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December 16, 2017

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But Wait - There’s More. What Staffing Sales Pros Can Learn from TV Infomercials

It’s happened to all of us: we’re channel surfing late at night or on the weekend, and the next thing we know we’ve been watching Ron Popeil demonstrate the features of the Showtime Rotisserie for the past ten minutes. We can’t believe that we’re actually chanting, “Set it and forget it!” in our minds right along with the over-enthusiastic studio audience. We may have even purchased products like Proactiv Solutions or Tae Bo workout tapes. And how many of us have the ever-popular George Foreman grill stashed away in a kitchen cupboard?

We can’t resist joking about products like The Great Looking Hair (GLH) System, a spray paint in a can that covers bald spots, or Rejuvenique, Linda Evans’ terrifying beauty product, which is essentially a plastic mask hooked up to a 9-volt battery. We can laugh all we want, but the companies selling their products via infomercials are laughing all the way to the bank. Elissa Myers, president of the Electronic Retailing Association (ERA), estimates that Americans spend $14 billion each year on products marketed via infomercials, while home shopping channels like QVC and HSN generate another $6-8 billion dollars annually. That’s why infomercials are going mainstream: major companies like Gateway, Whirlpool, SONY, and Carnival cruise lines now sell via infomercials.

So what’s the appeal? And what are the secrets to infomercial success? How can we, as sales professionals in the staffing industry, use infomercial techniques without coming across like Matthew Lesko (that annoying man who dresses like the Riddler, talks like Urkel, and promises you the secrets to getting lots of government money for free)? Let’s explore these four basic concepts behind the genius of infomercials:

  1. Storytelling, Not Advertising or Commercials

    In their June 2005 issue, CNNMoney.com featured an article that profiled the “king of the infomercial,” a man named Timothy Hawthorne. At the writing of the article, Hawthorne’s company, Hawthorne Direct, boasted 70 employees, $120 million in billings, and a 15 percent share of the industry. Here’s what Hawthorne had to say about his success in producing more than 500 infomercials: "I don't consider myself an advertising guy, I'm more of an audiovisual communicator." Instead of presenting a commercial, Hawthorne “embeds the product in a tale of hope and transformation that entertains, delights, and persuades."

    When selling your staffing services, are you telling a great story or just reciting a thirty-second commercial? Use client and candidate success stories to illustrate the benefits of your service instead of just listing features. Which is more effective:

    Commercial A: We’re ABC Staffing and we provide you with the best candidates on the market.

    Infomercial B: I’d like to share a brief story about what one of our ABC Staffing candidates recently did for your competitor….

  2. Forget Prime Time; Try Off Hours

    Infomercials air outside of peak hours, and much of their sales success comes from catching a bleary-eyed audience late at night or early in the morning when they are tired, bored, or just more predisposed to making an impulse purchase. Are you calling your prospects during the middle of a busy business day or during their weekly staff meeting? Do you know your prospects’ schedules and working habits? It’s not difficult to find out. Why not try reaching prospects before or after business hours, on Friday afternoons or weekends? Successful sales pros will tell you that bank holidays, the day after Thanksgiving, and December 23 are auspicious days for landing appointments with coveted prospects.

  3. Operators Are Standing By: Creating a Call to Action

    In regular commercials, advertisers do not solicit a direct response from viewers, but instead brand their product in the market place amongst potential buyers. Infomercials are designed to illicit a direct response: “Act Now and You’ll Also Receive...Operators are Standing By." Are you leaving voicemail commercials or voicemail infomercials for your prospects? Are you giving prospects a reason to take action or allowing them to wait passively until they hear or see your next commercial? If a prospect called you back, whom would he reach: a live and informed operator or your voicemail?

    Give sales prospects a reason to call you. Create a trailer or a cliffhanger for that great story: “XYZ Company. Just 30 Days. Only A $5000 Budget. The Challenge: To scan and code all company data. ABC Staffing helped them do it; call and I’ll tell you how.”

  4. “As Seen On TV”

    Viewer recall from infomercials is three times higher than recall for traditional 30-second commercials. Infomercials are great at boosting brand awareness, yet only 30 percent of viewers will buy from TV. Even infomercial advertisers take a multi-tiered approach to selling their product because seventy percent of sales happen in stores due to the “As Seen on TV” label.

    How can this strategy work for you? Let’s go back to your great infomercial stories. Can you get them featured with a local newspaper, radio, television, or magazine and then create your own “As Seen On” campaign? Or bypass the media and create an email or marketing piece that profiles a specific candidate. Then follow up with a phone call: “You may remember reading about this candidate we featured in our last newsletter. She just successfully completed an assignment and now she’s available to work for you!”

  5. But Wait--- There’s More!!

    Did you notice that several paragraphs earlier this article offered four basic sales pointers and now there is an added-bonus fifth? Infomercials are designed to create added value. You don’t just get the Inside-The-Shell Electric Egg Scrambler; you’ll also receive the Flip-It spatula and a set of Ginsu knives.

    What added values (real and perceived) are you offering your buyers? Surprise your clients with an extra feature they were not expecting. It can be as small as guaranteeing a standard subject line format for your emails (Job Title or Order Number First, followed by Candidate Last Name or Candidate First Name) so that clients can search their emails more effectively and efficiently. Create a standard dress code for your temporary employees so clients can always expect a consistent professional appearance. Little extras make a big difference.

    But, wait--there’s even more!! Testimonials add credibility. And don’t forget repetition, lots and lots of repetition. Selling is not like that rotisserie oven; you can’t just “Set It and Forget It." It’s more like the spay-on hair for bald spots; you’ve got to keep covering the same territory again and again.

    How much would you pay for these priceless sales strategies guaranteed to create better results? Try them out at no cost for sixty days. If you’re not closing more calls and converting more prospects into clients, send them back! You’ll still get to keep your Chia Pet and that nice set of Ginsu knives.

by Charlene Dupray, Staffing Industry Tips Reporter

Charlene Dupray created her own recruiting infomercials in Manhattan as a manager for a full-service bilingual staffing agency. She confesses to buying a ThighMaster after seeing one on TV. Charlene currently lives in Wilmington, NC, where she serves as a reporter for Staffing Industry Tips and a consultant for the industry. With the rest of her time, she and her husband make and market bonbons (www.southnfrance.com).