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#85- America's Two Greatest TV Pitchmen
Denny Hatch -- Direct Mail Expert Denny Hatch -- Direct Mail Expert
For Immediate Release:
Dateline: Philadelphia , PA
Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Issue #85- Tuesday, February 25, 2020


Posted by Denny Hatch
 America's Two Greatest TV Pitchmen:
They Could Sell Viagra to a Eunuch!

                          Billy Mays                          Ron Popeil

What Is the Secret of Success in Selling?
Piling on Benefits Like There's No Tomorrow!
Above are two marketing experts who sold ordinary products.
     Billy Mays glorified such plebeian products as a soap additive and a mechanical shovel for the garden as well as two dozen other gadgets and goodies.
     Ron Popeil (and members of his family) sold a set of cheap knives for kitchen and dinner table while a studio audience of consumers hung on their every word, frequently cheering and applauding.
     Watching these great performances is a riveting experience.
     The techniques they developed should be studied and picked up by consumer and business marketers of products and services and exploited by their salesmen, product managers, account executives, copywriters and designers at every level of the marketing process.

Billy Mays’ Assault on Your Senses
What am I talking about? Spend a jaw dropping minute and 57 seconds while Billy Mays hawks the ultimate gardener’s gizmo—AwesomeAuger.   http://youtu.be/bLDXfYDAziI

This was Mays’ breakthrough effort. He sold 6,000 of these motorized landscaping tools in the first 11 minutes on Home Shopping Network.
     In the following 12 years Mays went on to sell 25 more products with the same hysterical high-pitched intensity and frenzied gestures he brought to AwesomeAuger.
     Mays’ genius was to elevate rather mundane gadgets to life-changing necessities as he demonstrated more and more ways they could save you time and money and make your life easier.

I Erred…
I have always had sensitive hearing. I find loud noises painful.
Over a period of years, Billy Mays’ was all over television at all times of night and day like a cheap suit.
     Whenever I heard that piercing voice shout, “Billy Mays here with the….” I switched channels. His sound was like fingernails on a blackboard.
     Looking back, I should have watched and taken notes on every one of his 26 performances. He would have made me a far better publisher, direct marketer, consultant and copywriter. In short, I would have made a lot more money had I paid serious attention to Billy Mays.
     For example, look at the sequence of the AwesomeAuger commercial. At the outset Mays shouts:
“Just attach it to any size drill. Then pull the trigger…”
     Whereupon he pulls out of his quiver a wondrous collection of garden tools—digger, burrower, mixer, tiller and weed killer—all these for just $19.95!

Dealing with the Two Potential Deal Killers
The lurking questions that made his offer highly suspect:
   • “How can I be sure these attachments will fit my power drill?"
   • "What if I don’t own a power drill?"

WHAM! The Kicker! A Free Drill!
A $120 Value for Only $19.95!

A stunning climax! It’s truly a great deal!
     How can you say no?

Note: For the complete collection of every product Billy Mays ever pitched, click here.
Ron Popeil’s Stunning 
Knife Set Infomercial

I work at home. When I take a break—to get my head out of the direct marketing business—I sometimes turn on the TV and go around the dials.
     One show that used to stop me cold—I was hooked every time it came on—was a 30-minute infomercial selling a giant collection of cheap knives.
     This was a family affair, starring entrepreneur Ron Popeil along with his two daughters, Lauren and Shannon.
     Another other key player—and sheer delight—was Ron’s fast talking cousin, Arnold Morris.
     Wearing a high white chef’s toque and a blue apron, cousin Arnold was a wonderful old time pitchman from the midway of 19th century carnivals. As the two Popeil daughters keep appearing with new knives, cousin Arnold delivers riveting patter as he effortlessly slices, dices, chops and carves before a wildly enthusiastic studio audience.

