How do you judge whether or not your book or other item would make good infomercial product for TV? The following rating
system, which is excerpted from “How to Rate Infomercial Products” (DM News, November, 1995), should help you determine
how good an infomercial product your book might be. This article has been reproduced by permission of the author.
The writer is Gene Silverman, president of Hawthorne Communications, a direct response TV advertising agency and infomercial
producer. For more information about their services, contact Hawthorne Communications,
300 North 16th Street, Fairfield IA 52556; 641-472-3800; Fax: 641-472-6043.
How to Rate Infomercial Products
If you think you might have a product you could sell direct via a TV infomercial, take a look at these 10 elements
before you leap onto the broadcast airwaves to help determine the potential for your campaign's success. Be honest and
realistic in your ratings. Evaluate your product and your plan fairly.
Award three points for products in the Strong category, two points for those in the Good category, and one
point for products rating Fair.
If you score a total of 25 points or more, your chances of direct responce success via an infomercial campaign are
very strong. Even if you score 22 or 23, you still have a good chance at a successful campaign. Below 20, however, you
should probably consider an alternative route to generate revenue. In this case, an infomercial may not be the most
cost-effective choice for marketing your product.
1. The traditional direct response TV rule of thumb is that you should have a 5 to 1 markup between the cost of
goods and the price. However, if your markup is less than ideal, and if driving retail sales, developing continuity,
or creating a loss leader is more important than generating a direct response with the infomercial, your product may
still rate three points here.
2. Proven success is important because TV is a mass medium and proven appeal weighs heavily on success.
When paying for every household that is turning on a TV, you'll want every household to be a prospective customer.
When your product appeals to an upscale or niche market — a small percentage of the potential viewing market —
your rating dips to one point.
3. A product that is easily demonstrated and causes a magical transformation right before the viewer's eyes
is the most ideal type of product for an infomercial campaign. Car waxes and kitchen gadgets fit this category.
When you can show a problem and introduce a solution to that problem, demonstrating the before and after differences,
you've got a magical transfor- mation. As the problem and the results become less tangible, more abstract, such as
with self-help success products, the rating for your product decreases proportionately.
4. If you have established retail or direct channels for your product already, you know you have a market.
In fact, an infomercial can help drive retail sales — Braun's hand blender, for example. If your product is in the same
category as a successful infomercial seller, you're still in good shape. If there has been no sales history, you might
be on more risky ground and one point is all you rate.
5. An attractive ratio of value to price is important. Structure your offer so the customer
can't refuse it.
6. When your product solves a real problem, it will always be the best candidate for infomercial success. Products such as
weight-loss programs are in this category. Preventive products or products that solve a potential problem have less impact. A purely
preventive product would be the most difficult to sell via infomercial. Lead generation for preventives, such as life insurance,
however, might be a terrific infomercial concept.
7. A product priced at $49.95 or less is ideal. QRB and certain kitchen gadgets are good examples of products working well at
this price point.Time Life is a perfect example of a $99.95 price that works, and even though exercise equipment really moves for $100
or more, products in this range still rate only one point.
8. For direct sales, the best person to host or demonstrate your product is a presenter who has genuine zeal for the product,
like Susan Powter or Barbara DeAngelis. Dave Dornbush, the inventor of the Jet Stream oven, is perfect for American Harvest's
infomercials. Gaining celebrity participation may give you channel-stopping power and some credibility, but having a charismatic
personality with real enthusiasm for the product is still better. Mike Levey and Ron Popeil are fine examples of non-celebrity talent
with proven track records.
9. Most infomercials today do not work as profit centers themselves, so look for back-end or upsell potential with your
product. Ideally, you will want to get the customer on a continuity program or develop your business for reorders. This
category is so important, consider designating a zero if the back end is not there.
10. Statistics prove infomercials can have a dramatic impact on retail sales.
- If the infomercial you are considering is part of an overall advertising mix, with the product available at retail stores, and
your goal is to drive retail sales, give your product a rating of four.
- If you have a unique product and deep pockets, and you are willing to finance your campaign at no profit, keeping the show on
the air for four to six months to create retail demand, this category is worth two points. It's challenging, but it can be done
— Iona Appliances got retail distribution for its Fantom vacuum cleaner in just this way.
- If your product does not have retail distribution, award one point.
Remember, you should score at least 22 points total.
Once you have evaluated your product, there are a some other numbers you should keep in mind. Creating and producing an
infomercial today costs from $100,000 to $500,000 and testing how well the infomercial sells directly to the TV viewer will run from
$30,000 to $40,000.
To test retail sales impact, your infomercial should run ten times per market, per week, for a minimum of four weeks so the before and
after impact can be measured. Depending on the size of the market, the media cost can range from $5,000 to $50,000 per market, per week.
A typical retail sales test runs in two to four markets.
Contact information for the top TV Shopping Networks.