded almost immediately by knockoff artists.

It’s enough to turn your hair gray and make your teeth chatter. But even though no one has a sure-fire formula for success, there are tactics that insiders use to improve their odds for success. Here are a few of them:

  • Offer a unique product. Retail is still king because it’s faster, easier, and cheaper for most people to buy at a local store. So if you want people to buy from you on TV, 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 you’re near. The more unique your product, the better. Just remember you need at least a four-to-one markup (preferably six-to-one) to make money because of the high cost of media.
  • 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’s any real secret to success, this is it.
  • 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 TV products solve a problem per se but offer something unique for a better price, such as a USA Quarters Map for only five dollars as opposed to twenty dollars or more for others.
  • 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.
  • Dramatize benefits and results. The infomercial for the Ronco 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 up some burgers and shows you the fat dripping into a dish. People believe what they see. So show what your product can do for them.
  • 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 over promising. You don’t want to disappoint customers or invite complaints and lawsuits.
  • Establish high perceived value. Your price should already be attractive. But you can make it even more so with a technique called “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 more attractive.
  • 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 Italian size casings, and Italian spice seasoning, the deal seems irresistible.
  • Use real testimonials. You’ll 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.
  • 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 ten days or your money back.”
  • Be realistic. Most DRTV programs have a life span of about eight months, so you have to plan for obsolescence. And don’t ignore retail, upsells, offer inserts, and back-end list exploitation. Money is green no matter what marketing channel you use.