Online Marketing Lessons from a TV Salesman

Retro TV

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Sometimes your next big online marketing breakthrough may come from an unexpected place. Like a TV salesman from long before the internet was born.

One of my favorite authors and marketers, Joseph Sugarman, once told the story of a superstar TV salesman from the 50s and 60s. I’m told that this salesman would often outsell all of the other salesmen in his store combined.   While he used lots of different sales techniques, there was one marketing secret that he used that was absolutely brilliant.  It’s simple but profound and it’s just as useful today as it was in the days of Technicolor TV.

This superstar did something very unique when deciding which customers to spend most of his time with.  He discovered that when a customer walked into the store and started turning the knobs on different TV sets (this was before the remote control) that he had a 50% chance of closing that customer.  He also found that if a customer walked in to the store and just stood and looked at the TV sets he only had a 10% chance of selling that customer.  Who do you think he focused most of his time and attention on?  Easy.  Those who where interacting with the TV sets.

So what does this mean to you?  

How should it impact your online marketing?  What was true then is true now.  Buyers are those who interact with your product or service.  Buyers take test drives, try on clothes, and request more info.  Buyers also click and get involved with your website.   They watch videos, download reports, sign up for lists, and click around on your product lists.

Like setting a hook while fishing, getting prospects to take that first action is all important.  So how can you get prospects to interact with your website?  How can you get them clicking so that they become more and more likely to purchase?

Let’s look at a few successful websites for some clues on getting clicks that lead to sales conversions.

  • Grill Fever – Kamado Joe I recently purchased a Kamado Joe (like a Big Green Egg only better) and I have it say, it’s awesome!  I like it so much I’m now looking for anything to grill.  We even cooked pizza on our Kamado a few weeks ago.  It was some of the best pizza I’ve ever had.  The Kamado Joe website has three involvement devices that are pretty powerful:  videos, recipes, and a dealer locator.  If you’ve got the bug for a new grill, the videos here are pretty irresistible.  They are fun and informative.  Also the recipes pull you in like a magnet.  As you begin reading the recipes and the comments made by other Kamado Joe enthusiasts you can imagine yourself cooking and enjoying these magnificent creations.  And, if you don’t already have a Kamado Joe, you’ll start craving one….bad!  Even the dealer locator with the required entering of a zip code is an important involvement device that will get people more likely to actually visit a dealer and make a purchase.
  • Beach Body strikes again ( )– I’m a huge fan of Beach Body, the company behind the runaway workout success P90X.  If you have a TV, I’m sure you’ve seen at least one infomercial for P90X.   For months it was the top producing infomercial in the world.  Because Beach Body is so good at marketing I try to get on every one of their mailing lists.  I also regularly visit their website (to see what they are testing), and I watch their infomercials when I can.  Some of your best marketing ideas can come from watching other great marketers.  A few months ago I found a Beach Body product with a great landing page and a few great involvement devices.  It’s for a training program called the Brazil Butt Lift.  As the name implies it’s all about shaping your backside (sort of like the Buns of Steel program from several years ago). The landing page and the video with it are brilliant.  Customers share great, descriptive testimonials like – “I get whistles and cat calls.”  And “No more cellulite or dimples.  You could bounce a quarter off of my booty.”  It’s important to note that the work out does more than just sculpt your booty….it trims inches, improves cardio health, tones the lower back and improves balance….but that’s not what really matters.  Adding in those features would dilute their core message – shaping a great booty.  This is currently the most popular work out class in NYC.  Also the choose your personalized booty transformation section is a great interaction device.  For someone interested in shaping their backside, this landing page is hard to resist.
  • Fueling your kitchen dreams. When you are considering remodeling your kitchen you are likely looking for ideas. does a great job of being an “idea center” for would-be kitchen remodelers.  They offer something pretty irresistible to visitors – Kitchen tours.  Before and after pictures and idea starters are a great way to get interaction.  How much more powerful is this rather than the “history of kitchens” or something like that?
  • Build your own Nikes.  ( You can completely design the look of your new Nike’s.  You’ll also pay a premium for it.  But, it does give you ownership, control, and it gets you involved in the process.  How likely would you be to purchase if you went through the 7 steps of designing your own shoe?  Much more likely than if you were simply looking at a catalog.

Regardless of what you are selling it’s critical that you get visitors to start clicking and really get involved in your site.  There’s no doubt that the more you can get customers to click, the more likely they are to buy from you.  So how can you get customer to get involved with your site? Get creative. Maybe 50 years from now people will be talking about you just like we are talking about the old TV salesman.

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