If you’ve seen even one episode of Shark Tank, you’ve probably experienced empathetic sweaty palms and baited breath. Just as the weekly ABC show illustrates, having a panel of hard-hitting, self-made billionaires judging which fledgling startups deserve their investment means no one’s feelings are spared.
But consider: If your skin is thick enough, an appearance on Shark Tank can be a game changer for your startup -- Season Six alone had more than 7 million viewers. This represents both a huge opportunity for growth and a simultaneous potential for disaster.
When my company, Acceleration Partners, had the opportunity to work with our client, greeting card company Lovepop, to support its appearance on Shark Tank, we eagerly joined forces. The outcome proved successful for Lovepop.
But it also provided the following valuable insights into how other companies might have the same success.
Time in the tank: worth it
Business owners who dive in not only have to market to savvy investors, they also have to focus on how to make the most of the on-air opportunity Shark Tank represents.
Regardless of whether a deal is made, the show lets startups increase brand awareness and sales with an exposure opportunity that is almost unparalled. Indeed, sales surge.
Still, some companies on the program have seen their share of failure in dealing with this sort of spike, whether those failures take the form of website meltdowns, and challenges with order fulfillment, to difficulty with brand recall.
Here are three ways to ensure your company reaps the full benefits of its on-air appearance:
1. Plan and test extensively.
Make sure your website can handle the load that will result from an appearance on Shark Tank. Make sure your marketing is prepared to handle the spike in social media buzz, your operations people are ready to fulfill an influx of orders and your customer service is standing by to field calls.
Realize, too, that your concept -- not your name -- may "stick" the most in viewers' memory. Having the right keywords is vital (ideally, 25 to 100) in your Google AdWords or Bing campaign. You might use something like "Shark Tank candles" or “women’s deodorant Shark Tank.”
We researched thousands of personas and keywords and tested many of them at low volume to ensure all viewers of Lovepop’s episode could find the company.
2. Set up your 'war room.'
Like smart brands that have capitalized on real-time opportunities presented by the Super Bowl, it’s imperative to ready something akin to a war room: Enlisting your whole team to help. Ask friends of the company and other companies that have been through the Shark Tank experience to help.
As our and Lovepop's teams watched the live episode, website traffic spiked in real time via the Google Analytics graph. Phones rang, social media comments exploded and orders soared. We then started making changes to our online marketing programs in real time, based on an examination of ROI; every online campaign was connected to each dollar of revenue.
To fully ramp up marketing channels after your company's or client's airing, know which channels provide the highest returns on ad spend or the lowest cost per action.
We recommend reviewing at least a month of campaign data in advance to provide the insights needed to avoid costly mistakes post-show. We consulted with other previous companies that had appeared on Shark Tank and then regretted not spending more money during the show. They acknowledged not having the ROI data in real time to make good decisions -- and they only realized this weeks later.
3. Chart your customers’ paths.
Knowing how customers find you validates your digital adverting investment. A buyer might first see your company on Shark Tank, then visit the website without buying. Next, she might see a retargeted Facebook ad a week later and make a purchase the next day, using paid search to find your site.
Each channel plays a different role in the process, but your attribution model for each will be critical to your strategy moving forward, so track them carefully.
After your episode airs, a tidal wave of highly relevant potential customers creates the perfect opportunity to retarget. (And it’s worth it, considering mobile retargeting on Facebook can boost impression reach by 60 percent, and click-through rates by 64 percent.)
Have retargeting pixels in place for all of your media channels, including key ones such as AdWords, Google Display, Facebook and Instagram.
While the thought of being “thrown to the sharks” may be intimidating, participating in the show can be a phenomenal opportunity for your company -- if you leverage it correctly. What's holding you back?