This is one of an occasional series featuring direct marketing leaders who will share five key insights they have learned from their career in marketing and advertising.
This week your Friday Forecaster engaged Lindsey Brooks, product sourcing guru and CEO of Boardwalk Brand in a discussion about marketing products amid an era dominated by social media and persistent change. Lindsey’s wide-ranging career began pitching products at fairs, trade shows, and on TV. There, in front of crowds both real and virtual, she honed a unique ability to connect with people and get them to willingly part with their money. Lindsey possesses a singular commitment to research and understanding the psychology of the consumer that forms the basis of her five key insights shared below.
- Be Open to Opportunities
“You have to be able to see the forest for the trees and see the real potential in an item. I’ve had many so-called experts tell me, ‘That product is already out in the marketplace.’ The difference is I pushed back against the naysayers because I knew my presentation of the product was going to be better than anybody else’s. Take my latest product, the Bottle Rocket. It’s a wine opener and, indeed, there are a lot of wine openers for sale. But the effortlessness with which our product uncorks a bottle of wine can be easily demonstrated in a few seconds. It’s incredibly simple, but also incredibly persuasive.”
- The Pitch, Not Necessarily the Product, is King
“You’ll often hear, ‘the product is king,’ but I think the pitch is actually what is most important. That’s why the demo has to be strong – it’s the first thing that catches someone’s eye and you have to be able to perform it in 20 seconds or less. I know this from working live crowds at fairs – a compelling demonstration draws people in, and the best pitch people understand this is an art. Just as a stone gathers moss, a crowd of people attracts even more people. It’s a form of social proof. If it can work on the live pitch circuit, there’s a good chance it will work in a virtual world too.”
- Facebook Allows You to Pick the Perfect Customer
“With DRTV you have to spend ten grand on a media test to see if an item works, but you don’t really know much of anything about your consumer or what drove them to buy or not buy the product. I have to throw out this huge net and hope I get a few people to respond. Conversely, Facebook allows you to pick the perfect customer because it’s hyper-targeted. They know so much about your consumer and their tastes and habits, that it allows you to do precise consumer modeling. It’s a lot easier to set a trap for an animal when you know what they like to eat and when they like to eat it. That is what Facebook allows you to know and act upon.”
- Need, Greed, and Heed Are Guiding Principles
“The late, great pitchman Arnold Morris taught me about the three principles that drive human psychology. He called it ‘need, greed, and heed.’ First is establishing the need with the consumer. Take the Snuggie, for example. They showed how a person lying on the couch in their chilly home doesn’t want to be inconvenienced with getting up and changing the thermostat. The solution: a blanket with sleeves to keep you comfy and cozy. Is that really a compelling problem? It must be because according to some estimates it sold a $500 million worth of product. The greed is satisfying the urge for more of something. Again, take the bottle opener. It allows anyone to appear clever and capable which could translate into – who knows what? A more successful date, the admiration of the neighbors at a gathering or family at a holiday occasion. Nobody wants to be seen wrestling incompetently with a cork, right? The heed is about what other people are saying. Take Facebook, for example. People are very insecure and they monitor what others are doing and compare themselves. As we’ve just demonstrated, a product can paint someone in a favorable light. It’s about getting inside the head of the consumer to understand what motivates them.”
- Ask ‘Why?’ Until All of the Questions Are Answered
“You have to keep pushing until you know what is motivating every aspect of your consumer. The old days of throwing it against the wall and seeing what sticks is no longer a viable business strategy because consumers have too many things competing for their attention. You have to deeply understand the demographic and psychographic characteristics of your consumer. What motivates them? What are they willing to pay? What are the barriers to entry – their fears and concerns? Unfortunately, I think there is a legacy in the DRTV products business where people are afraid to pursue these kinds of questions because they are often wrong or don’t know how to go about getting the proper answers. That’s why the failure rate in the industry is as high as it is.”
Lindsey concluded, “People want to buy our products, but they don’t want them necessarily presented in an ‘As Seen On TV’ light. There’s a bad vibe associated with many of those kinds of products. The companies selling them don’t have an address or relied on poor customer service to churn through people. We’re in a marketplace now where the customer wants to be heard and their opinion really matters. That’s why the days of one-off products and transactions is dead. Now it’s about relationships, and not only about having a product that has a ‘wow’ demo, but one that can actually deliver on its claims and build proper trust. They say the truth can set you free. It can also make you very rich.”
Rick Petry is a direct marketing veteran of over 25 years who has been involved with campaigns that have generated over $1 billion in sales. He provides creative services to both B2C and B2B marketing campaigns and recent projects have included Actegy/Revitive, Education Connection, GOLO, Joybird, and OYO. The author of over 200 articles on direct marketing best practices, Petry has a Bachelor of Arts in Cinema/Television from the University of Southern California and an MBA with a Concentration in Marketing and Sales from Marylhurst University.