From the January 2002 issue of Entrepreneur

Be the Next Ron Popeil

Who hasn't seen the late-night shows promising thinner thighs or a better golf game-all for $19.95? Infomercials are a bona fide marketing tool that can turn products into household names, but can entrepreneurs get in on the act?

Sure, if you've got the right product and some money to invest in the infomercial medium. Infomercials work best for weight-loss products, fitness items, business opportunities and housewares. Automotive and golf products are gaining in popularity as well, according to Tony Kerry, senior vice president of marketing for Script to Screen Inc., an infomercial producer in Santa Ana, California. And while the classic half-hour infomercial can be expensive, short-form infomercials (about 2 minutes in length) can be made for $22,000 to $124,000. "[But] don't use infomercials if you want to be small," warns Kerry. "If you succeed, you succeed on a grand scale."

Gregory DeBenon, 32-year-old CEO of the Trinity Golf Co., knows that all too well. He manufactures high-end golf equipment from his Tustin, California, location. His infomercial, advertising the Stiletto Beta Titanium Driver, has been airing since August 2000 and has driven sales from $200,000 to more than $12 million.

Scare Mail

Direct mail is a $528 billion industry-but with the recent bioterror attacks of anthrax via the mail, will direct mail continue to be a viable marketing tool?

"Consumers will be a little more cautious," says Gary Hennerberg, founder of Hennerberg Group Inc., a direct marketing consulting firm in Grapevine, Texas. "[However, remember] the primary people being impacted by this are government and news media. The consumer at home, by and large, is not being impacted."

Even with that understanding, the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) suggests that businesses use preprinted return address labels on all customer mailing, preferably with logos as well as the Web site address or toll-free phone number.

E-mail campaigns used in conjunction with direct mail are being touted by the DMA as well-to let consumers know to expect something in the mail. Still, experts are advocating selective mailings to very targeted consumers. "All mail should be relevant and be directed to someone who has an interest or a need in the product or service offered," Hennerberg says. Always a true statement, but now more resonant than ever.

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