American businessman and Shark Tank investor Daymond John knows all about the challenges small business owners face in getting their brands launched and their products and services into the hands of customers. That’s why he serves as an ambassador and mentor for Spectrum Reach’s “Pay It Forward” program, which provides small business owners with advertising, resources and creative support.
During a recent interview, John explained the importance of being able to connect with customers locally in today’s highly competitive small business landscape and how the “Pay It Forward” program presents a unique opportunity for multicultural and women-owned businesses to fast track their marketing and advertising efforts and get the mentorship they need to grow their brand.
Q: Why is it important to you to be involved with Spectrum Reach as a 'Pay it Forward' mentor and ambassador?
Daymond John: It’s important to me because it’s about mentorship and empowering others. I’m fortunate enough to have found mentors, in my life, and I really think that is why I have reached this level of success.
With Pay It Forward, Spectrum Reach has put together a great program where, not only are you mentoring people, but you are teaching them about confusing topics such as content, media tools and ways to target your audience. Most entrepreneurs start off with a brand or a product they are passionate about, but they are not necessarily educated on how to get it out there.
Q: Do you wish that you had had a program like Pay It Forward when you started your popular apparel business, FUBU, in 1992? How would you have utilized it?
Daymond John: Absolutely I wish I had it. Back then, any program that I did find, or stumble across, I would use - but generally those were books and local mentors in the community who had business planning programs.
I would have used “Pay It Forward” to hone-in on my customer. I knew who my customer was - it was generally young men in inner-cities who were between the age of 18 and 24 who paid a little bit more for clothes and wanted them to be more fashionable. But when I was outside handing out flyers or doing commercials, I could have been hitting only 10% of my audience and the other 90% could care less. With “Pay it Forward,” I would have been able to maximize my marketing budget, and use the rest for more needed things, like product or staff.
Q: What do you see as being the most important strengths of the 'Pay it Forward' program for small business owners?
Daymond John: It’s when you’re showing small business owners the creative media planning - and how to personalize ads - that the program really demonstrates its strength. But it’s also about giving them the tools. A lot of the time, a small business owner sees something that others put together, and they say, “Wow, that’s really great for us,” but then they cannot do it themselves.
“Pay It Forward” not only shows them proof of concept, it also gives them the tools they need. As they say, “Don’t give them fish - teach them how to fish.”
Q: In this age of social media, what does 'connecting with customers where they are' mean – particularly in terms of community?
Daymond John: In the pre-social media age, if I wanted to hit my community, where would I have to go? Maybe I’d have to go to clubs - maybe basketball games - and all that takes time. And even if I am in a crowd of people, maybe my message gets lost.
But today, you don’t need to travel; you can connect with people right from your home, no matter what screen they are on. And it is a very intimate conversation you are having. So, now you are shortening the time it takes - you are increasing communication - and you are getting direct feedback from customers about what they like and don’t like.
I used to sell a product to a retailer - but when an item was returned, I didn’t know why the customer bought it, or why they returned it. I didn’t know what they liked about it or didn’t like about it. That’s the difference.
Q: How does 'Pay It Forward' help small business owners succeed in connecting with the community? And why is this so important?
Daymond John: You have to be respected locally before you can be respected globally. That’s what happened with me - in the beginning I was doing well in Queens, but then I grew to the five boroughs, and then I grew beyond that.
There is no single message that a small business owner can put out there, and attract everybody. It has to be a very specific message. And when Spectrum Reach does that - gives them the talking points - and is able to articulate why they are of service to the community – it is a great education for all of the community’s entrepreneurs.
Q: 'Pay It Forward' offers support from local marketing experts – why is this type of ongoing support so important?
Daymond John: When you talk with local experts, they already know what pain points exist in the community, because they’ve been doing it for so long. They can stop a small business owner from making mistakes, show them where companies have been flourishing, and give them an easier path to success.
It’s very hard when you’re an entrepreneur. You’re trying to come up with an idea for a product or a service - but you’re also trying to deal with things like manufacturing, taxes, staff, etc. Why wouldn’t you allow someone who is a strategic partner, like Spectrum Reach, to give you an expert on local marketing, and learn from them so you can focus on what you do best?
For more information on Spectrum Reach's Pay It Forward program, click here.