7 Marketing Lessons from the Late, Great Pitchman Billy Mays

billymaysoxyclean.jpgLike many of you, I was saddened to learn on Sunday that Billy Mays died at the age of 50. My family has been watching the Discovery Channel series Pitchmen, featuring Mays and fellow pitchman Anthony Sullivan.

I had been planning this post for a few weeks, but there has been so much search news to cover, I haven’t had the time. Now, I’m publishing it to honor the tried and true techniques Billy Mays used to sell millions of products. Mays’ style may not be your cup of tea, but the foundational concepts behind his pitches are something every search marketer can learn from. His incredible success was proof of that.

So, without further ado, here are 7 marketing lessons from the late, great Billy Mays.

1. Have a solid product. On the show, Billy Mays and Anthony Sullivan saw hundreds of inventors who want their products sold through direct marketing television. Mays and Sullivan only chose the products they believed in. Even then, they tested them to make sure they worked and met safety standards.

2. Listen to consumers. When considering a new product, Mays and Sullivan often took it to the streets. They had people try out the products and give their honest response. This is one of the first indicators of whether or not a product might do well. Paying attention to what is said about your brand or product online can similarly be very informative to your marketing campaigns.

3. Show how your product can make people’s lives easier. One of Mays’ most popular products was Oxyclean, allows you to wash colors and whites together. Before the ShamWow, Billy Mays hawked the Zorbeez, a shammy towel that absorbed tons of water and could save tons of money on paper towels. Even non-infomercial products are successful when they do this. Think about the Flip video camera. It’s simple and easy to use. It makes capturing moments and uploading them to YouTube very easy. This should be a key element of your campaigns.

4. Include a Call-to-Action. Billy Mays knew this well. He was always “doubling the offer,” urging people to act now. Give people incentive to buy your product now. A great incentive for online retailers is offering free shipping.

5. Run a small test before launching a broad campaign. When Mays developed a commercial for a new product, it was run in a few markets to see if it was something consumers would buy. The profit margins had to be there in order to expand. Many times, if the product doesn’t do well, they had to stop the campaign to prevent further losses. Test a few keywords before running a broad campaign with tons of longtail keywords. You may need to adjust your campaign or product, but you’ll want to preserve your marketing budget in the meantime.

billymaysawesomeauger.jpg6. Conduct A/B Testing on Successful Ad Campaigns. For the Awesome Auger, a product that was doing very well, Mays shot a second commercial. It looked almost exactly like the original one, but the framing of Mays in the camera was slightly different. That slight cosmetic change was a big one. An A/B test showed sales rose even higher!

7. Watch the competition. When Vince Offer began hawking the ShamWow and the SlapChop, Billy Mays was pissed. These were products he had already been advertising in the form of Zorbeez and QuickChop. Offer’s products did very well, selling millions. So, Mays shot new commercials in order to gain back his market share. Pay attention to your competition. Watch your rankings and your paid search positions. Never stop optimizing and adjusting your paid search campaigns. Stay on your toes to maintain or even grow your sales.

What did you learn from Billy Mays? Share your lessons in the comments below.

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