There is almost no way that you haven’t seen them. Those mildly annoying commercials featuring the "Video Professor", touting his "educational" wares (they are on seemingly most TV channels dozens of times a day).

And while he’s been around for years, lately his ad, centering on a "How to Sell on eBay" course CD that he wants to send you, for FREE no less, has been particularly obnoxious, I mean, persistent…

So what could you possibly have to gain from taking a closer look at it?

Actually, a number of extremely valuable marketing tactics:

1) To start with, the mere fact that the guy has been around for as long as he has, and that his latest offering has been running for something like 9 months straight in a down economy, should tell you something: It should tell you that the ad is profitable. No one can afford to run a paid TV ad for long if the math doesn’t add up.

Lesson: Study ads (in any medium) that repeat unchanged week after week, month after month, year after year. They must be getting "it" right (product, offer, sales copy, etc.).

2) Now point 1) is doubly important because he is, as we already said, giving the eBay course away for free (plus "a small shipping & handling"). He is "Moving The Freeline" as StomperNet’s Brad Fallon would call it. Which must mean that the ad is effective by way of THE BACKEND sales, just as he actually states in the ad:

Enough people take him up on the free offer, and then later buy additional courses from him ("you’ll be SO satisfied, that you’ll come back for all your computer learning needs…"), that the ads are then profitable.

This is called "Lifetime Value of Customer". As long as it is higher than the cost of the TV advertisements (or your medium of choice) plus product, fulfillment, and overhead costs, you can make a profit. Bingo.

Lesson: "Move The Freeline" on the front end offer to get many more prospects into your sales funnel, then focus on the backend for your profit. It is MUCH easier to sell to an existing customer (even if all they have ever paid you is a "small shipping & handling"), than to convince someone from scratch.

3) The Video Professor’s forthright explanation for why he can afford to give the "lesson on eBay" away is the perfect execution of a so-called "reason why". You have to give people a good reason why you would either discount or give something away, lest they become suspicious, of either your motives, or of the quality of the product, etc.

His simple, colloquial "backend profits" explanation satisfies the viewer’s need for a reason why. And it’s actually quite elegant this way, though other reasons might have worked as well to some degree.

Lesson: ALWAYS give a "reason why". ANY reason is better than no reason. It’s simply how our brains are wired.

(In experiments, researchers have found that even a circular formulation such as "I need to make a copy because I need to make a copy" got better response/compliance from test subjects asked to let someone skip ahead of them in a copier line, than when there was no "reason why" clause in the request at all!)

4) Given that the eBay course is free…

… (plus S&H, which by the way likely covers his full shipping AND production cost), and given that the guy says he would even refund the S&H in case you weren’t satisfied, full "risk reversal" is achieved. He even appeals to you outright: "What have you got to lose?".

The only thing you put at risk is your time, plus the fact that he (and most other marketers) know and bank on the fact that most people never bother to return something, even if they are unsatisfied. It’s just not worth it to them to jump through a few hoops to get their $7.95 back.

In fact, it’s been shown that the longer a money back guarantee is set for, the lower the return/refund rate gets. People just put it off, and then forget completely. Counter-intuitive, but true nonetheless.

Lesson: Always use risk reversal, and offer the most generous guarantee terms you can conceive of.

5) Last but not least, there is a very clever copy-writing device built into the ad. The Video Professor says something like: "Now I’m not going to tell you that I’m going to make you the next MILLIONAIRE, selling an attic full of baseball cards…".

This is what I call a reverse income claim. Look what happened here: An actual income claim is illegal to make in just about all circumstances. But no one says anything if you put the little word "not" in front of it.

However it so happens that your Unconscious Mind, the ultimate seat of your emotions and motivational energies, does not deal in what could be considered higher-order logical functions such as a "not" – negation.

Try it out. See what happens if I say to you: "Don’t think of a blue tree."

In all likelihood you just pictured a blue tree in your mind’s eye, and then said to yourself "not". The Unconscious interprets everything directly first, and the Conscious Mind may then perform some of its more adult logic on it after the fact.

So in essence the guy just put the idea of "making you a millionaire" into your head in this subtle way. And while you may consciously dismiss this, it is however likely to unconsciously increase your desire to try/buy the product. (Your Conscious Mind may actually create a set of more logical reasons to rationalize your decision to buy that was made at the unconscious level.)

Lesson: Be aware of reverse income claims when marketed to. If you decide to use them for your own marketing, be careful, as you may be treading on thin ice ethics-wise. Keep it reasonable.

So let’s stitch this post up: "Now I’m not going to tell you that you’re going to be the next marketing genius by applying these 5 tricks… but I can promise that if you do, your marketing will very likely be more profitable. Results not typical. Some restrictions may apply. Void where prohibited…" 🙂

Comment below if you enjoyed these tricks, or if you’ve noticed any other marketing elements in the Video Professor ads.

Best wishes and happy marketing

– Alex Schleber

20 thoughts on “5 Marketing Tricks Courtesy Of Those Annoying Video Professor Commercials

  1. Alex, I completely agree the pitch is a great one, but reading reviews on-line shows that the Video Professor may not be making his money on repeat business as he claims.

  2. Great rundown and summary of ways to effectively market. I appreciate the fact that you mention the ethical side of marketing as well. I will be keeping these tips in mind in my own businesses.

  3. like the way you added that twist on the end – it actually proved the point, which i’m familiar with – by allowing me to watch my own mind as it processed the hook. Nice one.

  4. I’ve seen this ad many times, and never really caught on to all these great tactics that he’s using.

    It’s interesting that the world of web 2.0, where so much is free, is basically point number 2 above. We are moving the free line as much as possible, giving stuff away, so that we can sell a premium service to our existing customers later.

    But it’s funny that free websites rarely have a “reason why.” I’m often suspicious of free services, and always trying to figure out why they are doing that they are doing for free.

    Posterous is no different. We are free now so we can sell you something later. But we don’t know what that “something” is. Hopefully that doesn’t scare people away 🙂

    Now, we’re not saying you’re going to have the most popular blog in the world…

  5. I finished marketing of the university but one professor do not mention these marketing tricks. I believe that should be a great experience to come to these conclusions, and thank you for this.

  6. Because I see these ads all the time, it somehow gives him more credibility and oddly I’m not annoyed — he definitely gets it right. I’d like to see the ebay ad again to analyze the excellent points you make.

    Transparency is so important to us these days and you hit it right when you say always give the reason why. There is no need to think about it further when he gives the straight answer of back-end profitability. The Video Professor suddenly became more authentic and genuine, dare I say trust-worthy.

    Very interesting, Alex!

  7. Great rundown and summary of ways to effectively market. I appreciate the fact that you mention the ethical side of marketing as well. I will be keeping these tips in mind in my own businesses.

  8. Great post. It will really help beginners who opt for the marketing field. Marketing is a big challenge. I totally agree the longer a money back guarantee is set for, the lower the return/refund rate gets.

  9. Great tips that you can learn from those annoying commercials. Obviously he’s successful, but it goes to show that you can sell water to a fish as long as you have the right pitch. Good advice!

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