Sunday, June 28, 2009

Lessons from Billy Mays

Billy Mays was a television presence one couldn't ignore. His booming voice is quite memorable to say the least. But I think the most valuable take-away from the example set by Bill Mays is "keep the focus on value".

Mays and company didn't just go out and sell every goofy idea that came across the table. They took the time to test the product and test the market. If you've ever seen his show "Pitchmen", you've seen it in action.

The goal was to find products that solve an every day problem at a price people were willing to pay for the solution. The meticulous attention to results and focus groups was not an altruistic endeavor. It protected Mays' reputation as well as protecting both the inventor and the public.

No matter how good a presentation you're capable of, you can't do high profile sales of worthless crap and maintain a lucrative career. Eventually the trust factor catches up to you. Mays understood this. He knew his reputation was his most valuable asset and he protected it accordingly.

You don't do an inventor any favors by convincing him or her to invest thousands of dollars and man hours into a product promotion that's not going to fly. By weeding out those with little chance of success, consumers are not subjected to disappointing products and investors don't waste their own resources on something that's not quite ready. Better to go back to the drawing board and try again.

It's clear that Billy Mays did not unconsciously let us in on these insights. The "Pitchmen" show unveiled the entire process for the world to see. He could have chosen to withhold his experience and wisdom as kind of a barrier to entry for newcomers. Instead, we saw the successes and the failures, and more importantly, the thought process that went into whether or not to proceed with a particular promotion. Billy Mays died to soon, but he did so with his integrity intact.

Discovery Channel's "Pitchmen"

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