‘Shark Tank’ Star Daymond John Says Business Success Is All About The Customer

Think you have the next big thing? If you want to market your product so it will sell, Shark Tank star Daymond John has some advice: listen to your customers. In a new article posted on Fox News, John said entrepreneurs should actually tailor their product to please their buyers, so they know they are about to sell something people will buy.

“Like I did with FUBU, we created a product for people who understood us and who were just like us, people who love rap music and who love rap culture.”

Once you have a product that speaks to buyers, it’s important to involve them in marketing from the get-go. John told Fox News that he tapped his social media followers to help choose the cover of his new book, The Power of Broke.

“I gave them choices so they felt part of the launch process, rallying them around the product and driving up the likelihood that they’d actually want it.”

Brand ambassadors who will promote your business are also important, and so is getting their input on your product so they will remain behind you.

“To get people who will truly love your product and spread the word, make them proud of it and make sure you don’t embarrass them by putting something out there that isn’t 100 percent.”

Although LL Cool J famously became one of FUBU’s greatest partners, John started with his Queens neighborhood and got those in his own local community to support the brand first. At that time, there was no social media, so it required a lot of on-the-ground effort, from which John eventually earned a thriving clothing company and status as a successful fashion entrepreneur.

After you have loyal followers and a great product, Daymond John recommends setting up cross-promotions and thanking those who supported your business. Getting on board with small, local retailers who will actually promote your wares — as opposed to large stores where your item can get lost or forgotten about — is also key.

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John’s success hasn’t come easy, and he’s continued to learn even as an investor on Shark Tank. Business Insider revealed in January that he had no venture capital experience outside of the fashion industry before he was tapped by Mark Burnett to join the panel. John lost $750,000 the first year, partly in legal fees to vet investments and continuing to back companies that were failing, among other factors. Since the show was new, the entrepreneurs were of a different caliber than they are now in Season 7. Last season, according to John, about 80 percent of on-air deals survive due diligence compared to about half in Season 1.

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John has become increasingly savvy about choosing the right entrepreneurs in whom to invest. He told Inc. he looks for problem-solvers and people who have failed in the past but picked themselves back up.

“I spot winners by looking for somebody who went out and tried a business by him or herself and maybe failed several times, but still has that determination, that love and that passion for the company. It’s very important to me that somebody has failed. When I started FUBU, I kept running out of money because I was bootstrapping it myself. I didn’t have an idea of where I wanted to go with it. So I look for people who are driven to succeed but are open to several paths.”

Part of his Shark Tank education has been learning how to manage his investments in a way that is efficient and cost-effective. He started Shark Branding to handle the management, licensing and development of his companies. It’s saved him money on consultant fees that cost him a lot of cash in his early days on Shark Tank.

Shark Tank airs Friday nights at 9 p.m. on ABC. John’s book The Power of Broke — with a fan-selected red cover — is available through Daymond John’s website, online booksellers, and in stores.

[Photo by Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images]