Born on the boardwalks and perfectly honed to help uncover your brand’s true value, the art of the ‘pitchman’ balances levity, information and clear invitations to become a customer in a method so strong that we all once felt like the Snuggie was a good idea. (It totally is). The secrets of great pitchmen like Ron Popeil, Jack Lalane and Billy Mays weren’t (just) spectacular product but powerful *new* thinking about marketing those products.
A brief history of the pitchman
Ron wasn’t the first pitchman, he was just the first to really hit it on television. Ron learned the art of the pitch from his father at boardwalks and carnivals. Imagine a young Ron at the carnival with nothing but his product and a sample bench, a busker and a salesman. First he’d grab your attention, display and explain his product, then invite people to buy right at that moment.
Sure, Ron has a great smile and beautiful (sprayed on) hair. Yes, Vince Offer has enough energy and snarky humor to make anything a guilty pleasure. Billy Mays found so many excuses to own Mighty Putty than MacGuyver could swear off paperclips and duct tape for life.
For your brand to make it at the ‘boardwalk,’ you needed to grab people’s attention, draw and keep a crowd, explain your product plainly and demonstrate its value superbly.
Lessons from Pitchmen for Digital Marketing
1. Demand Attention
Like the carnival, boardwalk or late night television, it’s not enough to simply show up. Demand the attention of your potential audience. There’s no silver bullet to this but there are some great examples of brands tugging for attention online.
Dollar Shave Club published a brilliant display of a dry humor (and clear explanation) so strong that people couldn’t help but draw their friends in. Within days of being published, the monthly razor cartridge subscription service had earned millions of views.
While ‘viral’ videos tend to be the ‘stand out’ examples of creativity and effectiveness, capturing attention can be as simple as a stunning and inviting website, an effective search marketing campaign or a truly engaging social media strategy built around useful, quality content.
2. Keep Your Audience Engaged
If you can’t keep the attention of your audience long enough to show your stuff, what was the point? Had ‘The Man Your Man Could Smell Like’ not moved Old Spice product, the campaign would have been a bust rather than a launching pad for the brand’s rebirth.
Pitchmen use a number of methods to keep the audience engaged, from the ‘flair’ of their presentation to offers and carefully curated storytelling – though they’re better known as customer testimonials.
Harley Davidson weaves tails of real riders to showcase the feeling that anybody can be a rebel, even if you’re a soccer mom or 3rd grade teacher.
The soon-to-launch website of Soggy Dollar Bar, a SilverTech client, invites visitors into an online experience nearly as enjoyable as being on the island itself.
Storytelling is a powerful device for conveying any information. Rewrite your favorite case study in the framework of a story. A case study story framework includes an introduction, the crisis/problem, the solution, the climax (overcoming problems encountered in the solution) and finally, the resolution –that happy ending where your customer lived 463% happier.
Promote this story and your testimonials. Make them shine! Use the testimonials as you would ad copy on your own branded content.
Keep the ‘brass tacks’ version of your case studies around too. While your dramatic reads will be hard to put down, some people simply prefer Cliff’s Notes.
3. Expertly Explain Your Product or Service Plainly
There is a reason that Ronco inventions are always see through. Popeil learned early on that it is essential that customers understand what you’re doing for them. The magic isn’t valuable, the results are. For Ronco inventions, transparency conquered doubt.
Selling on smoke-and-mirrors rarely works today. Decades of snake-oil combined with unparalleled instant access to information has made for a very ‘real’ prospect base. If your current plan is to sell on ‘magic,’ you may notice that the first questions you get are about the real results of your unique, patented, space-age process. Even if your service is so complex to explain that you may as well be spell-weaving for your prospect, remember that the value is in the results –and that those results are MUCH easier to understand if they can see how your ‘machine’ built it.
Create an arsenal of similes, illustrations, animations or anything else you would require to explain your business at a family holiday. Remember that each member of your family learns differently, so blend the media types used for best effect.
4. Invite your Audience to Buy
If you’ve poured your heart, soul and budget into building and captivating your audience, don’t forget to sell! The pitchmen implore their audience to ‘act now!’ The best will often match the act with a special offer. Every touch point, every unit of content, every story and every demonstration should invite your audience to become a customer in addition to inviting them to hang around for more information.
Your first pitch may not be the one that sells and the same is true with online interactions. What’s important is that you build in a method for those who want to know more know more and those who are ready to buy in to buy in.
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