Shark or Sage? The Man Behind the Tank
Kate Mikado Monday, February 12, 2018
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The market vanished. What was once the hottest media for advertising and commercials was going to the wayside. The disruption was swift, yet one shark was safe. Kevin Harrington built his empire on the Infomercial. He saw the change coming and knew what had to be done. It was simple math. The cost of air time was the same but the viewership was gone.
Kevin started out 30 years ago when TV was still popular and shows like Alf, The Wonder Years, and Miami Vice were in their prime. Cable was shifting and opportunity was abound. Now there were 100s of channels to access and 24/7 programming. As a young entrepreneur back in the early 80’s, Kevin had just bought a house and had cable TV installed. He only got 30 channels in those days as that was the opening package. Kevin got to channel 30 and there was Discovery channel and there were bars on the screen and he called the cable company, and said “You know, I’ve got this 30 channel package, I’ve got bars up on channel 30, there's no programs on Discovery”. And they said, “Oh, it’s only an 18-hour day network. You’re watching during the 6 hours it’s down, nothing is coming through six hours a day”.
“Well, when will something be coming through?” “Never. It’s an 18 hour a day channel”. That’s when the light bulb went off.
Kevin started putting products on that channel. He got a deal with the local cable company first then went to the national Discovery channel and ended up owning a six- hour a day block on Discovery channel nationwide for six hours a day under a multi-year contract. They were just buying up all of this downtime on the TV network phenomenally in the US, but in Europe, in Asia, Latin America, and around the world.
His first infomercial hit was the Ginsu knife. A tradeshow favorite, Kevin watched as Arnold Morris performed his sales pitch for the knife.
“He was cutting through a coca-cola can, and through hammerheads, and then mufflers with a knife, and I watched him selling this, then I thought, he does this infront of ten people. What if we filmed it and put it in front of millions? (They got the ad done in one take.) And then all I did was took the video and sent it viral to TV stations, all around the world. So, it did hundreds of millions of dollars in sales.”
For the last 30 years, Kevin has brought over 500 products to the marketplace. Many of the brands are celebrity in themselves while others flopped. While there was a lot of money to be made the risk was also high. Cash flow wouldn’t come in for months at a time.
“We were selling this Chinese wok, it was hand hammered and the first 10,000 that came in, they opened them up, and they were all rusted. And we said, how did this happen? Well, “Hey, you asked for the cheapest shipping method possible.” They were on top of the boat, ocean spray rusted out all the Chinese woks. So, we have pre-sold these, 10,000 at 40 bucks of piece. I was in the process of having to refund four hundred thousand dollars to the consumer, and so that's when we got a bunch of steel rolled out, and shined them all up real good. We spent 20 grand on shining them up instead of 400,000 in refunds. I mean, this was drafted in the mid 80s when I didn't have a lot of capital.”
As a trail blazer, Kevin had to learn things the hard way. No one else had done what they were doing before and the business ran into numerous problems. From audits, to product fulfillment on a global scale, it’s clear this risky venture was well worth the reward. “The first show I did for Tony [Little], we did the first infomercial to three hundred fifty million. He got five percent, he made seventeen million dollars.” If we pull out the calculators, the first Tony Little product made 340 million dollars.
And that’s the tip of the iceberg. Kevin worked with Billy Mays, Jack LaLanne, George Foreman, and many others making hundreds of millions in product sales. “The new wave oven that's probably somewhere near the top, because it's done 700 million plus dollars.”
When that vein of gold began to dry up, Kevin launched his own book Act Now: How I Turn Ideas Into Million Dollar Products. ”One of my advisors and mentors said, “Kevin, it’s time now that you build your brand, raise your profile, become a key person of influence in your industry.” Kevin became that influence landing interviews on the likes of The View, Good Morning America, MTV, CNBC and more. “So this was a turning point for me and I call it one of my eureka moments. You know the first eureka moment was seeing those bars on the screen and acting upon it and then the second one was putting my book out promoting it and then getting the call from Mark Burnett and acting upon that and then joining the show Shark Tank.”
At 60 years old, Kevin seems to have access to the fountain of youth (maybe he’s using Meaningful Beauty another As Seen On TV hit). His small frame and soft voice bear a stark contrast to the leverage of his title “Shark”. “I wanted to empower the entrepreneurs to go beyond Shark Tank and be successful. I'm not going to invest in every deal but I don't want to tell them how stupid they are and why they should, you know, not be doing this. I want to give them some advice whether it's constructive or whatever on how they can go about finding the right deal”. As he shares his stories of success it’s clear that he is humble about where he came from and at each turn he’s never taken his “eureka” moments for granted. “I like to do a deal both sides can look at, and say, that was a fair deal.” And while Kevin has used his Shark Tank brand with massive success, he now looks to give back to young and hungry entrepreneurs. He leaves no question unanswered and gives away every strategy and tactic he has used freely. “I like to be able to say I gave more than I was obligated to in that relationship.”
