Direct Response Television. Many innovators see it as the golden ticket to their dreams, and there's some truth in that--if your product fits into the ideal-infomercial-product mold. The good news is that the ideal mold has expanded to include many more categories since the George Foreman Grill days.
According to Paul Douglas Scott, Executive Producer and President of Shark Finds, a DRTV production campaign with original Shark, Kevin Harrington, the most successful DRTV campaign results come from products that offer a solution to an everyday problem. The products are demonstrable, seasonal in nature, or are seen as novelty gift ideas, i.e., Chia Pet and the Nerf Ball. And not all of them are identified by a price tag of $19.99.
"The world of DRTV has evolved over the past thirty-five years," says Scott. "Today, many industries, from major brands, automobiles, electronics, and even services, have begun adding short format DRTV commercials to their marketing portfolios." In fact, according to Scott, three out of five of the most successful products currently sold through direct response have a price tag of over three-hundred-dollars.
"But wait! There's more!"
Many of today's well-produced television spots have taken to a more subtle, modern-day approach in their call-to-action. While the idea of the loud, overbearing voice of a pitchman may be forever emblazoned on our brains, (don't forget the blinking toll-free number tempting you to dial) DRTV campaigns now focus on brand recognition and image, competitive positioning, and a strategic marketing mix that includes digital media.
If you've never considered a direct response television campaign your marketing mix may not be complete. "Marketers involved in a wide range of businesses have learned that an infomercial run on national cable aids brand visibility tremendously," says Lisa Vrancken, VP of Business Development at Shark Finds. "And with a nation-wide reach, these campaigns can easily garner better results than other direct marketing channels, like print ads.
Use a mixed media approach.
"Try a little bit of everything," says Scott. Facebook ads, press releases, and direct mail pieces--one region at a time--will tell you a lot about your product's potential. And they're all affordable testing platforms. Also sell on e-bay, Amazon, and from your own website. How do you measure success of TV broadcast? Scott says that if you see a return of 1.70 to 1.90 on your media spend, you've gotten a good result. (Example: A $10,000 media spend should bring you $17,000 - $19,000 in sales.)
"DRTV is the perfect addition for forward-thinking companies who want an integrated marketing approach with a mix of social media, mobile advertising, and online video including the newer messaging applications like Snapchat,"says Vrancken.
Appeal to the masses with a broad niche.
Creators and founders of Andre Walker Hair, Dianne Hudson and Andre Walker, could have chosen to market to the African American female only market, but their combined years of experience with Oprah's Harpo Studios taught them better. Instead, they market to anyone with dry, curly, kinky and textured hair types. This approach has successfully taken them to the shelves of all US-based Target stores, and very successful on-line sales.
Test before you invest.
Will a DRTV campaign fit into your marketing mix? Scott strongly recommends that you test before you invest. Kevin Harrington and Fortune Media Group, Inc. have joined forces to create a test market campaign known as Shark Finds. The program offers product focused businesses an opportunity to affordably test their product in as many as ten markets prior to investing hundreds of thousands of dollars in a full out media campaign.
Fail fast, fail cheap.
"In the world of direct response television, where thousands of products have tested the waters, many have succeeded, but not everyone does," says Scott. It's not if you fail, it's when you fail, so Scott says to aim to fail fast and fail cheap. "When an inventor comes up with a great product it becomes their life," says Scott. "Their friends and family love it, they've probably used some, or all, of their retirement savings to make a prototype and file for a patent, and their minds get easily clouded by thoughts of selling millions." It's critical to see through the clouds and determine whether or not your product has mass appeal. Instead of tapping your hard-earned savings or mortgaging your home, go in on a budget. Direct response agencies will provide your most direct route to becoming a DRTV success and campaigns like Shark Finds are designed to test and launch your product without breaking the bank.
Rather than standing in wait for the investor who sees the promise of your idea, prove your concept first. You're probably aware of the popular belief that investors put their money behind an outstanding entrepreneur, not just a great product, but that's only partially true. Investors want to see a proven method of distribution, proof of concept, and a history of promising sales. Find your niche, test your idea, create a diversified marketing approach, and don't spend every last dime you have. Once you've succeeded in these initial stages, perhaps an angel will come your way.