Next up in the Tank: five marketing takeaways we’ve gleaned from watching every season of Shark Tank.
By Sedora Tantraphol and Elexi Dailey
#TeamMoonsail’s Sedora and Elexi are avid Shark Tank viewers. Between the two of us, we’ve purchased dozens of Shark Tank products (you’re welcome, entrepreneurs!), and we’ve recommended even more to our friends, family, and clients. (Fun fact: “Sedora mentions Shark Tank” is actually on our #TeamMoonsail bingo card!)
We love the show not only for the awesome products and entertainment value or because it’s a platform that changes the lives of entrepreneurs and their customers, but because it teaches real-world business knowledge and marketing takeaways.
Here are the top five takeaways we’ve learned from watching the Tank:
1. Nail the pitch by blending a compelling story and hard data.
At Moonsail North, we always say that storytelling is an art and a science. The most successful pitches on the show seamlessly blend a compelling origin story with hard data.
The strongest pitches—once you’ve filtered out the gimmicky costumes, demos, songs, overdramatized acting, and customized freebies—have a strong foundational story: the why behind the product, and the creators’ passionate commitment to the product.
And while stories move people to action emotionally, these Sharks are investors focused on maximizing profits and minimizing liability, so you need to back your story up with numbers. (You know Mr. Wonderful will ask about your acquisition cost, marketing budget, and debts.)
This applies off the Tank mat too: whenever you’re writing persuasively, make a connection with your audience with a powerful story, and weave in figures that strengthen your call to action.
A great recent example of blending a clear purpose backed with persuasive stats is NightCap, a drink-spiking prevention tool that quickly landed a Shark.
2. Showcase your strategy and values.
In the Shark Tank, the savviest entrepreneurs are those who are laser-focused on their hero product and logical product expansions. It’s clear who’s done their research, understands how best to reach their audiences, and is making realistic stretch goals.
Showing a solid understanding of your customer personas and journeys (hint: it’s probably not the entire global market yet…) and how to reach them is key. Understanding which partners you need to grow your business is also important.
#TeamMoonsail also strongly advocates for values-based communications, and we see this in business owners who incorporate that into their model: they commit to creating jobs locally, sourcing products sustainably, or giving back a portion of their profits. We also see values on display in pitchers who are transparent with their challenges and explain how they drew on their resiliency and resourcefulness to overcome a challenge and thrive.
As consumers increasingly make value-aligned purchasing decisions, brands must continue to communicate their values and transparent strategy, goals, and pivots. We see a growing contingent of social entrepreneurship brands come on to the Tank and make deals that include social responsibility baked in.
Values in action: The mother-daughter duo behind Sienna Sauce shared their powerful story of overcoming health concerns and homelessness to build an irresistibly tasty product and inspire other young entrepreneurs to do the same.
Simply Good Jars, a ready-to-eat salad jar, includes a QR code on the jar for consumers to scan and pledge to repurpose, reuse, or recycle the jar to keep it out of landfills. For every pledge received, Simply Good Jars donates to a local food organization to help feed someone in need.
3. Harness the power of social media ads and influencers.
In this last year—especially as people stayed at home—online shopping skyrocketed, a trend that experts agree is likely here to stay: 62% of U.S. shoppers say they shop more online now than they did before the pandemic. Through a mix of organic and boosted posts and targeted ads, we’ve seen countless businesses take off thanks to the power of social media marketing. The brands that can successfully build an online community that leverage user generated content (UGC) or that can partner with influencers power ahead with increased sales.
Truffle Shuffle tapped into the at-home, pandemic era market by quickly pivoting into intimate Zoom cooking classes and meal kits using their delectable truffle product.
The entrepreneurs behind Mad Rabbit Tattoo only invested an initial $600 in their product and rapidly generated profit. They attribute their success to building a digital community through social media influencer marketing.
4. SEO is an increasingly important marketing tool.
Mark Cuban is “the tech guy,” valued for his back-end SEO and digital magic-working. He doesn’t talk or hype himself up often, but when he does, it almost always revolves around the power of SEO in making brands more discoverable and clinching those sales conversions. As professional communicators, we’re always focused on the punchiest way to tell a story and make it stick. Increasingly, that “punch” needs to work in tandem with SEO optimization––the reason everyone on our team is SEO marketing certified.
5. Create an “oooh!!!” experience for customers through branding and packaging.
Whether you’re fighting for your customer’s attention on a store shelf or in their Instagram feed, your brand name, logo, and packaging make all the difference in intriguing them enough to pick up your product (or click to buy), learn about how your product is better than your competition’s, and commit to purchasing your product or taking another desired action.
Start with a clever but distinctive and memorable name that makes it immediately clear what you do but sets you apart from your competition. Express that through a professionally designed logo that will look good in digital and print environments. Call out the key differentiators and your value-add. And finally, elevate the user experience by creating great-looking packaging that’s fun and easy to open. Lori Greiner, the “Queen of QVC,” has been known to make her deals contingent upon package redesigns or full-on rebranding because of the impact it has on customer trust and loyalty.
Product design and label design is a niche skill in marketing, and we’ve had fun helping clients design attention-grabbing logos, labels, and creative leave-behinds, as well as think through branded customer experience, such as through branded boxes, tissue paper, ribbon, and more!
Herbal sparkling water brand Aura Bora drew viewers in (including Elexi) with their eye-catching packaging and playful digital presence.
The Mad Optimist invites customers to fully customize their sustainable, vegan and eco-friendly products by choosing scents, add-ins, and even naming the product!
Calling Other Finatics
Whether you tune in to support inventors or to learn something yourself, watching the pitches can help you hone your marketing skills, making you a stronger communicator and consumer. If you’re a fan too, drop us a line to tell us what other lessons you’ve picked up! Or email firstname.lastname@example.org if you’re curious about our favorite Shark Tank products or want a personalized recommendation!