As his son moves into his college dorm, Kevin is there as a loving and supportive father. After everything was furnished and installed, there was a very serious conversation to be had. While there was a TV in the dorm, cable was not hooked up. His son, like many of us millennials, hadn’t bothered as he had a Netflix subscription. Kevin insisted they hook up the cable on principle, even the basic package because that was what paid the tuition.
A man of humor and grace, Kevin focuses most of his time now on building his rolodex and giving startups a hand to make it big. “I take strategic kind of advisory positions, board positions, public companies, as well as startups. And so that really has been really fun, because I get equity, and a little company that started at ten cents a share, it's now three dollars and 60 cents, and what could be so bad to get a lot of shares, and those kind of deals, right?”
Funnel Magazine sat down with Kevin to talk about what he’s up to now and what’s next for him.
Hawk: We're so excited today to have Kevin Harrington, the first shark, from shark tank. And also known for As Seen On TV. One of the most brilliant and genius people I know, and that's why we have him here today, so welcome.
Kevin: Hey, I like that introduction. That was pretty nice, thank you.
Hawk: Welcome, and can you share with everybody a little bit about yourself, and how you got started in business.
Kevin: Yeah. So okay, I'm just gonna go back real quick. It'll be a you know, one minute tour to my past, but you know. I was born in an entrepreneurial family. My father, one of six kids, from Cincinnati, Ohio. I'm the fourth, older sisters, one married a doctor, one married a lawyer. So I could be the entrepreneur, I guess. My dad owned restaurants. So, I started when I was 11 working literally a 40-hour week in my dad's restaurants, and started my first business when I was 15, and I was driveway sealing in the summer, I lived in Ohio. So if you had a driveway, and cracks in your driveway, the water would get in there, and expand the cracks when it froze. So I sealed driveways, and beautified them, and then when I got to college. I said, “I need something full-time, because I had to pay for my education, my cars, and my apartments.” You know, I didn't get that handed down from being number four out of six. By the time they got to me it was like, “Okay kid, you're on your own here.” But that helped drive me to be an entrepreneur, I started heating and air conditioning company. Then I became a broker of you know, real estate in businesses. I was selling pizza parlors, restaurants, flower shops, laundromats, car washes, you name it, and so I had a really great experience, and this is now back in the early 80’s. So I'm kind of dating myself a little bit here.
So I would have hundreds of listings, but the beauty of that is I got a chance to see the inner workings of hundreds of different companies. The rents they paid, the employee cost, what they got in their lease terms in malls, and the UPS, the downs. Why they were failing, and I sold thousands of businesses, and I helped them and started mentoring these businesses. “Hey look, watch out! You can't just stop all your advertising, and some people would do that when they bought the business.” They thought they were eliminating expenses, but they would kill their business. So I was watching TV one night, and I'm watching the Discovery Channel. All of a sudden it goes off the air, and these colored bars came up for six hours a day, and I called the channel. And I said I don't know if there's a glitch, or something technically wrong with my cable, but I'm not getting discovery for six hours a day, and they said, “Oh, it's only an 18 hour a day Network. We give you 18 hours of programming that they give us, and then we put color bars up for the other six hours.” And that's when the light bulb went off, “Oh wait, I can give them some products to sell inside that block of time.” This is 1984, and I started giving them kitchen products, and hardware products, and we started doing amazing. We did the Ginsu knife at the time, then we did the the food saver, and we did Tony Littles Fitness, and then George Foreman, and Jack LaLanne, and the juicer. All of that Billy Mays, all that kind of stuff. We started doing back in the early to mid 80s then. So that business actually grew, we went 50 million, two hundred million, two hundred and fifty million, all the sudden I'm doing five hundred million a year.
