Learn How to “Master Your Message” From TV’s Billion Dollar Man
Do you have a great product that you know people need and want, but are unsure how to sell it or market it to the right audience? Today we talk to Bob Circosta, TV’s original home shopping host who help paved the way to a whole new shopping industry and sold the first-ever home shopping product. Now, with over 75,000 individual product pitches on live national TV, Bob has perfected how to make an impactful and profitable message to maximize sales!
In today’s episode of Harvest Growth Podcast, we’ll cover:
You can watch the full interview HERE
Visit BobCircosta.com and receive $50 off Bob’s online marketing messaging course with promo code “harvestgrowth”
Do you have a brand that you’d like to launch or grow? Do you want help from a partner that has successfully launched hundreds of brands that now total over $2 billion in revenues? Visit HarvestGrowth.com to set up a free consultation.
Jon LaClare: The three pillars of any successful marketing campaign are audience, offer, and messaging. Today, we're speaking with Bob Circosta, my good friend and the original pitch man from HSN with over 75,000 individual product pitches over the past 45 years. He teaches us key messaging principles that you can apply to your videos, your website, digital marketing posts, product packaging, and much more, to increase your sales.
Welcome to another episode of the Harvest Growth Podcast, focused on helping consumer product companies, inventors, and entrepreneurs harvest the growth potential of their product businesses. Today, I'm really excited to be speaking with my good friend Bob Circosta. We've known each other for such a long time, and I could not respect or admire Bob more. There's no better marketer in my mind than Bob Circosta. You're going to hear his story today, get to know him. If you don't already know some of his story, you'll get a lot more of the details today. I really encourage you to listen to this entire interview. You're going to get a lot of value out of it. Bob, thanks so much for joining me today.
Bob Circosta: Jon, always a pleasure to be with you, my friend. Thank you for those very kind words. I appreciate it. It's so true, you and I go back many, many years and it's always a pleasure for me to be with you.
Jon: Likewise. I'd love if you wouldn't mind taking a couple of minutes and talking about your story. You have such an important story in the world of e-commerce really, and direct to consumer product sales and being the pioneer truly of HSN, the TV shopping industry, and so much that has come out of that. It's still a massive industry, massively successful, but so many other industries like, I work a lot as you know in digital and TV video, infomercials, product marketing, et cetera, and really, we wouldn't be where we're at today without the work that you put in at HSN founding it. I'd love if you could walk our audience through your story, how HSN came to be and some of the fun stories behind it.
Bob: Sure. I'll be more than happy to. It all started many, many years ago. As a matter of fact, it was 45 years ago. 45 years ago, I had the very good fortune to be there at the beginning of a whole new industry. I was able to help create something that, as you just said, never really existed before called home shopping. I know today, everyone has heard about home shopping, but believe me, 45 years ago, nobody had heard about the concept. It had never been tried before. Many people, Jon are really surprised to find out how now this mega multi billion dollar industry that's in every country all over the world, how it really started. I was there, so I guess I can tell everybody the real story, so to speak.
It all started not on a TV station. This entire industry started on a very small radio station. It was in Clearwater, Florida. In fact, it was called WWQT 1470 on your AM dial. We thought we were big time, we really did. Here's the important thing to know. This was possibly the world's worst radio station. It was pathetic, very sad. No question about. Had nothing to do with selling merchandise. We were a news talk station and I had a talk show. I did a talk show every day from noon to 3:00, but we had nothing to do with selling merchandise.
Again, because this was possibly the world's worst radio station, you have to sell advertising and nobody wanted to advertise on this radio station. The owner of the station, a gentleman by the name of Bud Paxson, and many people have heard about Bud, what a great visionary he was and everything, he owned the radio station. He would go out, and go around town and knock on door after door and visited all of these businesses and tried to sell, advertise something that none of these people wanted because they would all say what station and Bud would tell them, and they would say, 'Where is that? We've never heard of that. We don't know what that is."
One day, all true now, one day he sold a 13-week advertising contract to an appliance store. In fact, the appliance store is still there today. The appliance store bought this 13-week contract. For 13 weeks, on my daily talk show, I advertised the appliance store. I talked about it. I talked about the specials. I encouraged and invited people to go into the appliance store to take advantage of everything. We did this every single day for 13 weeks. At the end of that period, Bud went back to the appliance store to get paid. He walked in and the owner of the store looked at him, and said, "What are you doing here?" Bud said, "I came to get paid". The guy said, "For what?" Bud said, "For the advertising."
The guy who owned the store said, "What? Are you kidding me?" He said, "Not one person, not one has come in here and said, they've even heard of my store and heard of the commercial." Then, here's the main thing, he said, "I'm not going to pay you." Bud went, "Wait a minute. That's not the deal. That's not how it works." They went back and forth, back and forth. Long story short, at the end of this discussion, the owner of the store said, "I'll tell you what I'll do. Instead of paying you for the advertising in cash, and that's what you ask for, but instead of doing that, look back by the door. I have a shipment come in about an hour ago of merchandise. Take a box."
Now believe me, Bud told me later, he had no idea what he was going to do with this, but I think he felt better leaving with something. He picked up the box, got in the car, drove back to the radio station. Now, meanwhile, I'm on the radio, I'm doing my talk show like every day, and every hour they have a little five minute news break. They do the local news and weather. I take a little break and I'm sitting in this little booth. When I say booth, I'm talking about a small, small area. I'm sitting there having a cup of coffee, waiting to go back on the air. Pretty soon the door opened up an in walked Bud. Now Bud was like six foot eight. When he came in a room, you knew he was in that room.
When he was in that booth, the oxygen was depleting very quickly in that room between the two of us. He walked in this little booth and he's holding in his hands an electric can opener. Now this was 1977, so this was an avocado-green ugly electric can opener and he's holding it his hands. He said to me, Bob now, when you come out of the news, I want you to sell this can opener. I looked at him like he had three heads. I said, "What? You want me to do what?" He said, "I want you to sell the ca--" I remember saying, "You want me to sell, wait a minute. I'm a newsman. I have morals and I have ethics and I don't want to sell."
Then he explained to me the relationship between me selling the can opener and me getting a check and instantly that can opener looked pretty darn good. What I did was, I came out of the news and I said, "We'll get back to our topic in just a moment," and you'll never believe what happened during the break. I recounted the whole story, I started describing the can openers from the rival corporation. It was $9.95. You still had to plug it in. I invited the people, I said it on the air. I said, if you call me up, if you call me up right now, reserve a can opener, come on down to the studio, pay for it, it's yours. Pretty soon the lights on the phone started to light up.
In fact, I had no idea what those lights were because nobody had ever called me before on the show. On that day, Jon, it was August 28th, 1977, we sold 112 electric can openers.
That was the beginning of what we all now know as the TV home shopping. We stayed on radio for five years, but then in 1982, they wired this county for cable, and so we leased a channel and it became the home shopping channel because obviously TV, much better than radio, you could see the stuff. People always say, how could you sell anything on the radio? Number one, we didn't have anything to compare it to, but number two, it was fun.
You had to be creative. If I had a gold chain, I'd dang it on the microphone and say here that quality, and so you learned a different ways to describe and make things come alive.
Anyhow, so then we went through local TV, 1982, and then in 1985, we decided if this is going to work locally, and it sure was, it's got to work nationwide. We went nationwide in 1985 and now, as I said, Jon, every country in the world has a TV home shopping channel. That's how it all started. That's how it all began.
Jon: Wow. Thanks for sharing that story. Obviously lots of things have changed. I imagine they sell a few more products today than they did in 1985 when they first started on a daily basis. Growing like crazy. We have done a lot of events together, which I love doing, primarily because you're the best marketing teacher that I know. Later on, we're going to talk about a course you've come up with and our audience can actually learn in very great detail all of the principles that you teach and that you've taught with me at different events, sometimes many, many hours, and very, sometimes expensively for these live events but now people can get it much less expensively.
One of the reasons I love teaching with you is because I can sit back and it makes me look good. You're such a good teacher. I get up there and spend my half hour and the aura of you having been there helps me to look better. Thanks, again, for sharing that story. I think one of the reasons I love teaching with you as well is over these years, since really 1977, you've been constantly selling in a live environment, getting feedback from whether it's initially on radio, but now you can see those results come back in on HSN. You know what works almost immediately, and what doesn't and can fine tune the craft or the pitch really, as you go through it.
