Thursday, May 28, 2009

Planting the Seed

I had a call last week from a great voice-over talent that I've worked with for years. He had read my book and it reminded him of a project that he had done some work on a number of years before. He asked me to give him an evaluation on the project and I agreed.

Without disclosing too much, I'll say it was a music collection in a very strong genre, the songs recorded, all packaged and ready to go. The group had taken it straight to WalMart, who of course, offered them the worst terms in the world and so they let the whole project slip off the burner altogether. That was a few years ago.

Reading my book and especially the part about starting first on TV as the best way to get to retail, and making sure WalMart was the last stop on the retail line, Mike got fired up, called me and we talked about it at great length. I listened to some of the songs yesterday, Mike and I spoke at some length and I think there may be something there. The music is done, I think it would be a charming 90 second, or 2 minute DRTV spot, selling a couple of CD's for $20 or so and it should go, if handled correctly, almost directly into retail.

The big catch there is if it's handled correctly. You see, what needs to happen with a product like this is the TV commercial becomes the "retail driver". People see the commercial and if they don't order, the chances of converting them when they see it in retail are much higher and of course, the retailers all know that!!

Naturally, we'd love to have the TV spot make money, but it would also be fine if it just made enough to pay for itself running on TV and "driving" those retail sales.

The point of all this is, if you put your time and passion into creating something you love, you may have an opportunity to do something substantial with it, like make money from your passion.

Of course, there are no guarantees, but these folks have taken what could be a very exciting step into turning this project into something. And the investment on their side?? They don't need to put up any money, if they are asked to put up money, then there's a good chance they're getting scammed, one of the most common rip-offs in this I need to see if we can put this together and who will want to put it on the air..
I will keep you posted on progress...
Keep your eyes peeled for ideas, products, new angles on old ideas...the next better mousetrap is always out there..
Mark O

Friday, May 22, 2009

Trust (almost) no one!!

Just read a tweet about someone looking for a media buyer for a new tv product. As fast as I could I replied to please check back with me before calling a media buyer. Just like most people in this biz (direct response tv) the media buyer has a job to do. Their job is to sell tv time (media time) and they need to do their job to keep theirs, so they will sell you time without the slightest desire to help you figure out if your product will work or not.

If your product fails initially, they will gladly recommend someone they know (the kiss of death, read Ch. 9 of my book) to fix your commercial and then they'll sell you more tv time, as much as they can.

Are we different than all the rest? Absolutely! At TDTV, we need your product to work, otherwise we don't make money. When you make $$$ we do to....! There's a novel idea.

Check out my book, go to my website. Learn for yourself before you jump into this.

Mark O

Thursday, May 14, 2009

#7 Your Product: The answers to blog #6

Just to review
So, this is a continuation of previous Blog #6. Below are the basic answers to the questions as to whether your product might work on TV.
FYI, I do product evaluations and am happy to sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement with you, or your company, if necessary. Read on and enjoy.

Question #1

If it’s not easily demonstrated it’s probably not going to work on tv. Think of products like “The Pasta Maker” pot, with holes in the lid, or that spatula that grabs fried eggs, or the Dyson Vacuum, or Pro Active Acne product, or Oxi Clean (my personal fav). They're all extremely demonstrable products and perfect for a visual medium like tv. So demonstration is a key factor.

The very first infomercial I was hired to write was for the Black & Decker Handy Steamer. So, you tell me. “Does this qualify as a demonstrable product?” Not really, unless you really love the idea of watching food steam slowly, under a fogged-up clear cover. Horrible show, didn’t work at all, but I learned a lot. More on the “Handy Steamer” in “Stories from the Trenches”.

Ron Popiel and his rotisserie and his pasta maker are good demonstration products. Even better, Ron is a great pitchman, uses wildly cheering, live audiences and he shows a lot of finished products to overcome any weaknesses of the live part of the demonstration.

Question #2

By magic transformation think "before and after" shots; woman “before” shot at 200+ pounds and “after” shot where she’s lost 100 and now weighs 100 pounds.

Think of the knife demonstrators at the state fairs, the cheese graters, the slicers, reducing a carrot, a potato, an entire head of cabbage into cute spirals, julienne fries, or a mound of coleslaw with flick of the wrist. They are all magic transformations….and have made 100’s of millions of dollars, going all the way back to when Dr. Phinieas with his "snake oil" made little Billy walk again, right in front of his horse drawn wagon in Oklahoma 150 years ago.

