Jon Nokes had been demonstrating the SmartMop, a unique Finnish mop with a self-wringing twist action, at state fairs and home shows across the United States for three years. Sales of the product had been fairly brisk: In 1993, his company, Los Angeles-based Smart Inventions Inc., which owns the mop, grossed $1.8 million--not bad considering the company was being run from Nokes' Santa Monica apartment.
But Nokes, 46, wasn't satisfied. Customers raved about SmartMop, and he knew it would sell like hot cakes if only he could reach a larger audience.
Determined to do just that, in 1993, Nokes decided to try direct-response television (DRTV). He contacted Concepts Video Production, a Montville, New Jersey, TV production company, and paid $60,000 for a 28-minute infomercial demonstrating the super-absorbing, back-saving powers of the SmartMop. The response, Nokes says, was remarkable. "We were so naive--we had no idea what this really meant," he says. "We had no idea SmartMop was going to be such a hit. It was like hanging on to a runaway train."
Orders poured in to Smart Inventions each time the infomercial aired--so many orders that Nokes had to invest some of the profits in a larger manufacturing facility to keep up with demand. During a five-month period, Nokes received almost 3 million orders for SmartMops, thanks to that infomercial.
And that was just the beginning. After the initial buying frenzy died down, Nokes asked TeleBrands Corp., a Fairfield, New Jersey, manufacturer and distributor of TV-promoted products, to handle SmartMop's national distribution to retail giants such as Wal-Mart and Kmart. Since the infomercial had brought SmartMop nationwide customer recognition, retail sales quickly surpassed direct TV sales.
By the end of 1994, SmartMop had grossed $44 million for Smart Inventions and had perhaps become the fastest-selling mop in history.