Become a Pitchman: Marketing the Billy Mays Way

04August

Become a Pitchman: Marketing the Billy Mays Way

You’re all aware of the mega success that the Pitchmen star and TV sales guru Billy Mays achieved in his lifetime. I recently came across this post from Big Wave Blog that analyzes exactly how Billy Mays was able to get people to buy his products over and over and over again.

Marketing Lessons From Billy Mays: How to Be Your Own Pitchman explores the three secrets that Billy Mays used to sell his products every time – whether it was OxiClean or Mighty Putty or the Hercules Hook. Anyone involved in sales – whether you’re a business owner or a marketer or a copywriter – should read this blog. It’s got lessons that we can all use, no matter what industry we’re in.

For the copywriters out there, this blog reminds us of four key lessons straight from Billy Mays that can all be incorporated into sales copy. These rules can apply to any type of sales copy – a direct mail piece, an email sales letter, your website, and even promotional brochures:

1. Is it clear that the product or service you’re selling is beneficial to your audience? Time to do your research: Who are you talking to? What kinds of things does your audience need or want? For instance, OxiClean was a product that was marketed to people looking for a quick fix to laundry and household stains: people like moms and single men and women. Once you’ve found your target audience, aim your copy to their needs: Do they want to save time with your product or service? Money? The Billy Mays key to a good sales pitch is knowing who your audience is and then speaking directly to their needs.

2. Have you used concrete examples to show the benefits? Billy’s product demonstrations were known for their “wow” factor. Take his Mighty Putty demonstration: he used Mighty Putty to connect the 500-ton HMS Bounty to a tugboat — and then towed the ship through water. It’s a great illustration of the amazing strength of Mighty Putty – and that’s not to mention the demos where he uses Mighty Putty to repair chairs, dressers, cars and appliances. In the same way, your copy needs to have that “wow” factor – it needs to show, not tell. We’re talking the difference between features and benefits here: strong copy has good, specific benefits that explain the features. It’s the difference between saying something like “Mighty Putty is a strong household epoxy” and “Mighty Putty’s holding power can be used to stick any two objects together with the force of 12,000 pounds.” For a refresher, see our previous post about Features vs. Benefits.

And Check out Billy’s Mighty Putty commercial here:

3. Does your copy have clear, immediate calls to action? We’re all familiar with Billy’s calls to action: Buy Now! Call in the next 10 minutes! It’s important that your call to action tells your audience exactly what to do. So it’s time to decide: what action do you want your clients to take? Do you want them to call you up to learn more, buy your product now, or sign up for your email newsletter? You need to be specific in your calls to action –
if it’s not clear exactly what action you want your audience to take, it’s not a good call to action.

4. Have you considered an added value? It’s a classic marketing idea, and Billy Mays was king at it: Order today and get an extra Samurai Shark PLUS Bonus Samurai Shears! Added values can make your call to action more urgent – giving your audience incentive to buy/call/signup/whatever NOW, since they’re getting a limited-time deal or offer. Consider a coupon, a free gift, or a discount on your product or service to make your call to action stronger. Of course, this might not work for every business, but it sure did work for Billy.

Thoughts? Do you love Billy Mays’ sales style – or could you leave it? Let us know what you think!

Posted by Michelle  Posted on 04 Aug 
  • Billy mays, lessons from billy mays, marketing like a pitchman, pitchmen, sales copywriting
  • Post Comments 21

