There’s something exciting about watching entrepreneurs go big or go home to secure funding for their inventions and companies.
If you’re unfamiliar with the show, the premise is simple. Entrepreneurs walk into a room (the proverbial tank) and pitch their companies and ideas to a semi-rotating cast of five investors (the proverbial sharks). All of them are worth billions and cover a wide range of industries. The show’s mainstays include Mark Cuban, Kevin O’Leary, Barbara Corcoran, Lori Greiner, Robert Herjavec and Daymond John.
My favorite – Kevin O’Leary, Mr. Wonderful himself. He’s a straight shooter: direct, honest and efficient.
Shark Tank’s audience can easily spot what works and what doesn’t in these pitches. Do the founders know their numbers (cash flow, burn rate, acquisition cost)? Do they have an expansion strategy? Are they charismatic enough to sell themselves to five self-made entrepreneurs worth billions? And if it goes well, can they properly negotiate multiple offers? And if THAT goes well, how can they spread the word? Negotiating is one thing, but marketing is a whole different beast.
How do you make the transition from securing funding to marketing funding?
Real-life funding isn’t quite as flashy or dramatic as it is on TV – not everyone can have a shark sweep in at the last minute (cough, Mark Cuban) with a perfect offer. However, landing funding is no less a critical milestone for companies just because the cameras are absent. The question is, “How are you getting the word out?” Don’t you want investors, customers and employees to feel a sense of confidence in how your company is performing from a business perspective?
Some of the skills required to pitch your company to investors in the first place are the same skills you’ll need to lock down coveted funding coverage. Imagine this scenario: a year after Series A funding, your launch coverage builds momentum in the public eye and leads to a successful Series B round months down the road. Or maybe a top-tier CMO or blue-chip customer is wooed to your company because of its recent rise in the press.
Here are 8 PR and marketing strategies filled with Shark Tank wisdom, quotes and advice to help you land and capitalize on funding, amplifying its benefits for your business.
1. Start today.
“In business, you're the Chief Salesman. Create a sense of demand, rather than waiting to have demand.” Wise words from Ms. Corcoran. It’s easy to be preoccupied during your company’s ramp. However, make sure you’re staying top-of-mind and ramping up in the media’s eyes, too. Establishing contacts through thought leadership, guest posts, social media and networking events will go a long way in building a foundation.
Now that you’ve signed on the dotted line, it’s time to coach your investors and internal media contacts. First, an easy-to-miss detail: know when your investors are filing with the SEC. This impacts the announcement timing. Then, write FAQs for those who are speaking to the media. Outline for everyone internally and also for external spokespeople what’s approved and what’s confidential in advance of interviews, and double check your numbers. After all, the truth of your success should be the easiest thing to sell, as Daymond would say. Give your investors guidance on writing blog posts or LinkedIn posts for their investor sites to post once when the news goes live. Make sure they have the most updated pictures and logos. (You want them to be visually recognizable).
3. Timing is everything.
As Robert says, “A goal without a timeline is simply a dream.” Knowing your release timeline is key. For example, if you offered an exclusive to one publication, make sure your team isn’t continuing to pitch to other publications until after the release has crossed the wire. Align all your content channels: social editorial calendars, blog posts, website branding and email newsletters. Nobody wants a rogue tweet or article to go out the day before the news drops. I can hear the conversation between Mr. Wonderful and the intern now: “You’re dead to me."
4. Plan your content distribution.
Speaking of, have you considered how you’re going to distribute the news? For example, have your CEO write a blog post that goes live on announcement day. Send a note to industry analysts with links to the coverage. On social, consider paid social media campaigns, especially on Twitter and Facebook, as they are highly economical ways to share your success. At the very least, push the coverage on all of your active social platforms.
5. Involve employees.
Develop advocacy and enthusiasm among your employees. By involving those who contributed to your company’s success, you’ll expand reach even further. For example, providing an internal checklist for employee social sharing is a rock-solid way of getting employees on board.
6. Thank your customers and partners.
Have your CEO draft a letter to all of your customers and partners thanking them and revealing how crucial their loyalty is. That much style and class will give even Daymond John a run for his money.
7. Leverage recruiting momentum.
You’ve got the extra cash to fuel another ramp up. A bigger ramp means a bigger organization. Cash in on all of the funding momentum in your recruitment efforts. In a world where startups are often crashing and burning, your stability is attractive to prospective candidates.
8. Prepare to repeat the process.
The press releases may not look that different each funding announcement, but you should be ready to create buzz around each round you receive. It helps communicate to future investors that you should be on their radar. You’re also telling potential customers you’re worth doing business with (and you’re not going anywhere). Finally, it builds excitement in the outside world and creates confidence among your staff.
Receiving funding is a milestone event in the life of a company. Make sure you do everything you can to amplify its impact. If you do it well enough, you may just find yourself walking out of the proverbial Shark Tank with a deal from an investor…or multiple investors.
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