And it was pretty amazing, went public, and all that, and so that was that. Takes us up to not too long ago. But still like maybe eight or ten years ago, but then I obviously, I got a phone call from Mark Burnett. “Hey come on Shark Tank!” All of that. So it's been a few years, did a hundred and seventy-five segments on Shark Tank, and then the world changed Hawk, and this is now maybe bring us full circle to today. So what started happening in television is people started not watching TV, and I have two kids. One 29, and the other one is 20, but the 20 year old doesn't even have cable television. He's watching YouTube, and Snapchat, and Netflix, and some of these other things. But basically television viewership in the last 10 years has dropped so significantly, 50% less today than it was 10 years ago, and ESPN lost 12 million subscribers, and then the world, rather the US, has lost 56 million paid TV users over the last number of years. So I've had to now follow the eyeballs, and so what I'm doing is now paying attention to, okay yet they've gone to Facebook, they've gone to Instagram. So now we are a digital company, and this kind of brings us up to today. We are still launching products. At one time, I owned AsSeenOnTV.com. All these have been seen as TV assets. We're doing hundreds and hundreds of spots, and commercials, and TV. This, then, and whatever! Now we start on the internet, or start in digital, and it actually has worked out very well for us to make this transition. So bottom line is: it's a little bit different world, but I'm still a product selling guy, and I've got some new things too. Maybe we'll get a chance to talk about here today?
Hawk: Awesome! Well, one of the things I really love about you shared, and we see this all the time, is that a company they may be doing great, or they may not be doing very well at all. And then they stop their advertising. It’s one of the things, you cannot stop your advertising, or in a lot of cases. Especially, Facebook just changed their algorithm. Which I'm sure your marketing team knows all about, and people just like, okay I need to stop doing it, and the reality of it, and what you just shared is to transition. So how do you transition? How do you pivot? When you see something in the market change, or you see something in the way you're advertising isn't converting, or isn't producing the results you wanted to produce?
Kevin: You're there? Okay, good lost you for a second. But I did hear your question. “How do you pivot?” So the the bottom line is this. I say that one of the biggest things you need to do is always keep a very powerful, what I call, Dream Team surrounding yourself. So while we were in this As Seen On TV business, I had a lot of people, I call them old media guys, okay, TV, radio, newspaper, magazine, kind of guys, and they just kept holding on to TV, newspaper, radio, and magazine. We were running full page ads in in newspapers, and doing radio, TV, and everything was geared towards old media. And we were losing millions of customers a month almost, It seemed like, as they were dropping off to go somewhere else. So I started bringing in some of these young, young, young studs so to speak.
That you know, we all know some of the folks in the world of digital. My son was at the time he came out of Penn State, graduated eight years ago, and so he came into the company like, nobody’s doing digital here? It's like what's going on? So between my son, the people we started bringing in, I hate to say it, but we'd bring in 23 year olds that were running circles around you know, all these old guys that I was paying a lot of money to write. And so we started in this world of digital, and started seeing amazing things happening. So I mean, yes Facebook was one of the first places that we had gone, and we were crushing it for some certain periods of time. But so now you know, and funny thing is I still go to some of my old conventions in the infomercial space, and they're all like, “Oh my god! Business is terrible!” and they're talking to the doom and the gloom. And I'm at these new trade shows, Ryan Deiss and Roland Frasier, at the digital marketer conferences, right. That trafficking conversion in these kind of places. So when in the Russell Brunson's of the world, etc., etc. You know, yourself Hawk. You're a digital guy. So building funnels, right.
I mean, you guys know it. You know as good, or better than anybody out there. So if I went to my convention, it's called the “Electronic Retailing Association” (E.R.A.), and they have a convention, they do it three times a year, they want coming up in 30 days. I'm the founder of E.R.A., okay. Myself and Greg Gregor, a couple other people. Co-founded the Electronic Retailing Association, and it's sort of like the infomercial space. That you know, you go to that conference, and start talking about funnels, and all these kinds of things. More than 50% of the people will look at you like, “What are you talking about? I don't know that stuff.” So I transitioned by getting some smart people, part of my Dream Team, some digital folks, then we started testing all these things, and now we're 70 percent digital, 30 percent old media. Which is okay, because we still launch products into retail stores, and if you're going to go into retail, you do need a little bit of TV, the kind of prime the pump. Keep things going a little bit, but the bottom line is that I didn't just ride the company down until we're out of business, or can't survive anymore. We started a transition about eight, or ten years ago, looking into all the newest, latest and greatest, and now we're much more in tune with what's out there, and what it is we have to stay on top of.
Hawk: Awesome, and I know a big question is how do you get yourself partnered in the door with companies? Because I see we go to Bed, Bath & Beyond when we're buying something for our house, and we always see the As Seen On TV stuff. How do you guys create those relationships, and obviously doing the deal is a unique art within itself, but how would you say somebody can create a relationship with? Even if it's a big company, or even if it's, a you know, a small mom-and-pop shop next door?
Kevin: Yeah, so first of all, I had an advantage of creating relationships, because I've been an entrepreneur for 40 years. I'm an old entrepreneur now, but not the young entrepreneur I used to be. Just hit 61 recently so I'm getting up there, and in some days I can feel it. But I still got the mentality of a 30 year old entrepreneur. In terms of my energy, excitement, and enthusiasm. I've established some great relationships over the years, product suppliers, product partners, retail partners, etc., and one of the things that I say is when you like, early on we had some big successes, selling a million pieces of this, and two million of this, and 10 million of those. I mean, Tony Little's AB Isolator, we sold it, it was a $29 product. We sold seven million pieces, right? So I created manufacturing relationships, retail distribution relationships, and product relationships with Tony. So, for 30 years, I've been launching products with Tony. I was just with him three weeks ago, we're talking about a new product that were maybe going to come out with together.
So, I go back over the years to some of my old tried and proven relationships, but if you're just starting out, I think the key thing is you need to share with people the goals and the values. People look for good partners, they look for people like in the case of a Bed, Bath and Beyond, or a Walmart. They know that we're putting something up on TV, we're spending millions of dollars on TV, we're gonna put that halo around it. Having all that media spent, and they're gonna want that product, because in the very beginning they actually said, “Wait a minute, you're a competitor of ours. You're selling direct to the consumer, we don't want you.” It's sort of like, when Amazon first started. They thought they want to own and control it. Alright, well, wait a minute. They found that we can let other people sell products to our customers, and so you create relationships that make sense. I think at the end of the day, you've got to get in, and talk to the right people is the start, and give them your master plan, and then follow through on what you said, and provide value in the long run. When we first started, we had to sell our way into the stores.
Now, they pretty much want our stuff, because they know we're gonna be putting media into the mix, and in the process, and one more point to this. I don't have to go in to a Bed, Bath and Beyond, and say, “Oh I'm spending ten million in media on TV. I can use the Facebook money I'm spending, I can use the Instagram.” They now understand that Facebook and Instagram are the new media, and you've got a mix of Facebook and Instagram, Google and YouTube and then some TV. It's a one plus one plus one plus one equals seventeen that they look at, they're smart enough to understand that.
Hawk: That's awesome, and I'm a loyal Amazon shopper, or a Best Buy shopper, or Bed Bath & Beyond. Those are pretty much where I go to buy everything that I need. Do you recommend if you can get into all of the stores, or as many of them as possible to go all in, or just to focus on one? It's basically more exclusivity, and saying, “Hey Walmart, or Best Buy, or Amazon. I just want to focus on this, and we need online.”
Kevin: You guys, great question. So, the key thing there is making sure and this goes back to my As Seen On TV roots. Like, we don't always go to Walmart right off the bat, there's a reason, they like to sell it cheaper than some of the other places. So, if I bring a product out, and I go right away to Walmart on the shelves, they're gonna be a $29.95 item and they may be selling for $27 or $23, so just to get that little edge. What we like to do is start with the other kinds of distribution, a Bed Bath and Beyond. Now, we start talking to Walmart early on so they know that it's coming but we'll start with the drugstores and with it maybe the Bed Bath and Beyond and the Targets and then eventually when we get the Walmart they can see that, “oh this is really branded at $29.95,” and we try to get them to keep in line with what we call Map Pricing.
And so, a lot of times we're able to achieve that but if they do start selling it a little bit cheaper, hey look, if Walmart can sell a hundred thousand of something a month, a hundred thousand pieces a month and they're a buck cheaper, that starts happening more towards the end of the sales cycle. So, but we liked it. Our business model allows us to pretty much call on all retail and dot-com distribution, as long as nobody's out there chopping the price by a huge amount that hurts all your distribution.
Hawk: Yeah, awesome. And I know you said you are working on a couple of new things coming up here. What are some of the things you're creating?
Kevin: Yeah, so like, it's kind of a great story, good timing, and thanks for the question. Back in 1975, I was a senior in high school. So, I'm sitting there and I had this little driveway sealing business and there was a book that came out by Zig Ziglar called See You At The Top. It gave me a mind shift change and I was like, “Look, I'm going into college now. I need to think bigger, I need to really get aggressive.” And so, Zig…I started consuming all his stuff. I started the heating and air conditioning company because I wanted to do something more than just a little part-time gig in the summer, and that heating and air business went to a million dollars a year which is the equivalent to just under five million in today's world at least. So, here I was going to college with what today would be a five million dollar business with 25 employees, and this started with Zig Ziglar.