    Posted by Wintress on
    • Aug 4 2009
    Reply  
    Cool video!
    Posted by Paul, copysnips.com on
    • Aug 5 2009
    Reply  
    Anyone who writes sales copy should basically be pitching. I love the Mighty Putty examples, which clearly demonstrate the benefits. Thanks for the great post.
    Posted by Roy Nash on
    • Aug 9 2009
    Reply  
    Intresting…… I knew Bill, when I was pitching the supper Sammie, and the V-Slicer, 30 years ago the public new view on pitch makes me laugh and smile, I don’t think we have too many real pitchmen coming up in this country, in that I mean that can really do it 6 months working fairs and shows, and then picking a state or big enough city to make a living for the other 6 months. I am not at all saying a pitchman is a Grifter, but could be if he or she wanted to be
      Posted by Michelle on
      • Aug 10 2009
      Reply  
      Paul -- you're right! Billy really was the master at "showing" the benefits of his products. Mighty Putty had some of the most impressive examples of illustrating benefits -- something we can all learn from. And Roy, thanks for the story! There probably aren't a whole lot of "real" pitchmen left; Billy's definitely a great role model for us all.
    Posted by ryan on
    • Jan 4 2010
    Reply  
    Where can i get in to pitching. I have been a professional MC for over 18 years and very good on camera
    Posted by Wintress Odom on
    • Jan 8 2010
    Reply  
    Hi Ryan, Honestly, I'm not sure. But I suppose you might consider looking for open casting calls. If you type into google "casting calls [insert your city name]" you're likely to get some good leads. Then I'd look for ones that are specifically listing positions you're interested in. My guess is, if you don't have much experience, you might not get the first few parts, but I imagine just showing up and visiting with the other actors/pitchmen would give you some good ideas on how to proceed. Hope that helps!
    Posted by Jeff on
    • Jan 30 2010
    Reply  
    Hi I just started selling Beef Jerky at a very succesful street fair with high quality up scale customers.My booth and display look great and I have a great product and a great show to sell it at.I give out samples to people and they love it but the problem is i have so many people there getting free samples and they love the jerky but then i fall short of actually making the sale.I did my first show last week and after i would give out the samples rather than saying anything I would wait for them to buy and not try to push the sale.I realize i am making a mistake by doing that. Can anyone offer me advise on what to say to politly incourage people to buy the jerky after they have tryed it and like it. I dont want to seem pushy,but i need to no how to politly incorage the sale. Any advise would be greatly appreciated. Thanks
    Posted by Wintress on
    • Jan 31 2010
    Reply  
    Hi Jeff, Are they giving you any reason for not buying the jerky? Or do they just eat the jerky, say "yumm!" and just sort of walk away? Wintress
    Posted by Jeff on
    • Feb 2 2010
    Reply  
    Well They say wow this is really good,Or i dont care for this flavor but i really like the original ect ect.We just got here and we are going to go walk the street fair and go have dinner we will catch you on the way out.Also i will give out samples and then others just start sticking there hands out for a sample and then walk away and the original person then just walks away.Every one loves the product and they have the cash to purchase it.I have no problem rallying a crowd. But then i stand there and wait for them to make up there mind.My history is selling jewelry with many choices where people want to look at everything and make up there own mind and not have anyone push them.But this is different now i have just one product that i am demonstrating and I need to learn different ways to politely lead them into buying after they have tried the product and liked it and are excited about it.One friend suggested saying would you like to take some home tonight. Would you like to buy one bag or to.Any advise on how to gently lead them into purchasing with out coming across pushy or rude would be greatly appreciated. Thanks
    Posted by Wintress Odom on
    • Feb 3 2010
    Reply  
    Well, to tell you the truth, our expertise really lies more in the written word, than in verbal sales pitches. However, thinking back to a lot of the booths at fairs where I've tended to buy things...it seems that running a "buy two get one free" special is pretty common. It also seems to work pretty well. Also, people tend to try to add value to their products, so last time I ended up buying some fairly expensive hand cream, for example, the lady put it on, demonstrated it, and then started breaking down the price. "Well, you'd pay $4.50 or $6.50 for a regular hand cream right? Well, this is $24.00, but you only need this one little dab, and look how far it goes...This bottle is $24.00, but it's a six month's supply." etc. etc. Then, she mentioned that if I bought the hand cream and the sea salt, I could pick one other product for free(back to the two for one special idea). "And wouldn't they make great gifts? Look...you can cross off half your Christmas list right here." So, suggesting other ways people might use the product (i.e. gifts), seems to a pretty good tactic too. Hope that helps!
    Posted by commercialfreak on
    • Mar 28 2010
    Reply  
    I LOVED Billy Mays' commercials!!!!! I would love to be a pitchman!!!!!
    Posted by commercialfreak on
    • Mar 28 2010
    Reply  
    hey wintress, what do you do for your job????
    Posted by Jim Morrissey on
    • Oct 15 2010
    Reply  
    I need a website to teach me the steps of auditioning for a pitchman...How to...from start to auditions...
    Posted by Formal DressesforJuniors on
    • Apr 2 2011
    Reply  
    What a well constructed article about pitching products from the legend, good job! Each point presented inspires me to unleash the personal power within to be my best online in a possible way to positively impact the world. What people need to also know it is not about being another Billy Mays--there will never be another one of him. It's about being the best YOU! Always be a student of your craft and apply those skills tirelessly, daily!
    Posted by JT Cooper on
    • May 6 2011
    Reply  
    If you can convince yourself to believe in the product, whatever it may be, the other techniques associated with pitching a product will come easily. This is this the number one key to success is pitching. If you don't actually believe in the product, you will come across as a fake and you won't sell very many.
    Posted by Jeremy on
    • May 16 2011
    Reply  
    #JT - It would have to be a good job of convincing yourself. I suppose your could act the rest. I firmly believe that the product must sell itself. Once you have that, your job is 100 times easier!
    Posted by Roy Nash on
    • May 28 2011
    Reply  
    Corporate America what wrong with that picture ? I doing stuff in Vegas by pitching / Montabuke/Gypsy mind set... miss my pitching buddy's
    Posted by Billy Mays III on
    • Sep 27 2011
    Reply  
    How to become a pitchman the Billy Mays way: http://t.co/jeYAykoL
    Posted by Counselling London on
    • Sep 30 2011
    Reply  
    I love it but the problem is i have so many people there getting free samples and they love the jerky but then i fall short of actually making the sale.
    Posted by david on
    • Jan 26 2012
    Reply  
    I sell products door to door one piece of advice a very famous person named zig zigler once said you miss 100% of the sales you never ask for in my industry the way to ask is like nike says just do it i would try somthing like adding tie downs to your pitch while talking about your product a tie down is a question or phrase that forces the customer to answer in the affirmative like "that makes sense right" or "lets go ahead and wrap this up for you will that be cash or credit" or maybe say somthing like "which two flavors are you gonna get" or maybe offer a two for one special or somthing to that effect just play with it timid salesmen have skinny kids
    Posted by Felt Ball Rug on
    • May 7 2012
    Reply  
    My booth and display look great and I have a great product and a great show to sell it at.I give out samples to people and they love it but the problem is i have so many people there getting free samples and they love the jerky but then i fall short of actually making the sale.

    Drop us a line

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *