Whether you’re a budding entrepreneur or have grown a 7-figure ecommerce business, chances are you’ve tuned in to watch at least one episode of Shark Tank.
With more than 270 episodes since it debuted in 2009, hundreds of entrepreneurs have pitched their ideas and business ventures to potential investors.
So-called “sharks” like Mark Cuban, Lori Greiner, Barbara Corcoran, Daymond John, Robert Herjavec, and Kevin O’Leary have imparted their words of wisdom and tough love to those looking for a deal.
Luckily, you don’t have to be “in the tank” to understand how to sell your products best and run your ecommerce business.
We’ve put together the best advice given over the years in the show that you can start implementing today.
Get ready to sink your teeth into our ten lessons any entrepreneurs can learn from these legendary “sharks.”
Know Who You Serve & the Problem You Solve
The sharks always dig into the business’s target audience and how the product is serving them. Your product must solve a problem in your clients’ lives and you need to know what the problem is.
In Season 2 of Shark Tank, Matty Salin pitched his idea, Wake’ n Bacon, a wooden alarm clock that begins cooking bacon when it goes off.
He didn’t get a deal for two reasons: mainly because of the glaring fire hazard issue and also because there was no actual customer demand for his product.
However, Mark and Hanna Lim—creators of Lollacup—were having problems with the constant spilling of their kids’ sippy cups. If you’re a parent, you’ve been there.
The Lim family experienced a problem that many parents have, came up with an idea to fix it, and their Lollacup business was born.
Moreover, don’t forget to validate the problem you are trying to solve. Validating the problem means that you need to make sure that the problem is real.
It requires you to go out and speak to potential customers about this problem. When you ask customers the right questions about their challenges, they will provide you with a wealth of information.
Solve a problem, and your business will soar.
Know Your Numbers
Sharks—or other investors—will immediately lose interest when an entrepreneur shows they don’t know their numbers.
Mr. Wonderful (Kevin O’Leary) believes, “You have to know your numbers. How big is the market? How fast is it growing? How many competitors are there?” All of these questions are valid no matter what kind of ecommerce business you have.
Luckily, if you are in the ecommerce business, you have access to vast amounts of data with the click of your mouse via Google Analytics, Hubspot, Facebook Ads, etc.
Use it wisely to better target your audience, improve your customer service, and personalize your customers’ shopping experiences.
Two of the most important metrics for ecommerce businesses are Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC) and Customer Lifetime Value (CLV).
CAC measures your marketing efficiency and how much you spend to acquire a customer, while CLV speaks to your ability to retain loyal buyers.
Know Your Business Inside & Out (Not Just Numbers)
It should go without saying that you must be 100% well-versed in your business and products or services. Where did the idea come from? How did you begin to develop it?
Be fluent in your story. You never know who you might meet at a networking event or pass on the street that could benefit from what you have to offer. You always want to be ready to talk about your ecommerce business—and be able to defend it, if necessary.
Have a Plan & Keep It Realistic
Believing in yourself and your product is not enough though. You need to have a plan for the future of your business. What is your strategy? What are the short-term and long-term goals? What is the mission? However, your product needs to be viable, and your valuation must be reasonable.
In Season 1 of Shark Tank, Mary Ellen Simonsen pitched “in the tank” with her invention Attached Notes (aka Flip N’ Notes), a retractable board that attaches to your laptop monitor to hold your Post-It notes.
Simonsen asked for $100,000 for 20% of her company—putting her valuation at $500,000—while admitting she has never sold one unit of her product. Simonsen was missing a plan and she didn’t get a deal. Don’t make the same mistake.
Stick to Direct-to-Consumer Approach
Historically, you couldn’t scale a brand without the help of big retailers like Walmart, Best Buy, and Kroger. With those big retail relationships, though, came some serious costs including inventory carrying costs, retailer and distributor margins, slotting allowances, sales teams, and more.
Today the picture is very different. Many of the brands that show up on Shark Tank have achieved large-scale results by relying on Direct-to-Consumer (DTC) alone.
Bombas is a brilliant example of DTC-first and one of Shark Tank’s biggest successes ever. Having the shark on board caused them to de-prioritize traditional retail in favor of their own direct strategy. “We had early ambitions of and thoughts of going into retail,” co-founder David Heath said. ”[Daymond John] actually convinced us that really, e-commerce and direct-to-consumer is kind of the future.”
Marketing is Vital
Sticking to DTC also means that reaching that customer is your responsibility. Marketing can help with that.
You could have a life-changing product with the most beautiful, efficient website on the Internet. But what is the point if no one knows it exists?
Be intentional with your marketing plan, and know where your target audience “hangs out.” For example, if your product or service is for young moms, you’ll want to focus your marketing efforts on mums’ forums and social media. Many social platforms allow you to create highly targeted marketing campaigns.
When devising your ads and web content, remember that your product being “the best” is not enough. People want to know how it will help them. Bag the catchy phrases. Be clear and concise with your goals, plans, and projections, and let your value propositions shine through.
Presentation & Optimization Matters
Like with marketing, you could have an award-winning, million-dollar product, but if no one can navigate your website, quickly find what they’re looking for, or even locate a simple product description, your product isn’t going to move.
Take the necessary steps to ensure your ecommerce website is 100% user-friendly, fast, and safe. Keep your customer in mind. If your product is meant for the 65+ community, your website should be designed and presented to them in a significantly different way than if you were selling to millennials.
Keep an Open Mind
Sharks will often present suggestions to improve a product, website, marketing, etc. In turn, you may receive similar advice from a mentor or even a customer.
While we take pride in our creations, keep an open mind. Just because you’ve been presented with something you never thought to try or assumed wouldn’t work doesn’t mean it won’t! Which ties directly into.
Take the Advice
Entrepreneurs are resourceful—and let’s face it—often stubborn. We like to figure things out for ourselves! While that is an admirable quality, in an ecommerce business, it can be a hindrance.
The time spent trying to “figure it out” is likely something that could’ve been solved quicker and easier with the assistance of a mentor, coach, or partner.
If you are resistant to asking for help while growing your business, it’s likely your business won’t grow.
Let You Shine Through
In the end, the customer is buying you just as much as they are buying your product. Don’t hide behind your website and product. Share your story, post a picture of yourself, and let your potential customers learn who you are and what you stand for.
Even Shark Robert Herjavec said, “Many people think the magic formula is the business idea itself… it’s really the entrepreneur and their hard work and commitment to the idea. I’d take a great entrepreneur with a so-so business over a so-so entrepreneur with a great business any day.”
Also, Barbara Corcoran shared her wisdom, “People want to do business with someone they like. If people like you, they’re going to want to do business with you. And if they don’t, you’re going to have an almost insurmountable obstacle to overcome.”
Don’t Expect Everyone to Love You and Your Offer
You may not be everyone’s cup of tea, and that’s ok. There are 8 billion people on this planet, and they are not all your ideal clients.
If someone says they don’t like or aren’t interested in what you’re offering, don’t get defensive. Just listen. If you’re going to respond to clarify, be as respectful as possible.
According to Herjavec, “Things may not always go your way, people may not always agree with you, you may lose out on a deal – but treat others with respect no matter what.”
Thanks to Shark Tank, these lessons are available to help us learn more about our business, prepare ourselves for entrepreneurship, and tackle any obstacles along our path to success.
Remember these inspirational words from Mark Cuban, “The key in business and success at any endeavor is doing your best to control your destiny. You can’t always do it, but you have to take every opportunity you can to be as prepared as–and ahead of–the competition as you possibly can be.”
It is time to go out and implement them in your ecommerce business today. Test your idea, refine your business plan, update your marketing strategy, add your personality to your website, and take your business to the moon. DirectScale is ready to help you on your journey.
About DirectScale, Inc.
DirectScale makes it easy for companies to Run, Know & Grow their business through purposeful scaling of their influencer channels. The DirectScale platform can help build and scale influencer and direct selling channels regardless of the sales model or size of the business. It’s built to help companies grow revenue by encouraging, rewarding, and amplifying the influence independent sellers, customers and promoters have with the company’s brand through personal online interactions. With unmatched ecommerce technology, businesses can monetize and grow that influence to generate the revenue and runway they need to scale their business.