I'd love to hear some advice and we don't have time to go through everything obviously during this interview, but just a taste of some advice for our audience, which is inventors, entrepreneurs, product marketers that are trying to sell themselves, their business, whatever it might be. This messaging approach can work for anything, really so we'd love to hear some advice from you.
Bob: Well, great question. I'm so glad you asked. A gentleman by the name of Red Motley said years and years ago, he made the statement and it was so true then and it's even more true now, he said that nothing happens until somebody sells something, and it's so true. There may be those that are listening and watching to this right now and thinking, "Well, wait a minute, how can a guy who sells products on TV, how can he help me enhance my business, grow my business, increase my sales on something that has nothing to do with TV?"
That's a great question, but here's the answer. We learned at the very beginning of home shopping, that the key to getting a response to what we had was the message. We were able to develop a succinct focus message that created the need for whatever we had and then when we delivered it correctly, we got the response that we were after. For anybody watching or listening right now, think about your business, think about that product you have, or the service that you offer, isn't that what you want too? Isn't that what you're after a response? Because no matter how great your product is, or service that you offer, or how wonderful your businesses, if you don't sell something, you're not going to last.
Having that message is key, if you want to change the results that you're getting, it all goes back to the message, to be able to create that need. They added up one time, Jon, and and they figured out, I don't know how they figured it out, but they told me that over the years, I've been able to do over 75,000 separate product presentations. I made a lot of them over the years, but I've also seen even more than that. I'm always asked what makes one presentation effective, and then another one not so effective. I've identified different keys to make sure that you have those keys within your presentation.
This applies to everybody. Well, it applies to only those the one that sells something and that should be everybody because selling is the primary that weaves its way through all of our lives. No matter what we do, it touches everything in our lives to sell. A lot of people get hung up on that word sell and I understand that because I despise selling, I really don't like to sell. It's all about perspective. It's all about how you approach it, but it all comes down to that message. Jon, that's what makes all the difference in the world. If somebody said Bob, what do you owe your success to or what you've done, it's being able to create that message.
I was just in Boca Raton just last week, and I was talking to folks that happen to sell on Amazon, through their live streaming, which by the way, is already generating billions of dollars in sales, so it's incredible. They were fascinated with and it looks just like home shopping HSN and QVC, but you do it from your own home. They were fascinated with how to put together a presentation and they also said, "I didn't know it was this simple." Keeping it simple, we all know that, that's the key to it. Jon, it comes down to that message. That's the key no matter what business, you want to change your results, then you change your message and that will happen.
Jon: Absolutely. We talk to our clients all the time. There's only three levers that exist in marketing to be able to pull and change the course of your business. Arguably, the most important of those is messaging. The other two are your audience so who you're talking to, making sure you give that message in front of the right people, and then the offer, how you're pricing your product, your service, your business, whatever it might be.
The messaging is the one that we have probably the most control over in many ways. Nuances and just being able to make minor adjustments can make massive differences, or improvements in your results along the way. Whether it's, again, live pitching, or copy on your website, or on your package, or a small snippet in a Facebook ad, it all comes down to how you talk about your business, how you talk about your product.
Bob: Because you're putting everything that you know, everything that you've worked for, you're putting all of that in the message. That is what's going to affect the potential customer of yours and so you better put in the right things there because all of our attention spans are very limited now. They're more limited today than ever before, because there are so many temptations out there. With just the click of something, we can change what we're listening to, what we're seeing, so you better grab them right away and that's what you need to do.
That was the same goal that we had to achieve from day one and that was how do we create the need for something that somebody is watching us or listening to us, that will enable them to respond, and there's a certain way to do it. It's not a trick. I'm not talking about a gimmick or anything like that, a sales trick. That's not what I'm talking. I'm talking about something that is genuine, and that is sincere, very important to be built upon integrity, but it's about effective communication. Isn't that what selling is really about? Is effective communication, and helping the other person with what you have. That's what it boils down to.
