Shark Tank Show Isn’t Necessary for YOUR Business–Here’s Why
Yesterday, I liked the reality show Shark Tank.
Today? Not so much.
Sonia Simone ruined it for me. Thanks to her blog post Why Shark Tank is Terrible for Your Business, I’ll never be able to watch this show the same way again.
Here’s what happened…
I spotted her article on social media this morning and read it. The headline snagged me like fresh tuna on a hook.
Man, sometimes good content is so powerful.
Simone is a brilliant content marketer. She is co-founder and Chief Content Officer of Copyblogger Media, and calls herself the pink haired tyrant.
Maybe she should add “Truth Bomber” or “Reality TV Exposé” to her title.
Anyway, when it came to Shark Tank, I was a fan. Not a hardcore, tune-in-every-week fan, but I did enjoy it now and then. I’m guessing I’ve watched around 20+ episodes.
Simone’s take on Shark Tank startled me like a thump under my surfboard. Never before had I heard anyone criticize Shark Tank. I personally know people who have auditioned to be on the show and I know others who dream of one day being on the show. I even recall a post by James Altucher where he talked about how much he likes the show and encourages his kids to watch it.
This was me before I read Simone’s article: “Shark Tank? Love it. One of the best reality shows ever. So educational. Inspiring. That’s how the television medium should be used.”
This is me now: “Shark Tank? Be careful where you go swimming.”
Shark Tank Show Isn’t All It Appears to Be
Have you ever enjoyed something, never bothering to apply critical analysis to it? Then, somebody comes along and makes you see it in a different way?
That’s what Sonia did to me this morning. She punched a whole in the side of the aquarium and drained out the water.
Here’s how Simone started her article:
“Maybe they’ll take away my Entrepreneur’s Secret Hat and Decoder Ring for saying this, but I hate Shark Tank.
My husband and son like it, and every time it comes on, my teeth start to grind and my eye does that little twitchy thing.
I’m not saying the investors don’t give some decent advice. They do. And most of the Sharks seem like reasonable people. (With Kevin O’Leary doing his duty as designated villain, obligatory on most reality shows.)
But the core premise of Shark Tank — I hate it. I think it’s wrong, and I think it’s dangerous, and I think it hurts business owners.
[My eye did that “little twitchy thing” years ago thanks to a psychotic girlfriend–not Kevin O’Leary. But I digress.]
“The fundamental premise of Shark Tank is that people who have had big wins in business will automatically know more about your business than you do.
And underneath that is the part I really hate — the idea that some of us just have that “entrepreneurial gene,” and some don’t.
The Sharks have had some significant wins, so they’re “smart.” And as a small business owner? You’re just some fool who’s naive enough to think you can make a go of it on your own.
And so contestants audition for the right to go begging, hat in hand, to a handful of appointed gurus who might deign to take a large chunk of their business in exchange for a small amount of money. If they’re very very lucky.
Bam! She obliterates the whole Shark Tank concept right there.
That first sentence reminds me of a quote I picked up a long time ago. I don’t recall who said it, and this may not be the exact wording, but it goes like this, “Many times when a person succeeds in one particular field, they begin to think they’re an expert in all fields.”
Yes, I do admire the business acumen of each Shark. I even respect O’Leary (notice I didn’t say “like.”) They all definitely have wise tips to share, but as Sonia points out, they are not experts in every type of business under the sun. In fact, whenever someone comes on the show to pitch an online business, I am less than impressed with their internet knowledge. To me it appears each shark relies heavily on hired consultants for their online business ventures.
Okay, time for a random sports analogy to help illustrate this point: Derek Jeter had a highly successful baseball career. He’s rich and charming. He obviously knows a LOT about baseball. But if I’m wanting to sell footballs online, he’s not someone I would want to ask advice.
YOU ultimately know your audience better than anyone.
Whenever a realtor, artist, author or any entrepreneurial type asks me a question about blogging, I don’t pretend to know what their audience wants….I can help people figure out how to use their blog/website for business or pleasure in the areas of blogging, content marketing, websites, copywriting, and search…that’s it. I do my best to help new bloggers succeed at BLOGGING. Not how to sell specific [insert service or product] to THEIR target audience.
Sometimes, a shark will try to tell you what YOUR audience needs, in order to make you feel inferior. They don’t really know what they’re saying, but it works. We submit to them. Putting their advice into action might get you bit, though.
I like how Simone put it. “They had nothing to offer your business.”