Great examples of magic transformations are seen constantly in the Weight Loss, Exercise category of infomercial, loaded with Before and After shots (B&A's).

You see “Before” pics, usually stills, then we see the live “After” shots where Suzy Slimbody is spinning slowly on a turntable, in her size 2 pants, while holding up her size 112’s that she used to wear.

It’s a transformation and it looks amazing and we become more and more convinced by shot after shot of B&A’s until we’re convinced the Ab Schmoozer is going to make us into a new person for our 30th High School Reunion in 2 weeks, so we cough up the $300 buck + $89 for super rush delivery (BTW, rush delivery is a huge profit center in the infomercial biz…….) and somebody has made a bunch of money and in just about every case, you won't lose the weight.

Do most of the AB FLAB machines really work? Not usually and if they do, you've got to change your eating habits, usually drastically and workout at least 5 times a week.

When I did the second infomercial for the Fantom Vacuum which was the first version of today’s Dyson Vacuum, we went to some people’s homes, had a professional carpet cleaning company come and clean all the carpet in their home. Then we came in the next day and used the Fantom Vacuum and it really did kick butt. Picked up a ton of dirt, lint, hair, dog fur etc, which our field reporter dumped out of the clear, Fantom canister onto a plate, to the astonishment of everyone. It was a great transformation shot for a vacuum and one of the wonderful real "demos" that we created that won that program "Best Demonstration Infomercial" back in the 90's.

Remember this, if your product doesn’t really work, do not try to fleece anyone into thinking it does, or that it will do things it really can’t do. There's way too many of these kinds of programs and products around. Do yourself and your family proud. Only bring great products and ideas to market.

One of the things that I'm most proud of is the fact that I only will take on a great product. In the beginning, I was mostly lucky to find a succession of great ones. These days I'm extremely selective and it pays off, over and over. My shows work and I have a great reputation in this business, that I'm extremely proud of.

Question #3.

If it is, look elsewhere, find a new product.

Don't misunderstand me, there's always room for a new and better mousetrap, but for the most part, the better mousetrap won't do well as a TV product. TV products need to be new. Of course the new and improved rotisserie, vacuum cleaner and the latest weight loss craze are new and improved, but usually they're the first of their particular kind. In fact, many of the weight loss programs you see, are simply a new angle on the same old story, or product. If it's a good product and it's got a great new angle, it may be worth considering, if it meets all the other requirements.

Question #4

This is just as important as all the rest, because if there's not enough margin, enough mark-up between the cost of goods (COG) of the product and the retail price, you don't stand a chance.

For most people, this is an unknown answer, because you make your product one at a time, in the garage, and have no idea how much it will cost to make 1,000 or 10,000, or 100,000 of these suckers….heck, you get tired even thinking about it…

If you do know the markup, aim for a 10:1 ratio. In other words, you pay $1.00 for the product, which we’ll being calling “Cost of Goods, or COG” and you sell it for $10.

I realize this is a breathtaking markup. And it’s a tough one. There can be some leeway on this but as we go in this discussion you’ll see why we want to always shoot for a 10 to 1 ratio.

As always this is covered in very helpful detail in my book. In fact this is from part of Chapter 3.

Friday, May 8, 2009

#6 Your Product on TV

You've got a product. Stop! Don't go any further. Here's an example why and it's one of the most common calls I get:

“Mr. Olson, I’m wondering if you can help me with my infomercial. My product “The Blinking Fazzmanot” is a winner…I’m sure. And I’ve done an infomercial, ….I’ve sunk my life savings into it…..but …you know…it didn’t do too well….and I don’t have a lot of money left….but I know it can be huge….can you take a look at the program and maybe help me make it work better?”

A real heartbreaker of a phone call.

Before you go any further, you need an honest assessment of your product that will help tell you if your product is in the infomercial ballpark.





Here’s the answers you need:
#1. Yes
#2. Yes
#3. No
#4. 10 to 1 (it costs $1 to make and you sell it for $10, or maybe 7 to 1.

I've got to run, but for now, look at your product or a product you've got your eye on and ask and answer the questions honestly. If you want more info, this is directly out of Chapter 3 of my book and you can get the entire assessment guide plus tons and tons more, there...and it's one the great investments you will ever make if you're interested in putting your product on TV.
I will come back with more details in the next day, or so...
Over and out,
Mark O

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

#5 What is direct response selling?

In the broadest term, direct response selling is someone selling directly to their customer and there's all sorts of ways to do it: direct mail, catalogs, the web of course, radio and my favorite TV.