And Zig came out with his book, Secrets Of Closing The Sale in 1984 and that's the year I saw that Discovery Channel with the bars and I started infomercials. And now, I started using all Zig’s techniques in my infomercials cuz I had 30 minutes in these shows, to sell people, and a lot of people have never heard this. But I'm gonna give you a good story because one of the challenges that we had when we sold product as an infomercial company, is we weren't sitting there face-to-face, we put the thing on TV, the commercial. They watch it and maybe they didn't think there was enough value, so they didn't buy and so now you'll remember this term. So, we went back, we called the people and said, “Hey, why didn't you buy?” “Oh, the price seemed a little high.” Okay, so we're gonna go put more value in, so now we go run that same commercial and we say, “Look, for all those people that are interested in this, this is what you get for $29.95 but wait there's more!” Okay and this was one of Zig’s.
Zig was the value guy, right? You've got to give them, you've got to keep giving them value until the value exceeds the price and then you'll make the sale. This is one of Zig’s closes. So, we created: “But wait there's more” and that's been in the marketplace now for many, many years. So, Zig has hundreds of closes and so here he was in the Secrets of Closing the Sale. He passed away, God Bless, five years ago. Zig was my mentor, and he taught amazing things, and so when he passed away, I went to the family recently and said, “What's going on with all of the assets? He wrote 31 books in 36 languages. He touched 250 million people.” And what the family said is, “Hey, we've done a little bit of keeping Zig alive on the market but we really haven't done much. In fact, the other day, we were cleaning out some old warehouses and we found these thousands of hours of videos and stuff that he had compiled, and kind of put in there, and beta tapes that we started going through.” and we said, “None of this has ever been, some of it never been seen before, by anybody.” And so, we cut a deal, myself and there's another gentleman, his name is Mark Tim.
And Mark and I, now, have the rights with the Zigler family that brings the Zig Ziglar back. I saw it back to the future and we're digitizing everything, bringing it back, and we've created these Holograms of Zig Ziglar. And so, like this weekend, I was in Palm Springs on stage with a hologram of Zig Ziglar coming back to life. And, it's really, really exciting because first of all, there's amazing assets that you jump a horse to look at all the stuff that we've got, that we're now bringing back. So, we're creating master classes, where you can consume Zig online. As you know because at the end of the day, I was a door-to-door salesman, then I was a salesman of infomercial As Seen On TV products, and my life was selling. I'm deep down, I'm a sales guy, and selling is everything when you think about it because any, even digital marketers. You know Jason Fladlien any chance?
Hawk: I don't.
Kevin: He does a lot of webinars. He and Joe Polish are partners.
Hawk: I know Joe.
Kevin: and well genius webinars. And Jason has gone and documented all the closes that Zig taught him and how he uses these closes for his digital business today. So, this is kind of what we're doing, is we're creating these master classes and relationships now with Zigler students etc, etc,. And so, like this past weekend, we are in front of about 700 Transamerica sales reps that are in the financial planning business and offered them Zig Ziglar content, and sales master classes. And so, this is kind of the wave of the future for us on here, soon we'll be launching the Zig Ziglar Masterclass out to the general public, for the first time.
Hawk: That's awesome. One of the things that I see and all of the motivation in personal, professional development, guys talk about is mindset. And I know that it's absolutely important. You've launched hundreds if not thousands of products…
Hawk: And not all of them are successful. So, how do you deal with the ones that aren't successful? How do you move past the, “Oh crap” factor? and we'll get into the next revenue …. profitable?
Kevin: Great question. So, in the early days, it was a little tougher because we see time and money into a project that we just absolutely believed was going to be a home run and all of a sudden we tested, and tested, we retested, tweaked, it's not working, can't work, it's not gonna work. So, we had to move on and sometimes we got so close to some of these that we stayed way too long, invested way too much money. So, at the end of the day though, after a while we realized, okay we just did a hundred projects and we hit on thirty of them, so we're kind of batting 300 percent out of a thousand, three out of ten, one out of three almost.
We just, you have to understand that, when the business, at the end of the day, settles, you're not going to hit a home run every time. And it's almost like a baseball player that, if somebody is hitting 350, they're doing unbelievable. Anything over 300, it's fantastic. So, what I said was the important thing in all of that was fail fast and fail cheap, and don't stay in the game too long if you've tweaked it and you’ve gone back to the well, unless you see certain metrics. So, because the beauty of my business is, and it didn't hurt that I got on Shark Tank, but I get literally thousands of products and people coming to me every year, not a week or a month but on an annual basis. So, I get to pick from the people, of which ones I want to start with. And knowing though, that I'm gonna fail on seven out of ten, so I'm gonna make it on three out of ten. But if something's not working, you got to be ready to cut it and move on. I don't say, I always like to go back and tweak it and because I'd hate to cut something too soon that with a couple changes, a few headline changes, or something, you might be able to bring back but sometimes you're just barking up the wrong tree and you just got to move on.