 Benefits, Benefits and More Benefits!
 “Wait, There’s More!” You Can’t Say No!
These are attractive fun people. They love their product and believe in it deeply.
     What’s more, they are letting the viewer in on one whale of a deal that keeps getting better and better and better.
     Midway through the infomercial Popeil himself takes over and whips the audience into a frenzy. He finishes demonstrating a knife, throws up his hands and shouts, “Wait! There’s more!” or “I’m not finished yet!” Whereupon he produces another knife or three.

Screwy Arithmetic? Who Cares?
Throughout presentation are statements such as:

• These four steak knives sell at retail for $17.95 each!”

• “Isn’t it true, Ron, you sold this knife by itself for a retail price of $100?”

Tally up the “retail prices” quoted onscreen and the total is many hundreds of dollars-worth of cutlery. Yet this 25-piece set of knives, knife sharpener, kitchen shears and “Flavor Injector” costs only $39.99. (“3 easy payments of $13.33!” shouts the studio audience gleefully in unison.)

How Did Ron and Cousin Arnold Get Away with It?
The infomercial is a fascinating powerhouse where two master salesmen unleash spectacular theater. A viewer watching the studio audience laughing, cheering and applauding on cue—plus the avalanche of knives—will be immediately swept up in the drama and excitement.

• They forget the ancient caveat: “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

• Popeil & Co. created a “willing suspension of disbelief.”

• The infomercial was obviously a huge success, because it ran month in, month out.
If you have never seen this masterpiece…
NOTE:  If this link takes you to the middle of the Ron Popeil infomercial, go to the bottom of the screen. You’ll see a thin red line. Click on the right hand end of that line and drag it all the way left. It will get you to the beginning.

Sit back, relax and enjoy the show.

Unhappy Endings
•Billy Mays was found dead in his Tampa, Florida home by his wife on June 28, 2009. The cause was hypertensive heart disease. Billy Mays was 50. His net worth was estimated to be $10 million.

• Ron Popeil, inventor and purveyor of the Veg-O-Matic, Pocket Fisherman, Showtime Rotisserie, Solid Flavor Injector, Automatic Pasta Maker and “THERE’S MORE!” sold his company to Fi-Tek VII, a Denver holding company, for a reported $55 million. The company was renamed Ronco. On June 13, 2018, Ronco changed its bankruptcy filing from Chapter 11 (reorganization) to Chapter 7, full liquidation and shut down. Ron Popeil, 84, is reportedly worth $200 million.

Takeaways to Consider
• If you are selling a product or service, work like hell to come up with every possible feature and make a giant list.

• Turn those features into benefits.

“People don’t want quarter-inch drills. They want quarter-inch holes.”
   —The difference between features and benefits. MBA Magazine

• Follow the legendary David Ogilvy’s thinking process when he created his great one-page ad for Rolls-Royce—with a headline so unique it garnered Ogilvy's place in the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations.

• With whatever you're promoting, don't be shy. Pile on the features and benefits.

• The two most powerful words in this infomercial:

“The prospect doesn’t give a damn about you, your company or your product. All that matters is, ‘What’s in it for me’?”
  Bob Hacker, Seattle Direct Marketing wizard

• Always listen to WII-FM.
   —Old marketing maxim
Word count: 1171

At age 15, Denny Hatch—as a lowly apprentice—wrote his first news release for a Connecticut summer theater. To his astonishment it ran verbatim in The Middletown Press. He was instantly hooked on writing. After a two-year stint in the U.S. Army (1958-60), Denny had nine jobs in his first 12 years in business. He was fired from five of them and went on to save two businesses and start three others. One of his businesses—WHO’S MAILING WHAT! newsletter and archive service founded in 1984—revolutionized the science of how to measure the success of competitors’ direct mail. In the past 55 years he has been a book club director, magazine publisher, advertising copywriter/designer, editor, journalist and marketing consultant. He is the author of four published novels and seven books on business and marketing.


Denny Hatch
The St. James
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Philadelphia, PA 19106
215-644-9526 (Rings on my desk)

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