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Direct Response Marketing

DR Hammers Home Sales

1 May, 2013 By: Doug McPherson Response

Yes, DRTV is the perfect venue to demonstrate hardware products. But that’s just the first nail in building staggering sales.

Dr. Hammer Home SalesLiquid Nails adhesive is what you might call a sticky solution. As the name so aptly implies, the product features an adhesive that gives actual nails, well, an inferiority complex.

But when it came to selling Liquid Nails, marketers needed a sticky marketing solution — advertising that would not only stick in consumers’ minds, but also make consumers act and buy. One solution, of course, was direct response.

And recently the company has added some beef to its direct response efforts, with the emphasis on direct. Think old school: taking it to the streets.

Megan Abraham, assistant brand manager at AkzoNobel (the product's owner prior to an April 1 change to PPG), explains the company has devised a mobile marketing event dubbed “Tips On Tour.” It puts proficient pitchmen, with dazzling demonstrations and expert advice, directly in front of do-it-yourselfers and pros at retail locations throughout the United States — setting up right in the middle of Lowe’s and The Home Depot parking lots, and collecting E-mail addresses from all the wide-eyed onlookers. Throughout 2013, the company is sending business and project tips to the pros via E-mail.

Abraham says the events have landed impressive results and exceeded expectations, gathering thousands of E-mail addresses from pros in the field with an opt-in rate that’s above 90 percent to date.

She’s quick to add that although sales have been strong, the tour has two primary goals: to engage with the target audience and to give them long-term reasons to buy, rather than encourage on-site purchases. “Through the course of the tour, we’ve engaged with thousands of contractors and will continue to engage with them through E-mail,” she says.

Beyond this, Liquid Nails has used more traditional direct response with success. “Just about all of our paid media has a call to action to visit the Liquid Nails website (, engage with the content online and purchase the products at retail locations,” Abraham says. “The direct response/lead generation portion of the marketing plan has always been tied to creating value for the target audience. Liquid Nails adhesive promotes useful tips, white papers and how-to videos encouraging lead generation.”

She adds that the company has enjoyed the added branding benefit direct response has delivered, too. “Year-over-year, Liquid Nails has seen an increase in leads and an improved response from all media because of excellent brand awareness in the market, a refaced website that includes a mobile version, and PR efforts,” she says. “And we continually work to improve our media plans. All of our efforts — online, offline and the events — work together to support the brand.”

DR Floats Sales

Another marketer who can talk about direct response benefits for hardware products is Phil Swift. You might recognize Swift better if you saw him in a rowboat on the water.

When his company, Swift Response, developed Flex Seal (basically rubber in an aerosol can that seals, protects and stops leaks) in 2011, Swift says he knew his first step was “to get it in front of as many eyeballs as possible in a short time.”

“We immediately turned to direct response. It was a no-brainer,” Swift says. “Short-form DRTV could deliver the eyeballs, and it let us demonstrate the product.”

That demonstration, Swift says, was key. “We were all sitting around a table, brainstorming how we could show how strong the product was and my brother [Alan] yells out, ‘Let’s get a submarine and glue a door on it,’” Swift says. “We all kind of laughed and thought, ‘Where are we going to get a submarine?’ But then we came up with the idea of a rowboat.”

They swabbed a screen door with Flex Seal and made it the bottom of the boat. The ship’s skipper? Swift, of course.

That was a no brainer, too. Swift’s been in the ad business since 1980, and he’s a proven pitchman. So he launches the boat and floats off to the bank to cash in.

“It was hit right out of the gate — marina?” Swift says with a laugh. “I think it’s one of the best spots and demos of all time. We had a great team with a great scripts and it worked.”

Swift estimates that since the product first started making waves in 2011, he’s sold upwards of 10 million units, and it’s in 50,000 retail outlets.

Edging Toward Retail

Craig Taylor can relate to Swift’s success. He’s another marketer who knows about getting hardware products to retail. Taylor, vice president of marketing for Positec USA, the company behind the first cordless grass trimmer and edger, called WORX GT, remembers the story like this.

