When Robert Herjavec wanted to start his own company, people discouraged him. They said he couldn’t do it. He had zero experience, he didn’t have a business degree and he knew nothing about running a business.
The headstrong Shark Tank star investor steamrolled ahead anyway. In 1990, he launched his first company, BRAK Systems, which he later sold to AT&T.
“I only knew that I loved what I do and how to work hard,” Herjavec told Entrepreneur. Today, Herjavec Group, his Toronto-based Internet security firm, has grown from three workers in 2003 to 220 employees strong, and it’s on pace to bank $150 million in revenue this year, according to the company.
Herjavec’s commitment to taking the risky entrepreneurial leap — despite the naysayers, and he had plenty of them — has more than paid off. So what if he didn’t have formal training? He also didn’t possess the needed marketing know-how, at least not at first and not all on his own. But that was fine by him.
“Like many entrepreneurs, we didn’t really know what to do at first,” he says. “As a startup, it’s almost overwhelming. I learned that’s where a third party comes in to help you. They take the marketing pressure off so you can do more of what you love to do — your business.”
Countless marketing agencies the world over aim to do just that. One such company is Deluxe Corporation. Herjavec announced a new partnership with the Shoreview, Minn.-based firm last week. Together, they unveiled a series of small-business marketing videos. The short “Behind the Business” vignettes feature the multi-millionaire celebrity entrepreneur alongside a few of the companies he’s invested in on Shark Tank.
The videos share tips on how to best market your startup. We picked Herjavec’s brain for a few, too. Here are his top five:
Simply having several social-media accounts for your company isn’t enough. To fully leverage the potential for acquiring new customers on social media, you must also market to them where they live online.
“With Facebook and other social platforms, you can have highly targeted marketing campaigns to attract customers who are interested in the product or service that you have,” Herjavec says. “Find the user groups they meet up in on social and win them over there.”
As an example, he points to The Natural Grip, a fitness product startup he invests in. The company makes special gloves for people who do Crossfit, gymnastics or lift weights. “That community, athletes, really likes to hang out in certain places on Facebook and we went there to find and engage them,” he says.
Marketing direct to potential customers on active fan pages and buzzy user groups within the popular social-media mecca turned out to be a smart move. It gained the sporty startup a grip of new customers, according to Herjavec.
Even as the ecommerce economy continues to surge, many small businesses old and new still don’t have shopping carts on their websites. Herjavec says failing to sell directly online is “foolishly leaving money on the table.” He believes that if your customers trust and believe in your brand, they’ll buy what you sell on the Internet.
Of those that do offer online shopping, the feature is often set up so poorly that it frustrates and confuses customers. The result: Potential buyers end up abandoning their shopping carts altogether and the sale is dead on arrival. “It quickly becomes such a hassle to go through with the transaction that they say ‘forget it,’” he says. “Don’t let that happen.”
If you don’t know how to set up an online shopping cart, Herjavec suggests leaving it to the pros. “There are lots of great companies that can handle it for you.”
“People are very busy and the first thing that hits them in any marketing communication is a really pretty picture, not words,” he says, “and I know that sounds really trivial but that engages people and gets them to look at more of your outreach.”
Herjavec’s onto something here. Visual imagery is often more immediately engaging than monotonous walls of text, as the brain is widely believed to processes visuals thousands of times faster than text. Images transmit messages in an instant, not only making your marketing messages pop, but also rendering them more memorable, too.
“Your customers have a certain amount of information they’re willing to absorb about your brand and certain ways they like to receive that information in over a certain amount of time,” he says. It’s your job to pay attention and learn how they are best marketed to.
How much information can they handle with each outreach? How do they prefer to be communicated with (via social-media updates, e-newsletter, text notifications, etc.)? How much communication is too much and how much is not enough? If marketing email subscribers start dropping off, find out why and adjust accordingly.
When it comes to Herjavec’s own contact preferences as a consumer, he feels being marketed to by email once every couple of weeks is more than enough. “I’m a big car guy, so a lot of the car companies market to me, but they’ve learned when enough information is enough for me and that’s once or twice a month,” he says. “Once a day is too much.”
