How To Sell Without Showing
The anti-product launch technique
The anti-product launch technique
Would you believe me if I told you that you could sell over $200,000 of goods without ever showing the product? It’s true. These underutilized marketing techniques are common in the niche I work in.
You see, by day I sell the secrets of magic tricks to magicians around the globe. It’s a weird-sounding business to be in, but one that allows you to experiment with some unorthodox marketing campaigns, the results of which can be replicated or even improved upon, if applied to broader niches.
Here are multiple ways to sell a product without ever fully showing what it is, or what it does.
Sell the Lifestyle
One of the best ways to sell without showing is to sell a story around that product.
Before I ever worked for Ellusionist, their videographer turned famous Youtuber, Peter McKinnon, had the idea of selling a deck of cards, without ever showing its design in the trailer.
The trailer would instead sell the story of a fake bank robbery, the idea being that this deck of cards would then be associated with danger, anarchy, and intense value. To break the law for these playing cards, it must be a great one, right?
The buyers of this product were buying in for two reasons:
Because the story built around the playing cards is f***ing cool.
Because the trailer was awesome, they were curious, and it’s worth $9 to find out more.
It quickly sold out. I can’t speak to exactly how many, but from what I know about working in this industry now, I can guess it was around 10,000 units of this first version alone.
How you can apply this to your products
Create a story around your product, decide whether the reality of the product will live up to expectations, and invest in assets.
By assets I mean incredible videos, photos, gifs, good design work, and great packaging.
You don’t have to show the product, but you do have to sell the vibe around the product. Get creative. Just make sure whatever you’re selling can live up to any claims you make.
Sell With a Teaser
This was one of my favourite campaigns to ever work on. Decibel was a device that performed a particular magic trick. The only hint I wanted to give our buyers was that it was to do with sound.
Retailing for $119, the obvious tactic would be to oversell all of the features and benefits of the product — “It’s small, sleek, durable,” and so on.
However, if you work in a market with many repeat customers, you don’t always need to show them the item. Especially if what you’re selling is consumable, like beauty products, food, or in my case, magic tricks.
Amazingly, this product was one that sold 800 units before anyone even knew what it was, or what it did.
With this teaser alone, it made $95,200 on pre-order:
How you can apply this technique to your business
This could be the same with restaurants. Maybe you have a secret menu item or special of the day for $30, but you don’t tell customers what it is they’re ordering before they order it.
This could be an unseen scented face wash in your beauty subscription box. It’s a surprise when it’s delivered and changes weekly.
This could work for a new music track, maybe show loads of people reacting and dancing to it in a teaser, but buyers can pay a premium to get it now.
It could be for a festival in the Bahamas where you show scantily-clad women swimming and laughing. Wait, I think that’s been done. Maybe avoid this last one. (Fyre Festival.)
Mystery Bargain Bin
Sometimes the chance to own a great product for a tiny price is enough for people to gamble with their hard-earned dollars.
I’m showing my age here, but I used to love shopping the cheap DVDs in Blockbuster video. £3 for a movie you may hate or may love is well worth the risk.
To action this now, you could add an element of mystery to this offering. By offering products at bargain prices, you’ll inspire more sales. However, if the price is cheap enough, people will gamble for the chance of something great.
Please check your gambling or sweepstakes laws in your country of trade, but if it can work for football stickers, baseball cards, and Pokémon, it can work for other products too.
Bonus: Limited Supply
Another fantastic way to sell without showing is to let your customer base know about your awesome product, then let them know you don’t have many units to sell.
This strategy, although risky, can help to create hype around your product. With a dwindling supply, thanks to trusted patrons and repeat customers, it will give social proof to new buyers.
They’ll think, “It must be good if 200 people have already ordered it without knowing what it is and they only have 50 left. I don’t want to miss out.”
That fear of missing out can be a powerful sales tool when used infrequently.