Could the late pitchman Billy Mays transform your advertising?

Real Estate Agent with Wilson Copywriting

The same week that Michael Jackson died also saw the passing of Billy Mays, the instantly recognizable pitchman whose informercials for products like Oxyclean filled the broadcast airwaves.  Though many advertising purists turned up their noses at his high-volume, direct marketing approach, there was no denying his phenomenal success in generating billions of dollars in sales for his clients.

Did he know something about advertising that would benefit your marketing?  While you may not want to copy his look (unnaturally black beard and drab blue work shirt) or his delivery (maximum decibels, minimum subtlety), adopting some of the proven tactics of direct response television marketers could turbo-charge the effectiveness of your efforts.

1.  The more you tell, the more you sell -- try to include a complete sales presentation in your advertising materials.  Ask yourself if you've given them enough information to respond.

2.  It's about them, not about you -- people (including ourselves) are primarily motivated by self-interest.  Your advertising should focus on their needs, not your achievements.

3.  Solve a problem -- Define the problem.  Feel their pain.  Tell them how you are best equipped to solve their problem.  The problem is the headache, and you are the aspirin.

4.  Be passionate -- the founder of the Body Shop empire, Anita Roddick, said, "Passion persuades."  Billy Mays sold products with an incredible amount of energy and enthusiasm.  Does that come through in your communication to consumers?

5.  Include a powerful offer -- No matter how expertly produced your ads or post cards might be, it usually takes something extra to overcome inertia.  Make responding worth the consumer's while with a valuable offer.  It could be free information, a small gift, or a special privilege.  The easiest thing for a consumer to do is nothing.  Reward them for taking action, and you're likely to see your response grow significantly.

To many of us, abandoning image advertising to embrace the direct marketing approach used by practitioners like Billy Mays is a scary idea.  Why not try one or two of the ideas above, and test it against your current advertising?  Let me know if this information is of use to you, and whether you'd be interested in more marketing tips like this.

Happy marketing!




Re-Blogged 1 time:

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  1. Nevin Williams 07/21/2009 02:32 PM
Real Estate Sales and Marketing
The Art Of Marketing You
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Roger Johnson
Hickory Real Estate Group - Hickory, NC
Realtor - Hickory NC Real Estate

David, I never said agents lacked confidence in their product.  What I said was that some of YOUR points would be hard to translate to real estate sales.  And while they were all good points, I think Billy Mays success came from the fact that people learned that they could trust him, and thus, the product that he was pitching.

So again, while your points are all valid, they don't mean a thing unless you develop TRUST.

Jul 22, 2009 02:01 AM #18
Lyn Sims
RE/MAX Suburban - Schaumburg, IL
Schaumburg IL Real Estate

I personally liked the guy even though you had to turn down the volume when he came on the TV! He was a likeable guy that had passion for what he did. Good reminders for our advertising and our blogs. Realtors love the 'me, me' approach which drives clients away in droves!

But wait, if you order now, we'll send you ..................................

Jul 22, 2009 02:03 AM #19
Gene Riemenschneider
Home Point Real Estate - Brentwood, CA
Turning Houses into Homes

Billy Mays had a lot going for him, but I do not think emoting in my clients faces would work.  Billy had integrity and that had a lot to do with it.  He also worked for a piece of the profits.

Jul 22, 2009 04:14 AM #20
David Wilson
Wilson Copywriting - Saint Petersburg, FL

Roger, thanks for your clarification.  Very helpful.

And thanks to everyone for your great comments.  While advertising & marketing is not a "one size fits all" endeavor, I always appreciate learning from the success of others.  Personally, I prefer a more personable and conversational approach than what Billy Mays championed.

Here's a great clip from Conan O'Brien's show:  Conan has an interesting comment about how they make the product sound like the most important thing in the world.  If that can be achieved with an automatic potato peeler, imagine what we can do with a truly important product like real estate.

Jul 22, 2009 04:55 AM #21
Beaverton, ON

I notice that CNN continues to run his commercials. Saw one this morning. I thought they would be discontinued after he died. Does anyone find this strange?

Jul 22, 2009 05:12 AM #22
Lisa Udy
Platinum Real Estate Group - Logan, UT
Logan Utah Realtor

Hi David,

I can't stand pitchmen, but they do know how to sell stuff, or they wouldn't be employed. I am going to take some of your points and review my marketing material. Thanks! :)


Jul 22, 2009 05:39 AM #23
Kate Wheeler
Country Homes and Land Murphy NC Realtor - Murphy, NC
CCIM - Murphy NC Real Estate for Sale

David, I've always believed that there is something to be learned from everyone - and you certainly found concepts worth noting from someone I thought was an unlikely source for any marketing skills I'd want to learn.

