Are You Ready to Sell on TV?
Ever wonder about how to get your product on QVC or the Home Shopping Network (HSN)? It crossed the mind of Lisa Price, the founder of Carol’s Daughter, occasionally when her company was a start-up and she was mixing up homemade fragrances and bath products in her Brooklyn kitchen. Years later, when the company was seasoned and had seven brick-and-mortar locations and was generating $18 million in sales, a big break presented itself for Price’s products to appear along with one of her partners. Price was able to turn that one-time chance into a reoccurring opportunity with the $3 billion-interactive multichannel retailer based in Tampa. The pitchwoman met with Inc.’s Tennille Robinson to reveal how she solidified the relationship with HSN and how Carol’s Daughter became one of the network’s Top Five Beauty Brands.
What was your big break with HSN?
Our initial entry into HSN was through Sephora—who also carries our products. Sephora hosted a beauty hour on HSN to spotlight some of their popular in-store brands. Through that event, the HSN developed an understanding of our brand and our story, especially Mindy Grossman, who is the CEO of HSN. Many of her employees were already fans of my products. Before we were on HSN, one of the hosts bought Almond Cookie—a scent of ours—and she would wear it on dates with the man that eventually became her husband. She always jokes that ‘it sealed the deal,’ because he would tell her that she ‘always smells so delicious.’ My partner, Steve Stout, and I began building a relationship with Grossman, who eventually invited us to do more and more segments.
How did you prepare for being on-air?
I started watching the network religiously to learn because you don’t really get to practice on the air. Your practice is doing it. You have a quick rehearsal before you go on the first time and you have some training, but you get better as you do it. So I would watch to see how many minutes they would spend on a particular product before they would cut to a commercial. I used to work in television production so I caught on to the flow of the show fast and I understood the behind the scenes stuff more than I did being in front of the camera.
So you were a natural the first time?
Oh no, I was terrified. I remember my first show was 15 minutes long. I was told that I did well but I was very, very nervous because I just didn’t know what to expect. I had been accustomed to being interviewed on television but I wasn’t accustomed to selling on television. It was challenging to learn, but HSN brought me along with increasing the time a little bit here, a little bit there, so I got more comfortable doing it. Even now, I might get like little butterflies in my stomach.
How do you know if you’re doing well?
There is a monitor in front of you—while you’re live on the set—that shows you how many people are on the phones, how many people are on hold, and how much product they’ve bought. What I don’t know, and I never want to know, is how much we are supposed to make for the hour.
What changes did you have to make within your company to handle the volume of sales?
First was finding the person within the company that would handle the business side of things because we needed someone to be in constant communication with HSN. Now that the partnership has grown to the size that it is, we have a vice president who’s dedicated to the Home Shopping Network. And he has an HSN manager that manages the account with him. So she’s the one who is the liaison with marketing to make sure that our assets get produced, talks to the HSN team about schedules and show times and what models we need and what times we need them and do we need an extra stylist and all of that kind of stuff. In the beginning it was a bit of a struggle because you had people wearing multiple hats.
What about logistically?
There’s also a person here who manages the inventory, manages the orders and makes sure that we hit our numbers. I work really closely together with him so I know what line up will make sense. For example, how can I go from selling one conditioner to another conditioner? I can’t.
What opportunities has this relationship afforded Carol’s Daughter?
When the CEO of HSN Mindy Grossman decided that she wanted to work with Disney Dreamworks to promote the film The Help, she came to me and said I want you to be a part of that promotion. Here’s the book, read it, tell me what you think, maybe you can create an exclusive fragrance, the ‘Be Loved’ collection, around the film and that was an opportunity that would not come if we didn’t know each other. It was phenomenal to be a part of that. We also get to create buzz on television before a new product launches in the store—it’s like getting a free commercial.
What are the three most important things someone else looking to sell their product via HSN should know?
1. Know protocol. Before you commit to selling anything, really understand what’s going to be expected of you from an operation standpoint. Sometimes businesses get excited about the exposure and the orders and they figure all the other stuff will work itself out in time—It doesn’t. You can actually end up losing money, because when you don’t do things correctly you get charged for them, like ‘Oh, we’re supposed to pay you this much, but you delivered it three days late, this didn’t have the right label, or these number of jars leaked.’ And all those things are charge backs. So, it takes away from what you can potentially earn.
2. Forge relationships. Having a good relationship with whomever it is that’s your point of contact there. You don’t just communicate through e-mail, you communicate through e-mail and you have a phone conversation. You know someone has a pet who’s sick or a child who’s having a birthday or a wedding—ask about it or send a gift. These are the people who are dealing with vendors constantly and when you invest yourself in them, they invest themselves in you. They’ll remember you when you’re nice and listening to them and you care about them.
3. Win over the hosts. I try to do a personal touch with the hosts when we have something new coming out. I send it to them to experiment with. I give them the story behind it and a note. I want to know what they think about it. This leads to genuine conversation and it lets the host know that you value her.
4. Rest well. You have to be well rested or at least look well rested. If you’re not good with picking out your clothes have a friend of yours who’s really stylish help you. You want to look and feel your best because you will portray that energy on air.
Want to learn more savvy success secrets from Lisa Price? Join her and other seasoned female entrepreneurs on December 1 in New York City for our Inc. Women’s Summit. Visit www.incwomenssummit.com for more details.