That's why I say don't get too close to it, and fail fast, fail cheap. The beauty of Facebook and Instagram and some of these digital platforms now, is unlike TV that costs a lot of money to learn, we find that some of these digital processes, we can test for a couple thousand dollars, two, three, four, five thousand dollars. We're in test mode and we don't have to go spend fifty thousand to a hundred thousand, two hundred thousand dollars. I mean, there are projects in the past that I would invest a half a million dollars and not know whether it was gonna work, and it bombed, and we'd have to walk. How do you minimize your cost to get a winner? How do you get over the hump, sooner? All that good stuff. It's important you get the mindset that if something doesn't work, it's okay, you need to move on, and get to the winners.
And almost this kind of mentality that, “Okay, I'm gonna hit on three out of ten.” So, if you've got three or four that didn't work, coming up, it's going to hit because the law of averages are with you, as long as you're smart enough picking the products. Don't go down too many wrong rabbit holes but we also like to find proof of concept on the product ahead of time, somewhere. If something has worked in a fair, or on a shopping channel, or on a Facebook ad, then it's kind of proven itself out. It's proof of concept we know that it might work, then maybe, in an infomercial, or a spot, or wherever, but we look for some success somewhere first.
Hawk: I know we've launched nowhere near as many products as you but we've launched quite a few products and offers. We have a 30 Day to Profit, that's if it's not profitable in 30 days or we can't see a profit in the near, very near future, we just kill it. You have metric or something that you have put in place in your business to say, “Hey, if it's not either on track for this or not already hit this that we just kill it?
Kevin: Yeah, so we, If I go and this applies from the old TV days but now we're moving it over to digital but we would usually spend about $25,000 worth of television media and we'd look to get back $50,000 in sales. We call that a two-to-one MER, media ratio. If we could get at least a two to one we were happy. If we did a 1.5 to 1, we would still work it for a while because we're still doing ok, we're not necessarily making money but we're not losing a lot. If it's doing a one to one then we’ve got to be careful because we have a lot of product cost. We're not, if we're selling a digital product, one to one, you can work it longer. If you spend $25,000 and you bring in $25,000 and you’re digital and you don't have affiliate fees or whatever then you can make it work or it's breaking even but you know you then go back and tweak it. But, generally in a hard good scenario, if we're doing a one-to-one and we can't get it above that and that's where it is after tweaking, and changing, and testing, and retesting, we'll walk if we can't get it over a 1.5 MER.
Hawk: Thank you. We’ve got a question from Lisa first, can you give a tip for entrepreneurs starting out that are trying to build their online business to business online?
Kevin: Yeah, I mean it depends on what they're trying to do, but it's funny I was just at a conference. I mentioned financial planning, Transamerica this past weekend in Palm Springs. And there was a guy, his name was Ed Mylett. I don't know if you've ever heard of him but he spoke right before I did. And Ed is 46 years old, he's worth two hundred million dollars, and he just started doing social media on himself in the last 12 months. He now has a million followers and he's starting to crush it. So, I think, one of the key things with social is, I think it's important that depending on who you are, and what your background is, and all of that.
It's good to have a social media following because whether it's Facebook live, or Instagram stories, and or live on Instagram, and the various things that you can do out there, I still use some old-school methods, publicity, PR, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc., but I say, go build a following because those people are your tribe and can be very powerful for you in helping give you ideas, and products, and projects, and feedback, and all of that. So, that I feel is important and secondly, I believe you need to be testing on social media channels. Like we said Instagram, and Facebook, and Google, and YouTube, etc., because these are outlets that work in the world of direct response and we sell a lot of products. I mean, I'm gonna grab a product, let's see, I thought I had it sitting right here at my desk I may or may not but it's an item that we've been selling very, very successfully. If I can get my hands on one here, I'll show it to you but it's a product that is, we're selling 250 thousand of them a month right now. I'm looking around and try to find one sitting here but I…
Hawk: What's it called? I can pull it up on,
Kevin: PEEPs, it's an eyeglass cleaning product. PEEPs and we're crushing it in social media, we're crushing it in home, we're on QVC, we're in retail stores, now we're going global. We started kind of from zero and we're now at 250,000 pieces a month. So, there you go. You're showing the PEEPS on the screen, it's a pretty powerful little product and it's got double-sided cleaning for your eyeglasses. It can get underneath all the nose bridges, and it's got an electrostatic charging device that it goes in and out, very demonstrable but it's very powerful, this all started on Facebook.