Jon: Agreed. Do you have an example? You've done so many product pitches. 75,000 is hard to even fathom. All of those have been live most of them from a national TV audience, some radio maybe that's 100 of them were done on the radio, but whatever it is. Most of is national TV, you've really taken this, what's an example of alerting you've had of doing a messaging shift that maybe helped turn a product from lackluster into a bigger success?
Bob: Well, in the early days of home shopping, I sold every product from every product category, and sold a lot of jewelry at one time. I would talk about the sparkle and the dazzle and I would talk about the diamond cut and I would talk about how good it's going to make you feel and how good it's going to make you look and yada yada yada. Sales were okay and then one day, I took the day off from being on the air and I took orders. I took calls from people. I found out the number one question that people had when it came to a necklace was what type of a class that it had. I never included that in what I was saying. Maybe I did much later in the presentation, but it was never a point of focus.
Ever since knowing that, and learning that, then I did that at the very beginning and the sales increased. It was really due to answering the question that the person was asking themselves in their own mind. It's understanding who's out there. Who is your audience? You mentioned that a moment ago that that's another key and you're so right. No matter what it is you have, you could have a great message, but if you're not in front of the right people, you're still not going to maximize your results. You have to know your audience. In fact, I'll tell you. Years ago, on HSN, we sold capsules of melatonin. You know melatonin?
Bob: It helps you sleep, right?
Bob: We sold that product on the air and then we noticed our overnight sales went down. We couldn't figure out why because we're selling something that people can go to sleep and they were going-- The product was working. They were sleeping and they weren't buying. We said maybe this is not the right product for us.
Jon: That's right. For that audience. That's right.
Bob: We changed from that. Any research that you can, and I know, Jon, you're big on finding out who that audience is. You've been able to drill that down, unlike anybody else in the business, to identify who's your right audience. That is such an important characteristic that you need to know. You need that information.
Jon: Yes. I think it's becoming a lost art in so many ways as we've transitioned to live pitches face to face back in the day, you talk to people, you hear them. If they make a complaint or a question, you know that right away. Or in the early days of HSN, of course, you still could do this, but you probably don't, but you could listen to phone calls and hear from your customers. The e-commerce world especially it's become almost let's separate ourselves. Let's just make this visual, they'll buy or they won't buy. Let's try to understand it. Let's look in the data. Talking to them in some shape or form can add such value.
Frankly, it could be a shortcut. Data is amazing. That's one of the benefits of e-commerce is that data is way better than it was even a couple of years ago. It gets better and better every year, but that one on one interaction with customers, at least on an occasional basis in some shape or form, that could be a phone call, that could be email, that could be a survey, but there's different ways to get in that. I love that you shared that, and it's a great piece of advice really. Connect with the customers to fine-tune your messaging to really learn what matters to them more than anything else.
Bob: Makes all the difference in the world. It makes it easier and simpler for you as delivering the message, because if you know what the other person wants to hear or needs to hear, it's a lot easier for you to be able to help them with what you have. It's so true.
Jon: For anybody who's watching this or sees the video of this, as opposed to hearing the audio, you'll see Bob's studio. He's calling us, or he is joining us in from where he broadcasts on HSN for some of his products. If you hadn't watched HSN recently, there's been a change over the last couple of years. A lot of your work is done at home now. Some of the hosts are in the studio and back again. How is it different today than what it used to be even two years ago?
Bob: It's a different concept. In a way it has enabled us to go back to the beginning from our home to your home. It has a touch of reality to it that sometimes a studio doesn't give you. A studio has a tendency at times to be a sterile place, a sterile environment. Well, now I'm sitting on my couch in my living room or I'm outside on my patio, or right here in one of my studios that I turned one of my bedrooms into a studio with lights and camera and everything like that. It really makes it real. It makes it real. Also, on the other hand, you have to be a lot more descriptive because the time element is a little bit different now, but we're slowly getting back to the studio and I enjoy both. I really do.
I enjoy doing it from the home. I think the viewers are very interested in seeing where we live. I remember talking to one nice lady on the air. She had ordered a water filter from me that I did for my kitchen. I said to her on the air, I said, "What do you like about the water filter?" She said, "I like that but I like your cabinets too. Your kitchen cabinet." It's true. That's part of the reality of it. I think it adds an element of fun to it that maybe was starting to decline because of that sterile environment in the studio, but both ways are very, very effective. You have to go with the flow, whatever it is, but it's a lot of fun. A lot of fun.
