Billy Mays was found dead in his Tampa, FL home Sunday morning, possibly connected to an accidental blow to the head he received the night before onboard a US Airways flight.
As a marketing professional, I am saddened by the loss. Mays was a man of character. He gave our profession a positive example, in a field that’s often overshadowed by manipulative people who will say anything to make a quick buck.
Here are 3 things that we can learn from Billy Mays:
#1 – He put his good name on the line. Every commercial he ran opened with, “Hi Billy Mays here, for [product name].” By attaching his name and persona to a product, it became personal. If he ran just one commercial for a product that didn’t live up to its promises, his name was on the line, sacrificing his ability to sell in the future. Mays ensured the products he sold did what they were supposed to do. He put each product through extensive testing. He found creative ways to promote them, while ensuring that the promises he made would be backed up by the product. By doing this consistently, his name helped to build trust in the products he promoted.
#2 – He demonstrated the effectiveness of “old school” strategies. In the early to mid-1900s, direct response advertising techniques became a science. Whether selling a product by mail-order catalog, radio or the evolving television medium, advertisers figured out how to maximize the number of people who “buy now,” and these strategies worked. What many don’t realize is how effective these strategies still are today. Major brands with multi-million dollar ad budgets can afford to run artistic ads without thinking about whether the ads actually sell anything. Not so with the little guy. Every dollar spent on advertising must bring much more than a dollar ROI if you expect to succeed. Billy Mays demonstrated how old school strategies still can be extraordinarily effective. Best of all, he brought his own innovative, creative twist to these proven strategies, while staying true to what worked.
#3 – He achieved his success through genuine hard work. If you visited your local state fair in the 1990s, you might have spotted Billy Mays in a booth selling kitchen knives or other products. Make no mistake, the success & fame he recently enjoyed was built upon many years of hard work. He started with nothing, kept a grueling travel schedule for many years, and earned a modest income. Mays learned from his mistakes, kept working, and continued to improve his craft. All the while, he didn’t take himself too seriously — seemingly having a lot of fun with his work.
Mays should be recognized as an inspiration to many sales & marketing professionals. Work hard and learn from your mistakes. Bring an innovative, creative twist to your sales while using proven strategies to sell products. Build a good name for yourself by selling quality products with integrity.
Billy Mays will be dearly missed. May his work inspire many more integrity-driven sales professionals to follow his lead.
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