In general if you are given the opportunity to order the product, or service you're looking at a direct response selling tool.

When people mention infomercials they usually don't classify them as a direct response selling tool, but they are. In fact, the infomercial is a subset called direct response television, or DRTV and as I keep saying over and over both here and in my book, DRTV is the king of the hill, both in sheer sales numbers and also as the fastest way to get a product into retail.

The infomercial is a half-hour commercial, while it's close cousin is called a "spot" meaning they are no longer than 2 minutes and can also be 60 or 90 seconds long.

One of the great things to come out of our slumping economy is the fact that the price for TV time has gone down significantly. That means projects that were not able to make money in the past, might have a serious shot at it now. Media costs and all the costs related to selling a product on TV, whether a spot, or an infomercial are covered in depth in "The Infomercial Goldmine".

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Blog#4:The Lead Generator

I'm going to skip ahead a bit on the "small steps" theme, because I want to plant a seed of an idea in your mind about products and finding them.

One of the easiest ways to make money is with what is called a lead generator. To get all the details it's in Chapter 13 of my book, but here are the high points. Generally, if you're going to put a product on TV and it's going to sell for right around twenty dollars, it's going to be advertised with what is called a "spot", meaning 60, 90 or 120 second commercial.

On the other hand, the next level of pricing begins at $40 and up and for prices like that, you're going to need an infomercial, meaning a commercial that's a half-hour long (actually it's 28 minutes, 30 seconds in length, or 28:30 in TV language.

Now, when we get to the more expensive products, usually $300 or $400 and up, you very, very rarely see them on TV as a direct sale, instead their commercials are "lead generators" where the view calls in for more information.

The lead gen as it's known, enables the company selling the product to do 2 things:
1. They capture the viewer's name, phone, email and address so they can send them additional, more carefully targeted sales material like a DVD, brochures etc.

2. The company can now contact the viewer within a few days of the viewer receiving the sales materials and try to "close" them on a sale, using a professionally trained, telemarketing company.

But here's the greatest thing about lead generators for you. There are lots of companies out there, with great products that ARE NOT being shown on TV and they could be, so the goal for you is to be on the look-out for the good ones and then bring them to someone's attention.

I know what you're thinking..."Wait a minute, Olson wants me to find products and bring them to him. Why should I do that?"

Great question. First, you don't have to bring them to me, but you're probably going to want to bring them to someone, because it's going to take money and a company with a lot of "know how" to put the product on TV and make it work. But when it works, you can make money every single time someone buys the product and I'm not talking about chump change here, but pretty decent money.

If you bring a product to someone, don't show your hand too early. Be extremely general, as in: "I've come across a really amazing product that I think you might be interested in as a lead-generator." Don't tell any more than that...I'd even keep the category to myself.

Next, ask for a simple deal memo, whereby you are paid a small percentage of every sale on TV, including upsells and all back-end sales, all retail sales, all web and catalog sales for that product.

You're not going to get 10 bucks on each sale, but it's completely possible that you could get a buck, or even $5 on each sale, depending on the price and that should go on for as long as the product is selling.

How many Bow-Flex machines do you think have been sold? I know it's in the millions and if you're getting a buck on each....???

The big secret is to have simple, but air-tight agreements with both the company you're representing and with the marketing company.

What kind of products do I look for you should be asking? Exercise machines always get a lot of attention and it seems like every day there's a new one out there. The cheap ones go as direct sales, while all the Bow-flex, Nordic Track stuff is usually a lead-gen, but most of those big guys know the TV business. You may stumble on a new one, so never stop looking!

What else? I've always thought those mechanical sunshades for a porch could do well, but never seen one on TV.

Hey, it could be a revolutionary, fold-up picnic table, or a tiny, electric bike....on and on and on....

Start looking and thinking. This will really help as you begin to get the feel for the world of direct response selling and DRTV.


I've been talking with some of the folks who've read my book and they're loving it!
(google: "Infomercial Goldmine" or my name and you're there).

Anyhow, comments are so positive, I'm thrilled. Probably my favorite is how entertaining and funny it is, but also, how totally packed it is with information. Just spoke with a former partner of mine, Linda Buzzalini and she echoed that exactly. I'll paraphrase, but it's essentially that people all want to get into the infomercial business, but no one knows the first thing about it. Well, it sounds like the "arrow has hit the mark" in terms of what I tried to accomplish.
Much thanks to all my readers out there!!