Outsourcing your marketing needs to an agency dedicated to taking your brand awareness to the next level frees you up to get back to business. If you don’t have the budget to hire a marketing firm, Herjavec suggests partnering with someone you trust who has successfully marketed their own business.
Whatever you do, he says, don’t take the whole job on yourself, not if you don’t have the experience to back it up.
“I always say, if you’re not a marketing person, you didn’t start the businesses to do marketing, so don’t do it,” he says. It’s crucial that you focus your energy as a small-business owner on the core reason you started up in the first place.
“You wanted to take on the world with the product or service you had, that did something better than anybody else. And that was what you were passionate about, that that’s what caused you to quit your job, get a second mortgage or whatever the reason was.”
Instagram recently dropped the news that it will be adapting a non-chronological newsfeed order, similar to its big brother, Facebook. Instead of sorting posts in a familiar linear order, the new algorithm will weigh in a variety of social signals, such as a number of post engagements. It will also consider content you liked before in an attempt to sort images in the order of “relevancy,” or as what Instagram perceives to be of most interest to you.
Instagram has already carved out its place among top networks for businesses, thanks to its almost exponential growth. What started as a teen photo-sharing app bought by Facebook in then-incredible $1 billion deal, the network is projected to rack in $1.86 billion in revenue this year as its user base growth outpaces general social network usage.
The update, however, has caused a storm of complains. It went as far as to prompt a petition on Change.org asking Instagram to leave its chronological feed alone. The outrage was mostly caused by comparing this change to Facebook’s algorithm. Notorious for discriminating business pages’ content, it upset many business owners when organic post reach plunged to unbelievable lows. In a lot of cases, Instagram was their network of choice because of its chronological order and an unlimited reach of posts.
However, the comparison of the two networks is unfair. Unlike Facebook, Instagram does not separate “personal” from “business” accounts. As of right now, a profile is a profile, independently of its use. So, this move is not discriminatory of businesses (I am looking at you, Facebook).
So let’s examine what this change in algorithm really means and whether it’s as scary as it looks to marketers.
Chronological newsfeed was truly effective only in two instances: businesses posted to Instagram every half an hour or their followers had a very limited number of handles they followed. This cannot be a widespread trend, because according to Optical Cortex data based on 20,000+ Instagram users, average number of people they follow is 822. So, for a majority of brand’s following those images most likely weren’t the first thing they saw; and that chronological order didn’t really matter anyway.
Now what really made a difference, and still will continue to do so, is getting ahead of the game with smart strategies. What you have (to continue) to do as a smart marketer is to focus on quality content that drives engagement.
Instagram was so gracious to let marketers know of its algorithm change before it kicked in. Use the little time that’s left with chronological newsfeed to jumpstart your new marketing strategy. Make an extra push to increase engagement now. Start to finally notice those comments people leave on your images! Respond to them! Use this as an opportunity to strike a conversation.
A lot of people who follow brands and celebrities will deliberately go to the handle to see what’s new. People follow Nike, Lexus or Kylie Jenner, because they know that each new post will be amazing (whatever their definition of amazing is). So, strive to make your Instagram account a mecca for striking visual content. This is the only way to ensure people won’t stop engaging with your content, whatever the algorithm is.
There are also a few other tactics you can employ to stay ahead of the curve. For example, if you are seriously using Instagram to grow your business, you already track and analyze results. You already know when your audience is online. You can still schedule your posts to go out at those times and increase visibility of fresh content.
Another reason to dive deep into analytics is to see which hashtags perform the best. Always test which hashtags improve engagement, always vary them to improve your odd of being discovered by a new group of people. Finally, constantly monitor trending hashtags (didn’t you already?) to see if any of the applicable and relevant hashtags are popular, giving you the opportunity to enjoy a remarkable rate of impressions. Yet, don’t go for an overkill. Don’t spam people with irrelevant content and thirty hashtags – that won’t increase your engagement or chances of being lovable.
Plus, while being strategic about your visual content (that has to rock their socks off), you should also become extremely strategic about your captions. It is proven that captions with a call to action are beyond effective in getting desired results. Do you want more engagement? Just ask for it! Foundr Magazine, for example, ends a lot of their captions with “double tap if you agree,” or “tag your friends.” What’s an easier way to gain numerous shares and an audience insight than to simply ask for their opinion?