And we started with $5 ads them we were spending $500 a week, then we took it to $5,000 a week, then we got it to $25,000 a week. We actually got it up to over a $100,000 a week in media spend and generating some very powerful revenues. So then, we started doing other places, we put it into retail stores, we took it to some catalogs, Ace Hardware, etc, etc,. and now we're in 10,000 plus retail stores and cranking. So, I love social media outlets and so I just say, use it to build some fan following and then use it to test and sell products.
Hawk: We've got a lot of readers that have either Amazon stores or Shopify stores, they may drop ship products they may not but how would they go about taking their current sales channel and using it to leverage to acquire a bigger sales channel?
Kevin: So, when you say bigger, do you mean like if they're wanting to get into QVC and retail or something?
Hawk: Yeah, somewhere over there.
Kevin: Yeah, I mean, I would say this, it's not totally easy to do all by yourself sometimes. I always suggest to somebody, if you've never dealt with QVC to partner with somebody and I'm not just saying oh call me or whatever. It's like, I do that, I do help people with QVC, but I also partner with people. Because at the end of the day, I don't own or invent any of the products. Upfront, I then partner with people that do own them but I can also turn people on to the right kind of distribution, and there are retail distributors that are out there, there are QVC distributors that are out there, people that do nothing but sell products, to the QVC's, the Walmart, the Walgreens claim.
In fact, it's funny, one day I'm sitting somewhere, a guy comes up he says, “Hey, how did you take your products to drugstores?” and I said, “Well, we do, and we're in CVS, and we're in Rite Aid, etc.,” he said, “well, how about Walgreens?” I look, it was Jim Walgreen, okay. He is the Walgreen guy, right? So, it's like, there are guys named Walgreen, it will help you get your products into Walgreens. Okay? But I'm not even saying, you got to go to Jim. Is that, I do Walgreens. I know, it isn’t the guys that sell the Walgreens, so bottom line though is on the front end you may want to partner with somebody and let them because it's risky, because when you put a product in Walgreens, you don't get paid upfront, you get paid on scan.
In other words, they pay after somebody buys it through the cash register, it gets scanned at the cash register then a check that's gonna pay at the end of that month, all the scans they've had for the month. So, it's risky because you got to put product in. What if it doesn't sell, there's all kinds of ups and downs in this other world also, so you got to be careful, so I say, go with somebody that's been there and done it before.
Hawk: Perfect. In terms of something that you saw work last year and I've been asking this question for 2018 but what do you see that was working last year but isn't going to work or isn't gonna work as well this year?
Kevin: In terms of distributions or products?
Hawk: Any, yeah. Any kind of business, practice, marketing, sales related, funnel related, distribution related, there's something that you've seen that used to work really well but isn't, you know you're just seeing a massive decline in.
Kevin: Well, I will say this. Facebook last year was sort of the real big talk and buzz for many, many people and you just mentioned it, they just changed algorithms, and things like that. So, it's hard to say what's gonna happen there but I'll say that Facebook in the early days had to kind of be pretty low priced because they had to prove themselves, right?
The way a lot of marketers who have worked on Facebook is, if they're gonna spend a $1,000 on Facebook they need to see $2,000 or $3,000 in sales and Facebook could allow you to do that a year ago, right? Now, today it's tougher and tougher to pull that off. Now, with the recent change, it'll be interesting to see what happens there, but I will say that, I think, ultimately, Facebook is going to become more like the cost of television which is kind of become a pretty expensive undertaking, right? I mean, I don't know, are you running any Facebook Ads, yourself right now for any products?
Hawk: We have, and we've cut them, a lot of them. Just because the cost per client acquisition is going way through the roof. We're seeing Instagram is working pretty well, using some other platforms, okay?
Kevin: I think, the direct answer to your question is pretty much those down that alley is that a year ago, Facebook was crushing it and now it's not, it's not dead but it's certainly a lot tougher than it used to be and it'll be interesting to see what happens for this year. Although, I'll say this though, generally they got to keep somewhat competitive because there are Instagrams out there and other places, Facebook doesn't want to lose all the momentum they built, with all the folks that they build it with, but it's just not going to be as easy as it used to be.
