Infomercials are fascinating because, in just two minutes, they can take normal, everyday products like kitchen knives, blenders and cleaners and elevate them to the status of things you can’t live without! While infomercials are often captivating, repetitive, and a bit schlocky, sales professionals can learn a great deal from them about how to pitch a product.
One of the infomercial’s most compelling traits is efficiency—the way they almost magically overcome a buyer’s status quo bias and quickly move them to purchase. One minute it’s 2 am and you’re lying in bed, watching an infomercial, about to fall asleep; the next minute a Magic Bullet is being express-shipped to your door!
To achieve this, regardless of what product is being pitched, the messaging approach itself is often formulaic. An easy-to-follow story creates and drives attention, leading the viewer through a series of simple, easily agreeable arguments that culminate in a product-centric call to action.
In Sell The Way You Buy, I highlight a simple, four-step codified breakdown for a typical infomercial pitch:
- Here’s a problem with what you’re doing today (or what I call “cutting” the customer)
- Here’s the ideal solution to that problem
- Here’s what makes the solution difficult or less desirable
- Here’s how our product makes it easier (or our beliefs and conviction around solving that problem)
For example, the breakdown of juicer infomercial might look like this:
- Eating too many processed foods is destroying your health.
- The solution is to eat more fresh fruits, vegetables, and juices.
- The problem is that typical juicers are too large, time-consuming to use, expensive, hard to clean, and kill too many of your food’s helpful nutrients.
- Our awesome, compact, easy-to-clean, and affordable juice machine is what you need!
Here’s another example of an infomercial narrative for a piece of home exercise equipment:
- Do you want to lose weight and get in the best shape of your life?
- Well, the best way to do that is to go to the gym five times a week and work out for two hours each time.
- But gym memberships are expensive—and who has that kind of time?
- What you need is our awesome, cost-effective home exercise machine.
Want another killer example? Check out this fun ad for the popular browser plugin, Honey, that follows exactly the same formula! (Note: Honey was acquired by PayPal in 2019 for $4B!).
- Shopping online? You’re probably wasting money
- The solution is to get discounts by using promo codes
- But how do you know you’re getting the best ones or if they’re even valid?
From a classical sales perspective, this pitch formula is so effective because at each stage, your audience is taking small, incremental steps towards your solution. These steps are rooted in both universal truths and emotion — nothing jarring, no big leaps of faith required. More specifically, the infomercial code would break down like this:
- Illustrating the pain (sometimes latent or hidden pain) associated with your current state (i.e. universal pains that are easy to internalize)
- Outlining an aspirational/desired future state and the path to get there ( in many cases, one the audience is already aware of and agrees with)
- Highlighting the risk or uncertainty associated with that path (i.e. framing the need for a better solution)
- Suggesting a simpler, alternative solution to mitigate or circumvent that risk (i.e. your product)
OK, so jumping back into the world of technology, using this formula to pitch, say, a mobile productivity app to a sales leader might look something like this:
- Your sales team is losing business because they don’t have the key customer/product information they need when they’re selling on the road
- The solution is getting them mobile access to your back-office database so they can access key data from anywhere
- The problem is that creating a custom app and connecting it to your back-office is difficult, time-consuming, and expensive
- The good news is that we have an amazing mobile connector framework that allows a non-technical business user to do the same thing in a fraction of the time.
Now give it a try with your product!
Using the infomercial approach makes it easier for your customers and prospects to understand what you do and the specific value you add — which ultimately convinces them to buy. On top of that, using the infomercial pitch structure will help your sales team ramp up faster, internalize your value proposition, and even articulate it without slides or demos.
So the next time you find yourself lying awake in bed at 2AM, struggling to put together your sales pitch, simply turn on your TV and tune in to the secret formula you’ve been looking for.
Here’s a helpful video outlining the infomercial formula concept.
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