Businesses that enjoy high engagement rates know their respective audiences very well. They know what type of imagery is catchy, what content needs to serve; and these companies have also figured out a context for consuming this content. They cater to their audience, so the latter wants to stick for the ride ahead.
Finally, don’t shy away from occasional boost. Employ the power of Facebook advertising capabilities on Instagram and target the right people.
So, after all, the change in algorithm might be for the better. If you post amazing content, it’ll be waiting for your followers in their newsfeed even if it was posted a few hours ago. Instagram user survey indicated that 60% of Instagrammers learn about products and services on the network and 75% take action after being inspired by an Instagram post. Now is the time to bring your A-game on.
In this video tip I share on the white board the formula on how to double, triple or maybe quadruple your revenues in the next 12 months.
L = Leads
C = Customers
M = Margins
F = Frequency
Focus on optimizing each one of these areas and you will double your revenues in 12 months.
I have written seven bestselling business books, and the title of each of them could have been “Prepare to Win.”
My publishers never thought that was a catchy enough title to help sell books, particularly business books, so I went with “Swim With the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive,” “Beware the Naked Man Who Offers You His Shirt” and so on.
But the real message of all of them, plus this nationally syndicated column, is the same: “prepare to win.” In my own way, I was preparing to win the book- selling challenge by finding a title that would make readers want to find out more.
Life is all about preparation. Preparation is all about hard work, sacrifice, discipline, organization, consistency, practicing the right concepts and more.
I subscribe to the wisdom of legendary professional football coach Vince Lombardi who said, “The will to win is not nearly as important as the will to prepare to win.”
Many people have the will to win, but they aren’t willing to put in the hard work and time required to become great at something. What makes this even more challenging is that preparation is not a one-time thing. You can’t prepare to win once and then just let success flow. Great performers possess the will to prepare to win over and over again.
If you are unprepared to meet a challenge, you have little chance of succeeding. Or as Benjamin Franklin said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”
And if you aren’t convinced yet, here are some thoughts from others who understood the importance of preparation:
Thomas Edison said: “Genius is one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration. I never did anything worth doing by accident, nor did any of my inventions come by accident; they came by work.”
Oprah Winfrey: “Luck is a matter of preparation meeting opportunity.”
Confucius: “In all things, success depends upon previous preparation, and without such preparation, there is sure to be failure.”
Dumas Malone tells the story of how Thomas Jefferson handled the first meeting to decide the organization of the future University of Virginia. The University had been Jefferson’s idea, but many others came forward with their own interests and agendas.
Jefferson showed up with meticulously prepared architectural drawings, detailed budgets for construction and operation, a pro- posed curriculum, and the names of specific faculty he wanted.
No one else was even remotely prepared. The group essentially had to capitulate to Jefferson’s vision. The University was eventually founded more or less in accordance with Jefferson’s plan.
Preparation pays off again.
A farmer who owned land along the Atlantic seacoast constantly advertised for hired hands. Most people were reluctant to work on farms along the Atlantic because they dreaded the awful storms that raged across the ocean, wreaking havoc on buildings and crops. As the farmer interviewed applicants for the job, he received a steady stream of refusals. Finally, a short, thin man, well past middle age, approached the farmer.
“Are you a good farmhand?” the farmer asked him.
“Well, I can sleep when the wind blows,” answered the man. Al- though puzzled by this answer, the farmer, desperate for help, hired the man. The man worked well around the farm, busy from dawn to dusk, and the farmer felt satisfied with the man’s work. Then one night the wind howled loudly in from offshore. Jumping out of bed, the farmer grabbed a lantern and rushed next door to the hired hand’s sleeping quarters. He shook the man and yelled, “Get up! A storm is coming! Tie things down before they blow away!”
The man rolled over in bed and said firmly, “No sir. I told you, I can sleep when the wind blows.”
The farmer was tempted to fire him on the spot. He hurried outside to prepare for the storm. To his amazement, he discovered that all of the haystacks had been covered with tarps. The cows were in the barn, the chickens were in the coops and the shutters were tightly secured. Everything was tied down. Nothing could blow away.
The farmer then understood what his hired hand meant, so he returned to his bed so he could also sleep while the wind blew.
Mackay’s Moral: Don’t blow it … prepare to win.