Jon: I think it's a good lesson also for any of our listeners if they're marketing a product or a service. I shouldn't say this as a video producer, but you don't have to be expensive or premier with all of your videos that you do. These organic style videos of getting your real story, a connection, whether it's to the owner or to true testimonials from some of your consumers, et cetera, but there's that organic feel, at least as part of your campaign can really add a lot of value that could be used by anybody. It comes back to the messaging.
More important and a lot of time we spend-- I've got a great video team that we work with they do an amazing job. At the end of the day, no matter how good they are, or your crews are, it comes back to the messaging. You got to talk about the right things more than anything else. Show the right things, talk about the right things. That's going to make all the difference. We talked a little bit about how HSN is working today. You've got several products that are on the air and doing really well. Can you talk to us about some of the products you have?
Bob: I do a lot of health-related products and wellness products and pain-relieving products. Maybe it's my age now that things are hurting that never hurt before but I do a lot of those types of products now, which I thoroughly enjoy because I use them all. One of the hottest ones that I've had on recently, the leg wrap, the leg massager that's very, very popular all over social media, but the one that we have on HSN, it combines the heat with the massage and then it adds the compression to it as well. You can control each section of the leg. If you want to do just half the leg you can, or the whole leg, or just the feet. You're going to get the benefits of compression and the massage, and then you add to it that heat factor around the knee area.
I tell you the first time I used it, I finished and I stood up and my legs felt so much lighter and I thought something was wrong. I called the owner right away and I said, "It feels great, but I feel lighter." He said, "Of course, you're going to feel lighter because of that compression. That's what's increased that blood flow." All day long when we stand or we sit for periods of time, we're fighting gravity and the blood flow's going the wrong way for all those hours. This corrects that blood flow. I don't mean to get too deep into that item, but I love that item. I really do.
Then I have an infrared pain relief product that I do from time to time. I also have a product called the PedalPro, which is an under-the-desk elliptical machine that you just pedal. There've been a few of them on the market but this one is made so well, so stable and the price is incredible and you can go to hsn.com if you want to check it out. It's called the PedalPro. We've been very successful with that one over the years and we still have that on the air. People call me about products. I don't know. I must look at 50 products every single week.
I hear from people with products, some people who are just starting to create their product, and others that have a finished product. I just want to go back for one second because you made such an important point about being real and that's the number one. I couldn't fake it if I tried and that camera won't let you do it. If that camera sees you every day, you better be real because it will unveil who you really are, but that's what you need to be. When I train people they always begin by thinking they have to act like somebody else, that they can't be themselves.
As soon as I give them the permission to say, "Okay, be you. I want you to be you. We'll fit everything into your comfort level, but you have to be you." Once they do that it all becomes very magical so to speak after that, but you made that point and that's very, very important. I think a lot of people are experiencing that now by being on social media, doing videos that way, Amazon, the live streaming, you need to be real. If you are, people will appreciate that. I don't think anybody wants somebody to be unreal. Plus the camera won't let you do that. The camera will see right [inaudible 00:28:35].
Jon: True. True.
Bob: I want just to reiterate that point. It was such an important point you made.
Jon: Thank you. After 75,000 individual product pitches, I would say you probably [crosstalk] [laughs] I can imagine. You've learned a lot over that time and still use as you shared some of your current successes really that are selling well because of these tenets that you've learned over the years. You just came out with a course and for anyone who's interested go to the website bobcircosta.com. If you're driving, I put it in the show notes as well. You can check it out on the pod, harvestgrowthpodcast.com. You'll find the details to it. You've given us a promo code to our entire audience, harvest growth, to get a $50 savings off the course, which is awesome too. Tell us a little bit about the course. What do you teach in this course?
Bob: It's interesting. As you well know, because we've done this together in many different live events over the years, I've taught the course to so many people all over the world. Somebody finally came to me and said, "Bob, have you ever done this on video? Have you ever done this to where somebody can learn just from the comfort of their own home and they don't have to go to an event?" I said, "You know what, I've never done that. I've never put it." What I've done, I've put it in a modular form that you can download and you can watch it but I didn't want to just do a program.