Facebook as one of the clear changes that people are having to have to find other places to go. But at the end of the day also, my philosophy is this, I said it, follow the eyeballs. I have a saying, we used to have a few channels that we paid millions of dollars, that went to millions of people. Fox, ABC, CBS, a few of the cable networks, we give them millions, they broadcast to millions, and we made money. It was a few channels to millions, now it's sort of the reverse. It's millions of channels to a few.
What you have to do is just keep focusing on the new guys coming up, and cutting deals, the tasks, and put your products and test in some of these new places coming up, because at the end of the day, people are taking their eyes off of TV, putting them on the Facebook, and Google, and YouTube, and Snapchat, and Instagram, but then if Facebook starts making a lot of these changes and stuff, then people would be looking for something new and you got to figure out where that is and follow them because ultimately it's follow the eyeballs and you'll make your sales if you know how to keep on top of your marketplace, right?
Hawk: Yeah, awesome, thank you. Wow! Last question, and this doesn't have anything to do with your business or your current businesses, but if you could leave our viewers and readers with one thing that they can implement in their business today, that would change their business or their life for forever, what would that one thing be?
Kevin: Well, I'll say this and I get asked this question quite a bit. Many times people, entrepreneurs, and I've been an entrepreneur for 40 years, in the early days, I was very headstrong but I knew what I was doing. I was out doing it myself, I didn't want a lot of input, I didn't bring smart people into the company, and I was like, “Oh, if I'm bringing in a CFO or a COO, I thought, well I'm not gonna pay him a lot of money because this is an opportunity for them but nowadays, I try to get the best people, at the right place, and or I have mentors, and coaches in my life, in almost every part. A lot of people are afraid to do that. Some mentors you can get for free, others you just have to pay him a little bit, and I believe, I mean I've had Richard Branson as a mentor to me, and by the way, he didn't charge me a dime. It was pretty amazing, and I learned an unbelievable amount of stuff.
I think too many entrepreneurs are afraid to ask somebody for help, for advice, for wisdom, and they may be afraid to pay them, to do it. Like when I got off Shark Tank, I got a phone call, my son said, “Hey, one of the girls at school, her mom works for Microsoft, they'd love for you to come over and speak someday. So, hey, that'd be kind of cool,” I mean, I live in St. Pete, went over, they were about ten minutes from my office, went over, gave a nice speech at Microsoft and 200 senior executives there, I get a standing ovation, they loved it, and I'm just, I'm walking out the door, she says, “Kevin,” she said, “wow, that was amazing! We love that,” she said, “you know, I kept waiting for you to tell me before you were speaking that there was a charge for this because we have a budget to pay speakers, to do this.” Okay, and so I'm like, “Really?” I said, she said, “You should get an agent, get someone to help you, because you got a speaking career ahead of you.”
Well, guess what, last year, I was on the road 200 days and I did a 100 speaking events plus and some of these are paying six figures an event, okay? Here I was because I didn't have anybody teaching me, coaching me, mentoring me, telling me, “Hey look, you should be doing this speaking and this is how you set your scale. I mean, I had a multi-million dollar business sitting there that I didn't uncover until I got a coach and a mentor to help me with it. And I've had about five or six just in the speaking categories, and so I believe there's too many entrepreneurs out there that are aren't going down the right path with coaches and mentors. Reach out, touch somebody, get some advice, and don't be afraid, and if it cost you something, that's okay, as long as the people are skilled and the right kind of people. I just feel that this is something that could be very, very powerful for people, and I mean look, I sit with people myself now and I provide game-changing advice and ideas to them. Sometimes, where they say, “My God, why didn't I get with you three years ago, so you know, this is the kind of thing I'm talking about. Reach out to mentors, coaches, and see if you could get some life-changing information, experiences, and wisdom.
Hawk: Thank you so much. I know you gotta run. I really appreciate you, for sharing your wisdom and insights with everybody and we'll keep in touch. Is there any way, somebody can get in touch with you or is there a site you want to share with them?
Kevin: Yeah, so if they go to my website: kevinharrington.tv. They can get to me there or for your listeners, I'll give them this email, firstname.lastname@example.org, if they have any thoughts, they're looking for some help or something, an idea, product or service or steer them in the right direction, email@example.com. So, either way, let's see if we get some things rolling. Hawk, I appreciate it and Happy New Year to you and look forward to seeing you at the next show.
Hawk: Awesome, have a blessed day and Happy New Year!
Kevin: Thanks buddy! Two thumbs up to you and your team.
Hawk : Thank you.