Most fast-growing ecommerce businesses would kill to be on a TV show like Shark Tank. And it’s not just for the chance to reel in funding to rapidly grow their company. Although that is a huge bonus.
The brand exposure you get from reaching a potential target audience of 8 million viewers is reason enough to be on the show. So, even if you fail to catch some cash from the sharks, you can still win in the end.
That’s because after your show airs, online traffic and sales results can be jaw-s dropping. Yep, I went there!
Want to learn how to swim with the big fish who make it onto the show? I reached out to three Shopify Plus merchants who navigated their way into the tank, fought for and closed investor deals, and lived to tell the tale.
Getting a Bite From the Shark Tank Casting Manager
Timing is everything when it comes to applying to the show through the website. After watching Shark Tank episodes for years, always with a queasy feeling in his stomach that he should be on the show, Brian Lim, Founder of EmazingLights, iHeartRaves, and IntoTheAM quickly filled out the online form late one night after watching a rerun at 2am.
“In just a few sentences, I wrote a brief introduction about my business, plus included a link to my site and some YouTube videos, and then I outlined my business growth,” he says. “I think the reason why we were successful is because we waited until we had a strong proof of concept for the brands, and we were ready to scale the business -- a factor that is really attractive to investors.”
Other merchants were discovered by the show’s casting managers. Their companies were also growing fast and attracting media attention.
“Our casting manager told us thousands of people apply. So when they reach out to you, it’s kind of a fast pass into the next round,” explains Gaston Blanchet, Co-founder at Trunkster.
He suggests to find the casting agents and show producers through LinkedIn and try to connect with them directly, or ask for an introduction from their friends if you don’t have any luck applying online.
Once a casting manager reaches out, you’ll be interviewed over the phone and asked to send in a video pitch, so that they can weed out people who don’t have a good on-camera presence or story that makes for good TV. “Make sure to send in a creative and professional video to increase your chances of making it to the next round,” says Blanchet.
If the casting manager likes your video, you’ll be notified that you’ve been selected and then assigned a producer. That’s when the real preparation for the show begins.
Preparing to Dive Into the Tank
Image via BizJournals.com
David Heath, CEO & Co-founder of Bombas says his team “spent a lot of time both crafting our initial pitch and preparing for any and all questions and scenarios that could have been thrown at us.”
He recommends to watch countless episodes of previous Shark Tank seasons and make sure you can confidently answer any question they have ever asked other entrepreneurs.
Getting your friends to act as “sharks” and fire questions at you will help to get used to the format and feel confident going into the tank. “We also went over several deal structures so we were prepared to negotiate and knew what we (and other members of our team) would be comfortable with when it came to making a deal,” he says.
The good news is that the show’s producers will schedule regular calls with you leading up to the filming of your pitch to help you bring out the most interesting aspects of your story. “They hold your hand throughout all of it and give you great advice on what to wear, how to present your company, and how best to answer questions,” says Blanchet.
Brian Lim adds that “the help you receive can be hit or miss, based on the producer you get and how busy they are that season.” But they’ll help you ensure that your pitch is buttoned down tight by the time you get to L.A. for the filming of your episode.
How to Survive a Shark Attack
Image via CrowdFundInsider
Shopify plus merchants describe the “tank” experience to be nerve-wracking, intimidating, surreal and even invigorating. The first time you meet the sharks will be the day of filming. Heath explains that:
“As much as it is (and naturally feels like) any investor meeting, it is also very different. There are lights and cameras, and producers. You need to be buttoned-up and confident like you would be in any meeting, but also aware of what you might look or sound like on camera.”
Even though the segment is only 10 minutes on TV, the Shopify Plus merchants who’ve been on the show say you’ll actually be in the tank for up to two hours. They recommend to try and remain calm, confident and collected -- at least on the outside.
“You know everything there is to know about your business, it’s what you do every day. So make sure that comes through, stick to what you are comfortable with, and don’t get thrown off by everything else going around you,” says Heath.
If you want to get an offer, it helps to craft a pitch that will stand out from other businesses.
Brian Lim, who got offers from all five sharks, recommends to “have a visual product and presentation, and look at it from both the producer’s and investor’s angle -- be entertaining and show that you are ready to start scaling with their investment and strategic partnership.”
Do You Take the Deal, Or Walk Away?
Image via EmazingLights
The answer really depends on your main objectives for going on the show. Blanchet warns that:
“Even if you get a deal, the sharks are extremely busy and you’ll get little to no face time with them. You’ll be dealing with their business associates, who, by this point, are dealing with hundreds of other companies that have inked deals through seven seasons of the show.”
He recommends asking yourself the following questions before you go into the tank:
Do you have other investors?
Are you able to get a deal you’re comfortable with?
Are you able to get an offer from the shark that will most help your company?
You should know exactly what you want and pursue it aggressively. “You’ve got to be prepared, and know your floor and ceiling based on your initial offer,” says Lim. “And don’t go anywhere past it.” On the flip side, don’t go in with unrealistically high expectations either.
Surfing the Post-Show Tsunami of Traffic and Sales
Many entrepreneurs put a lot of work into getting onto the show and preparing their investor pitch. But it’s equally important to make sure your website and inventory is ready to handle a surge in traffic and sales immediately after your show airs.
“One of the biggest challenges is that you might not know your episode is airing until a week or two before,” warns Heath whose business learned that lesson the hard way but can handle re-runs now with ease thanks to Shopify Plus.
So do as much to prepare way ahead of time, and once you get the call, do everything in your power to ramp it up. That includes:
- Ensuring your website is scalable and will stay up during traffic surges.
- Having the inventory necessary to handle the increased orders that come in.
- Ramping up your customer service so you have a team troubleshooting.
- Helping with any questions you might receive from potential customers.
Brian Lim, who was also caught off guard after his episode aired for the first time, suggests that you “invest in special landing pages where people will end up after the show” -- so they understand your product immediately. Plus, “create Shark Tank special offers that are valid over the weekend after your episode airs, plus after every re-run, to capture more new customers.”
The Shopify Plus merchants who’ve made it onto the show say that nothing can truly prepare you for what will happen during your time in the tank, and the impact the show will have on your business.
The best you can do is to study previous episodes, practice your pitch and Q&A in front of friends and advisors, speak with other entrepreneurs who’ve survived the Shark Tank and lean on your assigned producer for pre-show insights and advice.
It’s equally important to ensure your website won’t go down during the surge in traffic after your episode airs. Also, make sure that you can handle and optimize the influx of sales coming in.