5 Ways to Leverage Infomercial Structure in Your White Papers

5 Ways to Leverage Infomercial Structure in Your White Papers
Wendy Thomas - Thu Jul 16, 2009 @ 12:50PM
Comments: 19

Years ago, when I worked for Digital Equipment Corp I, along with all my colleagues took some training in personality types. One of the best.

In the training, I found out I was considered a “band wagon” kind of person who was heavily swayed by testimonials of others. This is true even to this day. Unlike, say my husband, a recommendation from a trusted friend means much more to me than pages and pages of numbers and figures. I want to trust people and from the people I trust, I want to know what they would recommend.

Don’t tell me that 4 out of 5 Dentists recommend something, tell me that a Dentist I know recommends it.

Having this information in hand has helped me many times. During the insomniac nights of late pregnancy, I would remind myself that I only wanted that pasta maker, that dehydrator, that cleaner, not because I needed it (because I didn’t)  but because I was being convinced by the very skilled spokesman that I had to have it. Good persuasion is an invaluable marketing skill.

According to Infomercial Development:

People watch Infomercials and buy Infomercial products for two main reasons:  (1) Infomercial products help to improve lives and (2) Infomercial products are often not available anywhere else.

Knowing this information about what sways me has helped target my writing when my audience consists of a group of “band wagoners.” You know that rowdy group that slap each other on the back and move around in packs. They ask for each other’s opinions before they make any decisions because they trust each other. They are moved by qualified friendly opinions.

When I write for that type of an audience, I tell more about why the solution solves their problem and less about the clinical how. I give examples, followed by still more examples of the practicality of the solution and how it will solve their problem resulting in their lives being easier.

For example, if you look at Billy Mays’ last filmed infomercial for Mighty Tape, you’ll see that in 1:02 minutes Billy shows us 4 times how this product works. The infomercial ends with the deal clincher of a literally life saving example where the Mighty Tape is used to make an air hose repair underwater. The stuff is fantastic. It works great. It will save me money and time. I trust what Billy is telling me.

I want some.

How can we leverage the highly effective structure of infomercials when writing our White Papers?

  1. Establish a trusting relationship up front. No one who has ever heard the infamous line “Hi, I’m Billy Mays” will confuse Billy with anyone else. We knew who he was. We trusted him. We knew his word was good.
  2. Immediately define a problem and identify why it causing your audience so much pain. Examples include: too much money being spent, resources being wasted, time being taken away from your workday, etc.
  3. Rally the troops by giving specific examples of how your solution solves those problems making their lives better.
  4. Establish more pain points and give still more examples. Let your audience know that you’re on their side and you really, really want to help them.
  5. Finally dazzle them by bringing it home with an example that can not be argued. Even though you may never, for the rest of your life, scuba dive - isn’t it nice to know that you could own a product that would fix your air hose underwater if the need arose?
Comments: 19

Comments

1. Jonathan Kranz  |  my website   |   Fri Jul 17, 2009 @ 02:23AM

No disrespect for the late Billy Mays, but I've always regarded myself as more of a Ron Popeil kind of guy. I think Ron might add the following to your excellent list of infomercial lessons:

1) Get sensual: What does this product feel like, smell like? When Ron sells those damn ovens, he's always telling you about the amazing aromas. Even B2B white papers can benefit from precise, specific and -- sometimes -- even sensual language.

2) Get a Greek chorus: The audience is there for a reason; they're the bandwagon Wendy mentions in her post. In papers, the chorus or audience would be represented by testimonials.

3) Get a sidekick: Ron always works with someone at his side who initially expresses skepticism, then converts to enthusiasm as the pitch evolves. This sidekick represents the customer's doubts and gives Ron a chance to shoot those doubts away. For us, case studies embedded in our white papers can fill a similar role.

4) Make it easy to order: I love the way Ron pushes his call to action -- "Just four easy payments of only..." It's silly, but it's psychologically astute -- the four small numbers are less intimidating than one big one, and make it easier for people to take the next step and order. We also have to make it easy for readers to take the next step -- be it a call, a demo or what have you.

Great work, Wendy!

2. Kate Headen  |  my website   |   Fri Jul 17, 2009 @ 07:06AM

I would only add to this list that Billy Mays taught us that you need to be truthful and avoid overselling and underdelivering. I have a friend who used to say to me: "I have never heard Billy Mays ptich a bad product. I would buy any product he pitches because I know it will be good." I watched a few episodes of "pitchmen" and saw how he really put products to the test before he would recommend them.

3. Wendy Thomas  |  my website   |   Tue Jul 21, 2009 @ 05:42AM

Jonathan,

I can always count on you to make great points. Your point about the drama is well taken. We love a good story, we love suspense (will the product hold?) we love to see a happy ending.

Writing good marketing material is like writing a best seller. You've got to capture your audience and lead them through your plot step by step. The pace has to be quick and the charcters believable.

If you can throw in a murder or two, you're golden.

Wendy

4. Wendy Thomas  |  my website   |   Tue Jul 21, 2009 @ 05:45AM

Kate,

I gave my husband the Big City Slider mini hamburger cooker for Father's day, Why did I buy it? Because it was endorsed by Billy Mays of course (it had to be good, his piciture was on the box) My kids were the most excited to try this.

Little did we know that in just a few short days we would be cooking those tiny little burgers in tribute.

Wendy

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