Shark Tales

"You Can't Be Successful Without Being Decisive"

Daymond JohnDaymond John, one of the judges on ABC’s Shark Tank, shares his rags-to-riches entrepreneurial success story with the ASI NY audience. Plus, a look at the education and new products offered at the show.

Sharing his personal and inspiring life story, Daymond John provided a packed house of ASI New York attendees with a roadmap for entrepreneurial success during his keynote speech at the conference in early April.

“You can’t be successful without being decisive,” said John, who is the founder of the $350 million apparel brand FUBU and a judge on the hit ABC show Shark Tank. “You can’t question yourself and your goals. Know what you want and go get it.”

A New Yorker who was born in Brooklyn and raised in Queens, John detailed how he built his company from nothing into a well-known and highly-sought-after apparel brand. The key, he said, is that he knew exactly what he wanted. “You have to set goals,” said John. “You can’t know what success looks like if you don’t know what you want. I wanted to be in the hip-hop world, but I couldn’t rap or dance or sing. So, I needed another way to get in. I was solely focused on that goal, and I worked every second to make it happen.”

John also stressed the importance of preparation and homework in business today. Making the point that successful businesses intimately know the needs and wants of their customers, John said that companies have to do their homework to find real growth in business these days.

“You have to identify trends and spots of opportunity in your market,” John said. “You’re most likely not creating anything new and filing for patents. So, what you need to do is find new people who want what you have or new ways to deliver it. But you can only do that with preparation and homework.”

It was that homework that led John to create FUBU, the inner-city apparel line that first caught on in the 1990s and has since become synonymous with urban apparel. From his research, John said he saw a hole in the market that could be filled by an apparel brand made for inner-city people and designed by those same people. And, so, FUBU (For Us, By Us) was born.

It’s the expansion of the brand, however, that displays John’s entrepreneurial spirit and never-say-die attitude about business. “I knew I needed a brand ambassador of sorts,” John said. “So, I basically stalked rapper L.L. Cool J for months to get him to wear one of our shirts. I finally got him to agree and then put those pictures of him wearing the shirts absolutely everywhere. When you have a good thing going, never stop publicizing it and promoting it.”

A branding expert who’s the author of the business books Display of Power and The Brand Within, John left his audience with an important lesson about building their brands and connecting with customers.

“Always remember, you are your company’s brand,” he said. “Put yourself and your brand into two-to-five words, and use that positioning every day in everything you do. If you don’t, then customers and prospects will fill in the holes and determine your brand positioning in their own minds without you having an effect on it. Don’t let that happen. Go home today and write down the few words that define you and your brand.”

Build Your Business With Social Media Smarts
Savvy use of social media is an excellent low-cost way to market your business and drive sales. Marki Lemons-Ryhal not only hammered home that point during her education session at The ASI Show New York, she delivered practical strategies for leveraging social platforms for maximum success. A new media expert, the owner of Marki Lemons-Ryhal Unlimited emphasized the following points during “Social Media Marketing In Minutes A Day.”

Utilize Google Trends. By using this offering, you can discover what types of terms people most frequently use to find promotional products and decorated apparel. You can then turn these terms into keywords that populate your website, social media posts, social profiles and images/videos you put online. “It’s important to use keywords that appeal to the buyers who can find you online,” Lemons-Ryhal said.

Be consistent. Ensure that you brand yourself consistently across the various social networks on which you are active. can help you discover how you appear in these forums. “Brand everything to you,” Lemons-Ryhal said. “It makes it easier for customers to connect with you and learn about who you are and what you do.”

Share quality content. Post content that is interesting, entertaining and/or useful to audiences you seek to target. If you’re feeling stumped about what to post, you can use Google Alerts to have content on topics relevant to your prospects and clients e-mailed directly to you. You can then share this. Additionally, can help you organize, read and share articles, videos, photos, blog posts and more that matter to your audience.

Schedule time. To succeed with social media, you have to post frequently. The best way to handle this is to set aside time each day for social management. Lemons-Ryhal is active on her networks between 7 a.m. and 8 a.m. The timeframe is when many other business professionals check their social sites before launching into their workday, which increases the chances your content will be viewed, shared and “Liked.” Keep in mind, too, that you can use your social media time to work with a dashboard tool like Hootsuite that will schedule posts to appear on different platforms throughout the day. When you get feedback, be sure to respond; being personable in this way shows customers and prospects you are engaged with them and interested in what they have to say.

Tapping Into 21st Century Marketing
Marketing has evolved, and distributors need to adapt to attract prospects and keep customers engaged. Kathleen Booth, owner of distributor firm Quintain Marketing (asi/303131), delivered sound strategies for doing just that during “New Rules of Marketing & PR,” an education session held during The ASI Show New York.

Booth’s tips included:

Stop selling, start educating. If you’re just blasting out straight sales pitches, many people will tune you out. Instead, bring value to your intended audiences with your marketing. For instance, said Booth, you can create a blog or e-mail about top new products you discovered at an industry trade show and then send that to customers who you think would get good ROI from the items. “People are sick of being sold,” said Booth. “When you educate your customers, it helps them and you.”

Take a converged media approach. Essentially, this means using a combination of paid advertising, social media, your website and positive feedback from customers to market your company. Synergies should exist between the different approaches. For instance, you can have a paid ad on Google or in a magazine that features a link to a landing page where you display customer testimonials and success stories. “When you have everything working together, that’s when the magic happens,” said Booth.

Be entertaining. This tip applies especially to social media posts. “About a third of your posts should just be fun and interesting,” said Booth. Of course, you must understand what your clients and prospects will find entertaining and tailor the content to fit that.

Be creative & engaging. Taking a unique, client-focused angle with your marketing can result in a lot of positive resonance. Booth pointed to an example from West Jet in which the airline had a man dressed as Santa Claus ask passengers on a certain flight what they want for Christmas. Then West Jet bought the requested gifts, wrapped them and gave them to the people at the luggage claim. The episode was filmed and posted to YouTube, where it had more than 35 million views. Positive feedback flooded in on West Jet’s social media channels, too.

That creativity and element of surprise – as long as it connects with customers – will make a company’s marketing stand out. “Find out,” said Booth, “what your customers value and then craft a creative and memorable way to give it to them.”