Jul 22, 2009 05:53 AM #24
Ernest O'Dell

While you might not get as excited about a particular piece of property, you CAN, indeed (and should) get excited about what YOU can do for your prospects.

If you promote your agency with as much enthusiasm as Billy Mays did for his product pitches, you'll have more business than you can "shake a stick at!"


Ernest O'Dell - Guerrilla Real Estate Marketing

Jul 22, 2009 06:35 AM #25
Kerry Jenkins
Prime Properties - Crestline, CA

His commercials were annoying, but we did buy the Samaurai Shark...My marketing efforts are to give as much local information for free as possible.  My websites are geared towards showing the beauty of my area and why someone would love to live there like I do.  I keep it personal from the beginning, and I want people to feel they know me from my site and my blog.

Jul 22, 2009 06:56 AM #26
Karen Anne Stone
New Home Hunters of Fort Worth and Tarrant County - Fort Worth, TX
Fort Worth Real Estate

First of all... I am sorry for his family that Billy Mays passed away.  That being said... I still have the same opinion of his commercials and his way of selling.  Whenever I saw him come on the TV... I could not get to the remote fast enough.  He was a loudmouth, and very irritating.  I could not see myself modeling my approach after him.

Jul 22, 2009 07:40 AM #27
Carla Muss-Jacobs, RETIRED
RETIRED / State License is Inactive - Portland, OR

Yikes . . . I'm just glad he never did get into 'pitching' houses the way he pitched the products.  We have a hard enough, up hill climb as Realtors(r) as it is. 


Jul 22, 2009 08:52 AM #28
Monica Bourgeau
New Phase Business Coaching - Portland, OR
Business Coaching

Excellent points, and it obviously works - just look at the empire that Billy Mays was able to build.

Jul 22, 2009 12:11 PM #30

We can learn a lot from Billy Mays.. he actually asks for the order several times! Then offers incentives to do so.

I love infomercial guru's like the founder of the ginsu knives infomercial.. they were the pioneers of "But wait.. there's more". His name is Ed Valente who I had an opportunity to meet in 2001. He runs a well known ad agency now. "Salt of the earth" and one great sales guy!

Jul 22, 2009 01:18 PM #31
Jeani Codrey
The Learning Jeani - New Braunfels, TX
If you're not learning, you're not living!

I just saw a Billy Mays commercial a couple of days ago...some gardening tool.  I couldn't stand him yelling at me, but I can name every product he was selling while yelling!  Evidently, it worked!!!

Jeani Thomas Richie, REALTOR

Jul 22, 2009 02:33 PM #32
Aaron Poling
Long & Foster - Martinsburg, WV
Working to get YOU the BEST Deal!

The best part of billie mays was that he loved the products that he pitched. I think that is the most important thing, you have to sell something that you have passion for

Jul 22, 2009 03:06 PM #33
Bob Bloom
Keller Williams Realty - Vancouver, WA

R.I.P. Billy Mays. You were one of a kind. Maybe we all can learn from you.

Jul 22, 2009 05:11 PM #34
Crystal Kilpatrick
Team Leader -Crystal Kilpatrick Group - Austin, TX
CHLMS,CNE, CRS - Austin & Central Texas Home Sales

Great ideas David.  Billy Mays was so motivational, very excited about his products.  I think that has a lot to do with success.  If you are excited and passionate about your work, you really don't have to sell anything. 

Jul 22, 2009 05:59 PM #35
David Wilson
Wilson Copywriting - Saint Petersburg, FL

Thanks to everyone for your contribution to this dialogue!

Crystal touches on something a number of you have mentioned: that communicating passion for your product helps you stand out in the marketplace.  Advertising pioneer David Ogilvy said, "You cannot bore someone into buying your product."

Most of us may be uncomfortable with a high-volume approach to communicating.  That's okay.  But let's consider how we can market ourselves with an enthusiasm that's contagious.  If you have a zeal for real estate that your prospects can relate to, you're likely to be ahead of your competition.

Jul 23, 2009 01:47 AM #36
Sandy McAlpine
Search Lake Norman Homes For Sale - Lake Norman NC

I was really sad to see Billy go. He was an excellent spokesperson and very passionate. I bought a lot of products that he pitched for and they really DO work!

Jul 23, 2009 03:52 AM #37
Melanie Duggins
MarketPros Realty - Anaheim, CA

Thanks for the post. I got a lot out of this discussion and love the great reminders to keep showing my passion for my work, while focusing on the customer's needs.

Oct 01, 2009 05:55 AM #38
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