Lights, Camera, Action!

Do you dream of promoting your business on Oprah or the Today show, but don't know where to start? Here's the inside scoop on harnessing the power of TV--so get ready for your close-up.

When interior designer Lee Snijders first appeared on HGTV's popular decorating show Designers' Challenge in 2002, he assumed he'd get a flurry of inquiries from prospects and some promising leads for new work. What he didn't expect was an avalanche of new business.

"During the first commercial break, my girlfriend and I checked my e-mail, and I already had 15 e-mails from people requesting whole home designs," says Snijders, founder of Lee Snijders Designs. "By the next morning, I had received 225 e-mails. I was ecstatic."

Such is the power of TV, that all-pervasive electronic medium that entertains us, educates us and lifts our spirits. More important for entrepreneurs, TV can provide a wealth of opportunities for promoting products and services to a wide audience you otherwise might not reach-and without the exorbitant expenses associated with paid advertising.

"Every time that show airs, it's like a free commercial for me," Snijders, 36, says. "My Web site lights up, the e-mails come in, and I get a new influx of clients. It has been surreal for me."

And that modest first appearance has paid off for Snijders in another significant way: In addition to making two more appearances on Designers' Challenge, he landed his own HGTV show, Design on a Dime, last year, and his innovative work is now seen regularly by 88 million viewers. He's also in the enviable position of pursuing licensing deals and endorsements that one day could be worth millions.

"Being on TV can make you a millionaire-or it can have absolutely no effect on your business at all," says Susan Harrow, a media coach and marketing strategist in Oakland, California, and author of The Ultimate Guide to Getting Booked on Oprah: Ten Steps to Becoming a Guest on the World's Top Talk Show. "For your career to take off, you must prepare in advance to make the most of your TV appearances."

And here are four steps to help you do just that.

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This article was originally published in the September 2004 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Lights, Camera, Action!.

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