Do you have the next ‘As Seen on TV’ hit?
To find out, evaluate your product idea using the eight key criteria below.
It may sound obvious, but the best indication your product could sell well on TV is that it did sell well somewhere else. Most of the best-selling products in ‘As Seen on TV’ history first sold out at a fair, in a catalog, on a live shopping channel, overseas, online or in some other channel of sale. Sales information is not a guarantee by any stretch, and often good sellers have lots of competition already and would not make a good TV product for this reason (see Availability). But solid information is always a great place to start!
It’s important to recognize that there are certain product categories that have excellent odds of success based on TV history and other categories that have terrible odds of success on the same basis. Do not waste time chasing items in categories with bad histories. If you don’t have someone with extensive knowledge of TV history at your disposal, visiting Jordan’s industry blog, The SciMark Report, is a good place to begin your research.
Imagine a 10-point scale for problems. A ‘1’ on that scale is an itch. A ‘10’ is a heart attack. A ‘5’ is one of those everyday annoyances people hate, but not enough to actually do anything about it. The problem your product solves should be about a ‘7’ or higher. If the problem is below that level, only one thing can save it: Being really cool (see Wow). A product that is exciting to watch in action doesn’t always have to solve a problem in order to sell. Conversely, a great problem-solver that is boring will most likely fail unless you jazz it up.
Think of the target, or ideal customer, for your product in demographic terms. For example, “adults 50 and older,” “girls in their teens” or “men of all ages.” Now recognize that the largest group of TV buyers is female Baby Boomers, so if your product wouldn’t appeal to that group, you’re starting off with a handicap. Next, determine the size of your market. The goal is to have a product with market size of one per American household. A market smaller than that is a segment or niche, and it better be a large segment or niche to justify the use of national TV advertising.
This one is about consumer perception, or what the consumer thinks when first learning of your product. Of course, you think your product is totally different from anything anyone has brought to market before. But would 10 total strangers selected at random agree with you? If most of them think they’ve seen similar products before, the odds of them feeling the need to buy your particular product go way down.
If the product is already widely available at retail, it won’t find success on TV. The easiest way to determine that is to check top retailers such as Walmart, Walgreens, CVS and Bed Bath & Beyond. The fastest way to do these checks is online using a tool such as Google Shopping, but walking to actual brick-and-mortar stores is also an excellent idea.
There’s a good reason everyone associates TV products with the $14.99 and $19.99 price points: because the vast majority of successful products have sold for those prices. While higher price points (e.g. $29.99) are becoming more common, setting the price below $20 is still the best way to get consumers to buy a product on impulse (without thinking about it too much). Another rule with a reason is the ‘5 times markup’ rule. That is, the cost of goods for the product should be about 1/5 its on-the-shelf selling price. The reason is that these margins are required to make money in the TV business. Put it all together, and the cost of making and delivering your product must be under $5 to make sense for the TV business.
The ‘As Seen on TV’ industry came out of the pitch market, where amazing visual demonstrations were a must. Live pitches were like a magic show, and if a pitchman couldn’t hold an audience’s attention, he had little chance of closing the sale. Things are quite different today, but a little bit of magic still goes a long way. The more visually interesting your product is, the more exciting it is to watch in action, the greater your chance of capturing attention and closing the sale. As mentioned earlier, this ‘wow’ factor can even compensate for shortcomings in other areas.