When Positec (Response, November 2012 cover feature) was ready to unveil the product, Taylor says “Plan A” was to sell it by going directly to retail. That didn’t work too well. “We knew it was a great product, but they just didn’t accept it at first,” Taylor says. “And they wanted to push the price down, too.”

Stuck with a growing inventory and few sales, Taylor says Positec’s president and CEO, Tom Duncan, found the perfect solution: DRTV.

“Tom had seen success in other durable products — and, in particular, the Little Giant Ladder spots,” Taylor says.

They went with long-form in 2007 and have never looked back. In fact, they’ve used DRTV for eight other products, and they’re on their third iteration of spots for an improved WORX GT.

Taylor says the company has come to learn many other benefits of DRTV beyond its obvious ability to move products. “We really developed an unknown segment of buyers we would have never discovered if we had gone directly to retail,” Taylor says. “That’s big for us. We educated a whole new group of consumers and added new volume to the trimmer.”

For Taylor, the word educated carries extra weight in advertising. “You can’t educate the consumer with other kinds of advertising. DRTV actually lets you teach consumers. It gives you the time you need to do that,” he says.

And, of course, getting into retail became much easier with a record of sales under their belt. “After we started showing up on market share reports in the industry, the retailers wanted to be part of the success,” Taylor says. “They became much more interested in what we had then.”

As for the importance of reaching the retail shelves, Taylor says he’s learned there’s a fairly stable ratio of DRTV-to-retail. “For every one person who’d buy it on DRTV, there are about eight people who’ll buy it at retail,” he contends.

Looking back, Taylor says DRTV was the perfect solution. “It started selling immediately and selling so well, it gave us a kind of renewable ad model so that we could turn around and put the cash from sales back into the advertising and we created this cycle of success — that’s the real beauty of DR,” he says.

Taylor also knows demonstration is key, especially with hardware products. “The DR format gives you the ability to demonstrate so you can overcome any objections to the product — and usually, they learn from the demonstrations that they’d use it more often than they thought they would, so you’re able to create that demand,” he adds.

One objection Positec thought might arise was how long the battery would last. So in one spot, they showed WORX GT edging around a football field three times.

“It was a great and people remembered it, but we eventually learned from feedback that was too much, it didn’t match what consumers thought their experience would be, so we dialed it back to two times around the football field,” Taylor says. “You have to make sure your demonstrations are believable and match the expectations of the demo to what their experiences might be.”

And to demonstrate the trimmer’s petite heft, Positec compared its weight to a gallon of milk and showed older people handling the product with no trouble.

DRTV Seals the Deal

Another company with hardware products that’s also a DRTV fan is Inventel, maker of Mighty Sealer, a flexible rubber coating sealant promoted to seal leaks of all kinds.

Stephanie Sierra, a spokesperson for Mighty Sealer and employee of Inventel, says Inventel has marketed Mighty Sealer through TV, print, radio and the Internet. Mighty Sealer hit the market in 2011 and has sold millions of units, the company reports.

“The DR-to-retail model has been very successful for us. We like it because it’s one of the best ways to get immediate feedback and find out how effective your marketing is so you can quickly make adjustments if you need to,” Sierra says. “When we looked at the DR results we received on the Mighty Sealer, we were able to tell immediately that we had a great product and a strong winner on our hands.”

Inventel was far from shy in choosing how to demonstrate Mighty Sealer’s usefulness in a two-minute DRTV spot airing nationwide.

Producers sealed an SUV, filled it with water complete with a scuba diver who’s shown peering out the front windshield with a wet smile and, you guessed, a can of Mighty Sealer.

Daring demos aside, Sierra says it also helped that the company opted to offer colorful options. Mighty Sealer comes in black, clear and white so consumers can fix leaks without having to paint over the result. “I think that one-step solution contributed to its success,” she says. ■

About the Author: Doug McPherson

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