What Can American Idol Teach Us About Internet Marketing? – Part 3

by Bill Hibbler

Optimization – As marketer extraordinaire Jay Abraham would define it, that’s getting everything you can out of all you’ve got. The folks behind American Idol understand the principles of optimization very well.

Before Paula Abdul was a pop star, she was best known as a Laker girl and she plays a similar role on Idol. Unlike the other judges, Paula knows what it feels like to face the critics and a fickle public that every pop star deals with. So, she’s the cheerleader, offering light criticism at times but reluctant to say a harsh word about anyone. She’s more concerned about not hurting anyone’s feelings and being supportive.

Now in its third year, Idol has become the number one show in the country. Last week, with an estimated 33 million viewers, over 19 million people cast votes for their favorite contestant.  

Many TV dramas have used a ‘cliffhanger’ episode to ensure visitors return for the following week’s episode. Idol takes the cliffhanger to a whole new level. Viewers tune in for 60-90 minutes on Tuesday night to watch singers compete and then tune in Wednesday to a 30-60 minute edition of the show to get the voting results.

If that weren’t enough, there are often special edition shows throughout the season. This year, they took clips of all the worst auditions and built a special around them even inviting some of the ‘worst of the worst’ to perform live on the show. William Hung, one of the show’s biggest ‘failures’ was so bad, he’s turned into a novelty hit.

Hung has become a cult phenomenon and has a record deal now himself based on one of the most ridiculous renditions of a Ricky Martin song ever seen. AI’s producers are smart. They realize that many viewers tune in to see the really awful auditions, too. So Idol optimizes it’s content to not only profit from the most talented performers but from the rejects, too.

Idol also optimizes their product in other ways. After the season, they put the top 12 finalists on a major concert tour that brings in huge amounts of revenue, promotes the individual CD releases of the top 12 and maintains interest in the show during the offseason. And believe me, every contestant on Idol signs a contract that gives the show’s producers get first option on management and record deals.

Last season, Idol’s producers made a low-budget beach movie featuring the top 2 contestants from the season 1 and raked in millions while promoting the movie on the TV show. Naturally there was a soundtrack that earned money and the movie helped sell CD’s for the two young stars.

They also bring back past Idol finalists to perform a promote their latest CD, which of course, the show owns a piece of.

In addition to the usual commercials, Idol has involved AT&T as a major sponsor by incorporating the cell phone company’s text messaging feature into the voting process. That type of product placement adds millions to the show’s bottom line.

And, of course, there’s the Idolonfox.com website which gets regular plugs on the show. On the site, you’ll find Idol merchandise for sale plus a forum where viewers can discuss their favorite Idol contestants. In order to participate in the discussions, visitors have to register providing all their contact details. This mailing list is then used to promote show merchandise, tours, CD releases and anything else the show wants to pitch. Imagine the size of that mailing list. 

How does all this relate to Internet marketing? This article provides one example. I’m originally writing this for my ezine. Next, I’ll post it to my website which provides more content plus will draw additional search engine traffic.

After using it in my ezine and on my website, I’ll post it on several marketing forums. Anyone will be free to use it in their ezine or on their website as long as they include a link to my site. So, I get more traffic and new subscribers without out any additional cost. 

Since I’ve now created a 3-part series on this theme, some readers will visit my website to check out parts one and two which they may have missed. More traffic, more subscribers, no additional work.

Finally, I can combine several articles on this theme into an ebook which I could either sell or give away as a freebie to subscribers or as a bonus for another product. I could also load the articles into an autoresponder use it as a e-series to give away on my site.

See how optimization works? One article serves me five ways. As ezine content, website content, search engine fodder, a viral marketing tool or even as a product.

Let’s look at some other examples. How about upselling? That’s where you add an additional offer on your order page. A visitor to your site decides to make a purchase. They whip out their credit card to fill out the order form and you hit them with an upsell.

‘Say Mr. or Mrs. Customer, I’m glad to see you buying our $100 Widget today but I’ve got something special for you. I have the Widget Pro Deluxe which includes the widget, a  carrying case, a widget holder and an adaptor to allow you to use the widget in your car. If you bought all this individually, it would cost you over $300 but in this special offer it’s yours for only $197. Whattya say?’

If they agree, you’ve increased the sale by 97% and what did it cost you to? Other than the cost of the accessories, not a thing. That’s optimizing your website traffic. Not everyone will say ‘Yes’ but if 1 out of 4 does, that means your average sale increases by nearly 25%.

Are you seeing ways this could work in your business?

I’ll close with one last example. Your headline. It has been demonstrated by top copywriters that a change in your headline can increase sales by over 500%. Given that you’re already spending X amount of dollars to drive traffic to your site, how much more does a change in headline cost you? Nothing. A 500% increase in sales with zero additional cost? That’s Optimization.