10 Things You Can Learn From Infomercials

10 Things You Can Learn From InfomercialsYou’ve no doubt seen them:  direct response TV (DRTV) commercials, or infomercials, which normally run 30 minutes and try to convince you that your life just won’t be the same if you don’t call now and order. Short form ads, which normally run one to two minutes, have the same objective – just in a shorter time frame.

While some may be annoyed by them, they are powerful sales tools driving an enormous industry that can teach almost any business how to sell effectively no matter what medium is being used.

Here we’ve listed just some of the tips you can apply to your business to boost sales – feel free to add more in the comments section below.

  • Demonstrate your product or service. No matter what you’re selling, show how it works and how it can benefit someone. Try posting a video on your site and/or YouTube or similar sites. This will boost viewer engagement and enhance your sales message.
  • Use testimonials. This will add enormous credibility. Use full names and company names if applicable, and possibly a photo of the person. Feature them in any video you use.
  • Incorporate upsells into your offerings. Keep advertised price points low (perhaps spread into payments) and offer an upgraded, more expensive version or package deal when the customer takes action to order. This is where most of the money in DRTV is made. If just 10 percent of responders upgrade, for example, this can mean an enormous boost in revenue and potential profits. This can be done not just for phone orders but during the checkout process online, where customers are prompted with a special offer.
  • Send offers to your in-house list. Keep customers in the loop with more offers later on. They may buy a much more expensive product (or place a larger order) once you’ve built trust. It’s best to use opt-ins and opt-outs so you’re not sending unwanted communications.
  • Be enthusiastic. Stand behind your product or service and make sure it shows. Enthusiasm conveys emotion, such as the joy someone will experience by using the item.
  • Fulfill basic needs and wants. Whether it’s to lose weight or help a child learn better in school, your offering should solve a common problem quickly and easily backed by a promise (such as a strong guarantee). Just be sure the offering lives up to its claims.
  • Use repetition. You’ll normally hear the same information repeated several times during an infomercial. Within reason, repeating ads and offer details reinforces the sales message and motivates someone to buy.
  • Use time-sensitive offers. Whether it’s the first 100 responders or “we only have a limited quantity available” or another tactic, this motivates the potential buyer to take action now rather than wait and be much less likely to order. Woot has made highly effective use of this technique by offering one new item per day only while supplies last or until another item is offered the next day.
  • Know when to say when. If someone indicates they’re not interested in an upsell, for example, don’t try to push the offering further. You might be able to sell them through followup contacts later.
  • Offer multiple ways to order. DRTV commercials often include a web address and sometimes a way to order via mobile, and even a regular mailing address in addition to a phone number. Give buyers as many ways to order as possible regardless of the medium used so they can take action in the way they’re most comfortable with.

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About the Author: David Cotriss is a business, technology and new media writer, having published 500+ news and feature articles to date worldwide in magazines ranging from PC Magazine to The Industry Standard.


David Cotriss David Cotriss is a business, technology and new media writer, having published 500+ news and feature articles to date worldwide in magazines ranging from PC Magazine to The Industry Standard.

9 Reactions
  1. The best infomercial I’ve seen is for the Little Giant Ladder. It fascinated me because ladders are NOT a glamorous or interesting product, yet the uniqueness of this product is apparent very quickly. But it is only apparent when you see someone demonstrating the many uses of the ladder. The company president Hal Wing is almost always in the infomercial and he literally shows you over 30 different applications for the ladder in the space of 5-10 minutes. It’s amazing and yet when I’ve actually used a Little Giant Ladder myself, it really is as easy as he made it look.

  2. Robert — I’ve seen that infomercial, too, and remember it. I think the difference with that infomercial over some others is that the underlying product itself is so useful and convenient. Versus some kitchen gadget that you know you’d use once and then it would just take up space in your cabinet.

  3. Great thoughts David,
    One thing that I believe is part of the mix is the whole use of FREE in any interactions with customers. People are so short of time and sick of being marketed to that in order to get any brain share from them, I find that we need to offer something free as part of the process of building a relationship with them.

  4. It is all about benefiting. How does it have to help that person that is so much in need of it. our understanding to this simple truth can lead to numerous sales of our newly created products.
    Thanks for you post on the first thing we can learn.
    ……….Thanks once more

  5. Ah, the infomercials! 🙂 David Cotriss: I have to check out Woot. Scroll down the site and read “Mumbo Jumbo”. 😉 That’s “priceless”…

  6. From a GL perspective, what percent of sales should a merchant be prepared to spend to effectively market a product? That said, what should a merchant expect as a ROI? In addition, is there a short list of companies best suited to deliver “the goods” with respect to marketing?

  7. Robert,

    I remember those ladders too. I never bought one because I lived in an apartment at the time, but I sure wanted one.


    You’re correct. We may not like them, but man are they effective. Many of them have even become part of our pop culture. Some of the pitchmen like Billy Mays (RIP Billy) and Vince from ShamWOW are almost as popular as some celebrities.

    I think you have hit the formula on the head. It works over and over again. I think the only part you missed is that they know who their target audience is and market directly to them. It’s not just the price of air time that causes them to air when they do. Small businesses can learn a lot from this industry.


  8. I believe these probably work. But it’s funny how so many advertisers that people really love (Apple, Nike, etc.) do few if any of these. These tricks just put your product in a certain category.

  9. The thing with infomercial’s is that it seems to me that almost everyone hates them but there are so many times that I catch myself or others watching them because they can really catch your eye. If the infomercial is a good one they really know how to reel you in and catch your attention. There are so many tactics that they seem to use that really work. In the end I would say that even though they are extremely annoying and usually a waste of time to watch they have made them so that they are very catching and make you feel like you want to watch them. They are very effective for what they are.