The internet keeps content alive forever. You never know when someone will come across that article you published a few years ago or the series of podcasts you recorded. That's part of what makes content a valuable long-term investment -- your audience can find you in searches and, if you've done your job right, make their way back to your site when they're ready.
Now, imagine that content is an episode of "Shark Tank" on which you and your co-founder presented your company to investors. For people watching for the first time, it feels new, no matter when it was filmed or what's happened since.
That's the post-reality-show reality many "Shark Tank" entrepreneurs face after their episodes air. An episode can be good for brand awareness for many startups, but it can promote an outdated version of what the company is or does if it's changed at all since airing.
For example, six-year-old entertainment marketing company ZinePak filmed an episode for the show in the fall of 2014 that aired in the spring of 2015. Co-founders Brittany Hodak and Kim Kaupe did well on the episode, earning offers from four of the five sharks and cementing an on-screen deal with Robert Herjavek and Lori Greiner.
But Hodak and Kaupe became part of the 73 percent of "Shark Tank" contestants whose deals changed after the show. More specifically, they fall within the 43 percent of entrepreneurs who end up not working with their shark "partners" after all.
As someone who's leading a fast-growing company, I wanted to know more about how Hodak and Kaupe have handled their growth and what they think of the "Shark Tank" reruns that bring tons of people to their website each time it airs.
"It's a little bit like being on TV with a fiance and then calling off the wedding but having the show and the engagement air over and over again," Kaupe says. "The show airs every few weeks, and we'll get tens of thousands of hits on our website and dozens of emails from people saying, 'How's it going with Robert and Lori? What's new with ZinePak?' So with the qualified leads, it's always starting at the same point: explaining that we didn't do the deal in real life and that our company looks very different today than it did two years ago."
Honestly, companies need to grow and change over time to meet the needs of their audiences. Your company, especially if it's a young one, won't look the same as it did two years ago, and that's totally normal -- but most of us don't have episodes of "Shark Tank" broadcasting what we used to do to our audiences month after month.
The on-air deal isn't the only thing that's changed about ZinePak since filming the show. In 2014, about 60 percent of the company's revenue came from deluxe album packages sold via an exclusive distribution deal at Walmart; today, only about 20 percent of revenue comes from the album packages.
The products that air on reruns may not account for the bulk of the business anymore, but the two don't view that as a negative thing. Kaupe says, "It gives us a very clear example of saying, 'Even though the delivery mechanism is different, the strategy behind it isn't. We're still making products for superfans; we're just making different products that live at the intersection of their passions.'"
Hodak and Kaupe offer four pieces of advice for companies that have experienced significant growth and change that may not be reflected in your older content, whether it's an old article from the early months of your existence or a rerun of "Shark Tank."
1. Be unapologetic.
"The first thing to remember is that there's nothing wrong with how your company used to be," Hodak says. "We're proud of the work we were doing in 2013 and 2014 that was featured on 'Shark Tank.' Those releases allowed us to build a profitable company, build a solid reputation, and hire more employees."
It's important to acknowledge that different can be better, and as long as you can explain to new customers why your business has changed, they'll likely find even more value in what you have to offer. If they don't, it's probably a sign that your companies wouldn't be a good fit anyway.
2. Be unafraid.
Kaupe and Hodak say the second thing they learned from reruns of their "Shark Tank" appearance is to be unafraid. Since appearing on the show, they've been able to take on verticals they never thought they could.
"When we filmed the show, 95 percent of our clients were in the music industry. Now, we've worked with several B2B companies in industries we never would have thought to approach," Kaupe says.
"My favorite project all year has been putting together a subscription box for superfans of author Debbie Macomber. Coming up with creative items -- almost a dozen in total, all of which Debbie worked with us to either create or curate -- has been really special," Kaupe says. "We've also had a steady stream of inbound clients from professional sports teams, which was a hard industry to crack before going on the show and saying in front of 7 million people, 'We're trying to work with professional sports teams.'"
3. Be prepared.
Just like you can never be fully sure when someone will come across a piece of content you distributed, Hodak says entrepreneurs never know when old "Shark Tank" episodes will run. Setting up landing pages on your website can be a great way to capture those leads, even when you don't know a traffic spike is coming.
"It's easier for us because we're B2B, so we don't have to worry about stocking inventory and dealing with outages," Hodak says. "Still, it's interesting because we'll go from having about 150 people on our website on an average day to 15,000 or more each time an episode airs, which is a major testament to the power of syndication!"
4. Be authoritative.
If a television show (or blog post or podcast) helps paint you as an expert in your industry, embrace it. "I've found that many entrepreneurs, especially female entrepreneurs, are hesitant to claim they're the best at something," Kaupe says. "But we feel like we're truly the authority on superfans. We've worked for six years to understand the psychographic of superfandom inside and out, and we don't mind saying that."
Change is a natural part of a company, and as a leader, it's your job to navigate it. The content you create -- even the dated pieces -- can be a huge asset. Whether you find your way in front of the likes of Mark Cuban on "Shark Tank" or stick to other forms of content, remember this advice to make the most of it.