If you stay up past prime time, you can find them crowding the cable stations. And even though we think we're immune to them, their mere proliferation suggests that many of us aren't.
The fact is, infomercials are devilishly effective at compelling viewers to buy their products.
Despite the cheesiness of these late-night icons, every business can learn from their success.
Direct-Response Is the Key
Just about every company must have an online presence. And a website lives and dies by how well it does one thing: persuades its readers to take some sort of action.
It doesn't have to be clicking the "Buy Now" button. Moving on to the product descriptions, signing up for the company's newsletter, or sharing content on Facebook or Twitter are all examples of actions readers take when visiting a site.
The most blatant use of direct-response can be found on the following types of pages:
But, again, each website page is ultimately successful to the extent that it instigates some type of action.
Infomercials work so well because they are masters at this very thing: compelling their viewers to do something specific now - in other words, employing direct-response tactics.
The Elements of Persuasive Copy
These infomercial tactics work equally well on websites:
Play to Emotion. Although consumers like to believe they're using logic to make buying decisions, many purchases are driven by feelings. Infomercials use this to their advantage by evoking different emotions; and Web copy should, too, particularly in the headlines and subheads. The top 5 to activate are curiosity, vanity, fear, benevolence or altruism, and insecurity.
Give Proof. This is arguably where infomercials shine the brightest: testimonials that "prove" to the viewers that the product works. Websites need these, too, as well as supporting facts and statistics that enable readers to feel they've made a rational choice.
List the Benefits. It's an old marketing adage that's never more clear than on an infomercial: the copy must explain why a product or service will make the reader smarter, sexier, wealthier, or in some way better. Simply detailing a product's features won't cut it.
Offer Guarantees and Bonuses. Consumers are increasingly cautious. As they approach "the close," their alarm bells go off. The best way to put their worries to rest is with an unconditional guarantee - as well as a bonus that sweetens the deal, such as the "But wait, there's more" on a commercial. For a website, it might be a free white paper.
Create Urgency. Nothing motivates like the fear of missing out, which is why infomercials claim that if you call within the next half hour, you'll get something of added value. Websites can use this, too, by putting a deadline on a sale or cutting off the number of new members.
End with a Call to Action. On the infomercial it sounds like, "Call now - operators are standing by." On a website it's the big, bright "Buy" or "Subscribe" button. The reader must be entirely clear on what action to take next.
A website doesn't have to sell "magic sponges" or "ionic toothbrushes" to borrow from the infomercial. It must simply mimic the structure and techniques of these direct-response powerhouses to create compelling pages that convert.
What infomercials have you fallen prey to? Share your tale in a comment below.
About the author
Susannah Noel is a Vermont SEO copywriter and Communications Director at a web developer in the accounting field. She recently bought the Kymaro Body Shaper from an infomercial, and it sits unworn at the back of her closet. Connect with Susannah on Twitter or LinkedIn, or check out her website.