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Guest Opinion: Bulls-eye! Hitting the Target or Targeting the Hit?

1 Sep, 2008 By: Response Contributor Response

A wise friend once related to me this parable: A king is walking through a forest and sees an astounding sight — tree after tree with targets drawn on them, and, at the dead center of each one, an arrow firmly planted in the bulls-eye. The king happens upon a little boy with a bow in his hand. "Are you the one who shot all these arrows?" asks the King. "Yes!" replies the boy. "Then what is the secret of your incredible accuracy?" the amazed king inquires. "It's really quite simple," the boy replies, "First I shoot the arrow, then I draw the target."

 Paul Greenberg
Paul Greenberg

The DRTV business is notoriously fickle, and a hit is incredibly rare. Statistics put the infomercial failure rate at 95 percent. So how is it that the same few people in this business are responsible for most of the hits? They understand the lesson behind the parable.

Most people think of an infomercial as an arrow they fire at their target audience. They assume that if only their accuracy is good enough they'll have a reasonable chance of striking the target. While that strategy is an option, it's unlikely to bear fruit consistently.

The parable tells us to look at it quite differently: Consider the audience as our arrow and the infomercial as our target that we paint around it.

So how do we apply this practically? Remember, if the target is to be drawn around the arrow we need to know everything about that arrow's placement. Who is your audience? What do they like? How do they think? What do they spend their money on?

We begin by drawing the bulls-eye around the very tip of the arrow. Orient your show to the demographic that is actually watching. It doesn't matter how great your show or how fantastic your product — if they're not watching they're not buying. Everyone knows it would be ludicrous trying to sell snow shovels in Hawaii. Perfectly craft your show around your audience.

Now that we have the arrow on the target, let's expand it. First, we paint the outer center of the target: Solve a real problem the audience is experiencing at that very moment. Show them they have the problem, and then clearly explain your solution. Make sure your arrow knows it belongs on your target right now.

Now comes the next band. Just as you are carefully positioning the target around the arrow, you must skillfully position your product around your audience. Here is where you have to go beyond saying it will solve their problem. You have to show and explain how it will do it. Keep in mind the audience is comprised of skeptics. You have to show and prove. Demonstrate why it works. Establish a belief system that explains how they can expect such tremendous results.

Let's add the next band. Anticipate the objections and answer every one of them. DRTV is based on impulse buying and overcoming a natural inclination of doubt. Before you start production, be brutally honest about your product. Pull it apart and examine all of its drawbacks. Then, turn those negatives into positives.

Now the next-to-last band — never take anything for granted. Many times I've screened infomercials to focus groups who come back with a seemingly simple complaint like, "With a battery-driven motor, it probably isn't very powerful." In fact, the product was a plug-in item but because we weren't clear enough, the audience had a significant objection based upon an incorrect assumption. Your audience can't touch or feel your product, so they'll want all the information they can get in order to be comfortable making that call.

Now it's time to complete our target with the final band. Make certain your infomercial contains the product's every imaginable real benefit and feature. Every time you show one you can potentially increase sales by 2 or 3 percent. How many people bought the food dehydrator because it made potpourri? Mention several of them and you can end up with more than a 10-percent increase in sales. Squeezing in as many features, benefits and situations into your show as reasonably possible can very often make the difference between success and failure.

Paul Greenberg is chief creative officer at Thane Direct Inc., in Los Angeles. He can be reached via phone at (323) 931-3600 or via E-mail at

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