Simone describes a litmus test that can tell you whether or not you know your audience: “If they’re following, sharing, and connecting with your content, you’re on to something. If they’re paying attention to you and they actually buy something, that’s your green light. Move forward with confidence.”
I laid out a similar litmus test on connecting with your audience, calling them “content hooks.”
Why Do Humans Always Do This?
We so easily put rich, charismatic people on pedestals, don’t we? Mmm hmm, because they seem to have everything.
We think they alone can get us what we want. Usually quite charming (even O’Leary has his charms), we forget successful business gurus were once like us. Those born rich like Donald Trump were not born with an “entrepreneurial gene” (as Simone describes it) that makes them automatically better. Trump still had to learn the ropes of real estate and work hard to multiply his fortune.
This should be encouraging for those dreaming of owning an online business. People don’t need connections, superpowers or a family history of entrepreneurial success. From what I know about each of the Sharks, they all started out as “normal” people. They began with nothing. Sometimes those we admire easily forget this when everyone starts fawning all over them wanting an autograph.
What Online Entrepreneurs Need
According to Simone, this is more important than Shark approval or venture capital:
“The biggest trait you need plenty of is stubbornness, but that can be boosted with the right support and encouragement. And it’s best when it’s paired with a solid ability to look realistically at the situation in front of you, and figure out the wisest next steps. (The right support can be useful there as well.)”
[If you need support dear reader, I’m just an email or instant message away.]
She goes on to say, “I have known incredibly successful entrepreneurs who can barely tie their shoes…But they knew their business. And they knew what it took to be successful. On balance, moments of entrepreneurial delusion notwithstanding, they understood their audience of customers and what that audience needed.
Once you have that, everything else is just a matter of hanging in there and figuring stuff out.”
When Simone pointed out the importance of stubbornness, this encouraged me because my wife says I have a lot of it.
Her point about “knowing your audience” is so spot on. This is why I’m constantly going back to “who is your audience.” If you have asked me a question by email before, get my email tips or read my blog, chances are I have already somehow pointed you back to YOUR audience. That’s the part totally in your hands as an online business owner.
Normally it takes time and research to get to know your audience really well. But its worth the effort.
Really, its the only way to reach online business success. A Shark isn’t going to do it for you.
You Don’t Need Bloody Fish Bait to Catch Online Success
Obviously, one secret to the success of Shark Tank is the conflict between the Sharks and the Baby Sharks. This provides the entertainment factor.
That’s right. I compared the entrepreneurial contestants on the show to “baby sharks.” I believe that’s what most are–youngsters fully capable of growing up to be Sharks. They just need to keep swimming.
Sharks want you to think you’re just a minnow who cannot survive without their protection.
But watch out. Sharks sometimes eat their young.
In her article, Simone points out this description of the sharks written by a contestant named Julie Busha of Slawsa. On her blog, Busha wrote:
“They like to invest in businesses where they can give added value (Daymond wants to plug something into his overseas manufacturing pipeline, Lori wants to get an item on QVC, Mark & Robert want tech…and of course, Kevin wants a royalty).”
The entire article by Busha is worth reading for any online entrepreneur. Busha does have a favorable view on her experience with Shark Tank.
The Big Harpoon Finale
Here’s the final point I want to share from Simone’s article: Despite not getting an offer from the Sharks, Busha ultimately “won.” She writes:
“Julie Busha didn’t “win” the show, but of course she did.
She was asking for $150,000, which she didn’t get. She did, however, get eight minutes on prime-time television on a popular show — and in the form of content, not advertising, so viewers were actually paying close attention.
She gave up no equity in her business, but received millions of dollars’ worth of advertising. Or more to the point, content, which, as we know, works a whole lot better than advertising.”
Content is powerful. Although starting a blog might not have the same initial reach as appearing on Shark Tank, with some stubbornness and willingness to learn, it can bring a larger return in a long game.
Yes, content is a whole lot better than advertising. Simone and her business partner Brian Clark can vouch for this directly from their own experience. They have built a multi million dollar online business that started out as a blog. They have not spent money on advertising to get there. And they have not ever asked a Shark (hat in hand) for venture capital.
That’s why I read blog articles by Sonia Simone and her Copyblogger crew. Each of us has a unique blogging journey, but when it comes to content marketing, and online business, I want to know what they know.
Although the Shark Tank show is ruined for me, I do want to go back and watch it again with new eyes.
The eyes of a stubborn hammerhead.
What about you? Tell me what you think about Shark Tank and your confidence in building an online business in the comments.
Photo: Jaws! by Benson Kua Modified CC BY-SA 2.0