Just What the Shark Tank Ordered: Market Yourself

ENT 630: Wk 5-Reactions to It’s a Jungle in There

Every time I’ve ever watched the show, Shark Tank, I’ve actually watched no less than four episodes in a row. Curse you CNBC Prime! Stop luring me in with your savvy investors, entrepreneurial sob stories, and brilliant business ideas. In spite of the manufactured drama, I have learned a lot of helpful tips for entrepreneurs and investors by watching this campy show.

One of the questions the “Sharks” ask entrepreneurs quite frequently is, “are you doing THIS (insert business venture) full time?”. Typically, they ask this question to measure the entrepreneur’s commitment to the company, level of comfort with risk, and generally to see if the person is “all in.” I’ve even seen Kevin O’Leary turn down adorable kids with thriving businesses because school takes up too much of their time and he would rather invest in an entrepreneur, founder, or CEO who can devote all of their waking hours to the business.

This concept of investors only investing in the company if they believe in the entrepreneur behind the company is not unique. We all might roll our eyes at Kevin O’Leary, but Schussler in his book, It’s a Jungle in There, echoes this same exact sentiment in chapter 15: Marketing Yourself to Market Your Product. He says, investors often ask him, “How invested are you in your idea?” (p. 110) Schussler says it’s easy to say “I’m invested 100%”, but when you show them, you are invested by your actions they can’t help but be convinced. Not everyone has to turn their home into a rainforest café prototype or spend millions of dollars mocking up restaurant concepts in a Minneapolis warehouse. There are easy, no-brainer things you can do to show how serious and dedicated you are to your ideas when meeting with investors. Schussler has strong ideas about sending the right message to investors through:

  1. Physical appearance- wear a suit
  2. Hand Shakes– know the right balance
  3. Body Language- act interested; nod your head up and down, etc.
  4. & Business Cards- convey your concept through the item you leave behind

Don’t forget, not all meetings are scheduled. You might meet an investor at a party, on an airplane, or in the elevator. Always be ready to impress. Make an impression by making the person laugh or tell a story. Stories stick with people and leave an impression. And finally, if you are at a point in your entrepreneurial journey that you can quit your day job, you are approximately 50%* more likely to make a deal on Shark Tank if you are “all-in.”

*success odds calculated purely from my “expertise” in binge-watching Shark Tank. Not statistically valid.

No Back Stock! – A Lesson in Sales & Marketing

ENT 630- Wk 4-reactions to It’s a Jungle in There

My first Human Resources role was with Target. I was a store side Executive Team Leader of HR. Store side, meant I also had retail responsibilities beyond managing schedules, payroll, benefits, etc. I had to know the business of the store: sales actuals vs. forecast, merchandising, front end, softlines, hardlines, and logistics. I very distinctly remember walking the floor with a visiting District Team Leader (DTL), he said, “show me the back room”. Our entourage of corporate visitors and store leaders pushed through the doors of the back room. I remember our DTL taking a handheld scanner from a stock room clerk and climbing a ladder. What we didn’t know is that he had noticed an item was empty from the shelves while walking the floor and had quickly looked up the back stock location on the hand held. As he climbed down the ladder with the items in hand, he said, “our guests can’t buy things from the backroom”.

He was right, from that day forward, when I was in charge I added “outs” to my personal check list and could be heard over the walkie-talkie coaching our mid-day replenishment team.

More importantly, our DTL’s words still ring in my ears from an entrepreneurial standpoint. When I read chapter twelve of Schussler’s book, the title reminded me of my DTL’s words. The chapter title is: “Marketing: Customers Won’t Buy What They Don’t Know Exists”.

In a large retail chain, it was as simple as keeping items pushed to the floor. We couldn’t make sales from an empty shelf. For an entrepreneur, the process is more complicated. For an entrepreneur, we must market twice without the power of the big red bulls eye behind us. Schussler had to market his ideas to investors long before he worried about direct marketing to customers. And there is a lesson here: entrepreneurs have to empty out the proverbial backroom and put everything they have out there for their investors and customers.

Holding back can mean missing a sale. The back room doesn’t clean itself out, just like ideas and products don’t market themselves. It’s worth writing a formal marketing plan around how you want to get your name out to the customer. Customers can’t buy what you are selling unless they know your product and/or company exists.