What the Shopping Channels Can Teach Us About Selling

by | Jun 13, 2011 | Book Marketing Basics, Social Media for Authors

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Whether we admit it or not, we’ve all watched a home shopping channel, even if we just stopped by for a minute or two while channel surfing. Home shopping channels are big and the two of the biggest are HSN and QVC; together they generate a combined total of $10 billion in sales every year. They are geared to selling 24/7.

QVC's former logo used from 1988 until Septemb...

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What can we learn from this mode of sales? Well, actually a lot. When you break down their method of selling you’ll see quite a bit of brilliance behind the shopping channels’ strategy that can be applied to your own marketing and sales efforts.

Details, details: The first thing the host will do is give you an overview and then zero in on the details, pieces, parts and bonuses.  When you’re showcasing your book or product, it’s important to not just focus on the 30,000 foot overview, but the minutia as well. The caveat is: it has to be exciting to your consumer. The idea is to push the product, then entice them with the details. How will you do this? Start with one, big, overarching question or pitch.

Flat Belly Diet

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Let’s say you wrote a book on dieting, you might say: “If you’re ready to finally lose those extra 30 pounds for good, this is the last diet book you’ll ever need to read.” Now, that’s a pretty big statement, and you’ll need to follow it up with some details that help build your case. See what I mean? If the book has recipes, highlight several and talk about them. If the book has some never-before-revealed secrets, highlight those too and make sure your consumer knows the whole package they’re getting, not just the idea.

Repetition: If you’ve ever watched HSN or QVC you know that their specials are repeated over and over and over again. Telling your consumer once won’t cut it, but telling them twice generally won’t either. You have to tell people again and again and again. Think about it: How many times are you telling folks about your book? How can you adapt this to book marketing?

Think about the different ways you reach out to your consumer. How many times are you mentioning your book? If the answer to that is “I don’t know,” then you might want to rethink your marketing strategy. Now, I’m not saying that every Tweet and Facebook update needs to have your book title it in, but what I am saying is that if you are doing any kind of target marketing, email, or mailing, you need to make sure that you continue to push the message of your book for as long as you are marketing it.

Image representing YouTube as depicted in Crun...

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Results: What will this book do for your reader? If it was featured on the Home Shopping Network you can be sure you would know, and it would be explained to you in Technicolor detail. Often, they will demo the product on the air. Why do they do this? Because the before and after is wildly popular with consumers. Now, if you’re not on HSN, how will you demo this? For starters, you can get testimonials for your website. Remember: what someone else says about your book, message, or product is 1,000 times more effective than anything you can say. You can also consider a YouTube channel (think of it as your very own HSN) and get video testimonials, or demo the ideas in your book. If you’re marketing a product, demo the product on video. Remember we love to know it’ll do XYZ for us, but seeing it is 1,000 times more powerful than just hearing it.

How’s it selling? It never fails: during the broadcast, the host will always tell you how well the product is selling. In fact, often they will tell you that it’s nearly selling out, thereby heightening the urgency to buy. As part of your book marketing have you pushed your updates to your audience? Have you told them how well it’s selling? Share stats with them, social proof, and popularity. Remember, people like what other people like. If a lot of other people like your book or product, tell your new consumers. It will help heighten their excitement.


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Packaging, bonuses and oh, wait, there’s more! The beauty of this last line (as hokey as it might sound) is that it keeps the consumer on edge and ready to dial, but there’s more… so the additional bonuses entice them further. When we offered my book, Red Hot Internet Publicity, packaged for a limited time with another title (the offer was “Get 2 books for the price of 1”) we tripled our sales. Packages and special offers work, though it’s generally a good idea to offer them for a limited time. As you’ll see from one of the points below, urgency sells.

Pricing: Consumers love a bargain and the Home Shopping Network knows this all too well, so the discounts are crucial if they are trying to sell out a product. If you are trying to push your book, don’t get greedy. As I mentioned in the point above, the deeper the discount, the better the response. Be clear on your price point, i.e. what you need to make a profit, then play with the numbers and see what your consumer responds to. Now, you don’t have to offer shippable product as a special offer or price enhancement; it can also be electronic which makes it easier and raises your profit margin.


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Urgency: Let’s face it, while it might seem cheesy, urgency sells. “Only 10 minutes left to buy!” and suddenly the phones light up. During the process of the sale, sale updates, bonuses, discounts, etc. all help to heighten the urgency of the buy including the limited time offer. When you’re running a special promotion, the best way to get people to beat a path to your door is to give them a deadline.

Remember the upsell: When you’ve got someone’s attention, why not try and sell them more? If you have bundled product, or special additions to your product, be sure and mention it. In fact, one of the most effective ways to generate sales is to entice your consumer by offering bonuses. Keep in mind that the bonuses need to have value to the consumer: they must enhance your product, not detract from it. You likely wouldn’t offer a copy of a colleague’s fiction book if you are selling a book on building your business. You might want to sell something a bit more compatible like a handbook, white paper, or webinar (either pre-recorded or live). Upsells are great when the product pairing is complimentary.

Weathered SALE sign

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If you’re not convinced by these tips, try watching a shopping channel and see if you don’t agree. Their methods of selling are so finely tuned, you’ll see a real pattern in how they present each and every product. What that says is: if it works, stick with it. Try one or all of the above insights and see if it doesn’t tip the selling scale in your favor.

Good luck!


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  1. Best of the Web Book Marketing Tips for the Week of June 13, 2011 - Author Marketing Experts, Inc. - [...] http://ame.wpengine.com/what-the-shopping-channels-can-teach-us-about-selling/ [...]

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