You know me, Jon. I love to share, I love to teach. If it's one legacy that I want to create it's that I've helped people because along the way, along my way to get where I've been able to get, so many people have helped me. Call it payback, call it whatever you want, call it corny if you want to, but I mean it. It's really giving back and I love to help people. What I did I sat in my home and I recorded all these modules and I put as much information as I possibly could on these modules on how to create a presentation, what makes one work and one not work like we alluded to previously.
I did it in such a way that you can also go back to it over and over again. You can refer to it. It's not just something to watch one time and that's it. I want you to be able to go back and use it as a reference to be able to understand how to do what we're talking about here. Then on top of that beyond that I also do the one on ones. I have many people who come to me and say I here's my product. I don't know what to say about it. Will you create the presentation for me? Which I do. The online course will take you step by step. It'll give you that clarity of exactly knowing what to do, how to say it, when to say it, what to say in order to get those results that you're after.
You're right. It's on the website. You just go to the website bobcircosta.com. You'll see at the top I think it says online course you can click on that. In the checkout area, I made sure, as, Jon, you just said, that everybody watching or listening to this will get a special discount. All you have to do is put in "harvestgrowth" all one word, it's not case sensitive. I think you receive they told me $50 off which is a great introductory bonus. It's something that I'm proud of because it's the first and only time I've ever done anything like this. I'm very proud of it and happy to be able to share with everybody and I hope people take advantage of it because number one the satisfaction's guaranteed. You're satisfied. If you're not satisfied if it doesn't change the results you're getting then you just let me know. We'll take care of you. I know it's going to help you.
Jon: Yes. It's fun as well. I had the pleasure of teaching alongside you, be around you for dozens of different courses events, et cetera. A lot of the core content has been very similar or the same because you've mastered this a long time before you met me. I've heard this story over and over many of these stories that you share and the ideas but every time I learn something. I should show my audience. I'll find the notes I've taken every time that I teach you alongside you but also I was super excited when you came out with this and was one of the first, I don't know, beta or whatever.
I went through the course itself and I will tell our audience, all the value that I've gained in live events over the years over the course of many- a couple of them are two day events three day events where we're with these people in small audiences or big audiences for a long period of time. It's all in there. All the information is there. If you have any question for either yourself or talking to your audience or your team about messaging, if you're stuck on hey our website's not converting.
How do we talk about our product or our service in a better way? Or our Facebook ads aren't converting. Our videos aren't converting. Pay attention to this course or share it with your team to be able to learn these core tenets or principles of messaging. I will tell you from personal experience it will change the way you think about marketing, the way you think about messaging and it's extremely valuable.
Bob: Well, thank you, Jon. Very kind of you to say. You talked about those three pillars a little a bit earlier. The offer needs to be right in your business and the messaging and the audience which I call distribution. If your business isn't where you want it to be, if your sales are not where you want them to be right now, I guarantee you can trace it back to lacking one or maybe all of those. That's where you can trace it back and that's also where you can change things but you have to do it. You have to take action. Believe me, that's what it's all about. It's about taking massive action. We all know nothing's going to happen until we take action so go ahead and do it. You got nothing to lose whatsoever. I invite everybody to come to the website and take advantage of it.
Jon: Yes, I totally agree. Thanks again for your time, Bob. I want to tell the listeners one more time. It's bobcircosta.com. You'll learn all the details of this course but also learn about Bob and see some of the great work that he's done over the years and start to learn from him. Also, be sure to check out harvestgrowthpodcast.com to see other episodes we've recorded. If you like this episode and you want to learn more about how you can profitably grow your consumer product business, please subscribe to our show and leave us a review at iTunes or Google Play. Bob, thanks again for your time. I really appreciate it.
Bob: Hey, Jon, always a pleasure to be with you, my friend. We've been friends for many years, I hope many years to continue, and I'm so happy that you and your team at Harvest Growth you're doing so well. You deserve all the success in the world. Thanks for having me on your show.
Jon: Thank you again. Appreciate it.
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