Image courtesy of TEN - On set for Shark Tank

Image courtesy of TEN – On set for Shark Tank

When I walked into work on Monday morning I was met by RedBalloon’s PR Executive who greeted me with, “You’ll never believe the headline I just read about you!” The article she was talking about was Shark Tank recap: The night Naomi Simson ate dog food on national television.
There’s no doubt eating food meant for canines makes great TV, but there was actually a very real business reason why I did it… it’s called “customer experience”.
During episode two of TEN’s Shark Tank, Shae from Bento Pets made a claim that her product was so organic, healthy and natural, that it was fit for human consumption. Now let’s get one thing straight – in the business world, if you make a customer guarantee, you need to be able to back that promise. And if I was going to invest in Shae, I needed to prove that her food was that good. I smelled it, gave a tentative taste and then ate a piece.
Shae was clearly passionate about her product, and keeping our canine companions healthy. She also had a clear purpose: if we feed our dogs organic whole foods then they will live much longer. I really appreciated her commitment to the product, but when you give a customer a promise (in this case, that the food was something humans could eat) it needs to be absolutely true, and not just hollow words.
Further along in her pitch, Shae changed her story and said that while humans could eat the food, it’s not something they should eat – and there’s a big difference between could and should. She also informed me that the biscuit I had eaten was kangaroo meat, and I’m sure that at that point I turned a shade of green.
I remember coming up with the RedBalloon customer promise – “You will pay no more through us, than if you go directly to one of our experience providers”. And let me assure you that if we make a mistake or get it wrong, we repay the difference in price to our customers. What this does is galvanise us into action to ensure that we keep our suppliers close and our prices competitive – 13 years on this still remains the case.
When making promises to potential investors, they too need to be able to validate your company’s claims. Building a shared sense of purpose with investors and deep sense of trust is paramount for the growth of your business. Consistency with investors is essential too, as outlined in my recent column, Seven secrets to nailing your pitch.
Know your product, know the customer experience and don’t ask anyone to do what you would not. I hope Shae has since adjusted her pitch away from, “It’s so good humans can eat it”. Lesson learnt on both parts.
As a side note, RedBalloon Head of Security Dexter (my spoodle of @dextersworld fame) claimed it was about time I started tasting his food – after all, he’s been my food taster for 14 years.
Shark Tank airs Sunday nights on TEN at 8.00 if you missed this episode go to TenPlay to recap. This column first appeared in BRW on 18 February 2015

Grow & Scale Your Business by Naomi Simson

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