How to get your startup on TV

There are many channels through which you can market your business, and television is one with a huge impact - if you can get on the box. It helps if your product has a clear visual selling point, and one business that definitely does is innovative clothing company Illuminated Apparel. Using a laser pen, you can draw exciting glow-in-the-dark designs onto their t-shirts - pretty amazing! Since appearing on the Christmas special of The Gadget Show they've seen demand for their product rocket. Here are founder Rob's tips for getting the most out of a television appearance.

How did your first television opportunity come about?

After a full year of everything going wrong - from being covered in glow ink for three days straight, to nearly setting fire to my workshop - I was lucky enough to receive an email from the production team of Channels 5’s The Gadget Show. They were looking to feature ideal stocking fillers for the Christmas Special. I got straight on the phone and I arranged for samples to be sent immediately.

What was the impact on your business?

I had just finished retailing at the Ideal Home Christmas Show, and was still unaware that the T-shirts were definitely being featured on The Gadget Show, so I thought I should check; to my great surprise they were being featured in three days. This came as a massive shock, bearing in mind I had completely run out of stock! I started printing T-shirts ready for the airing, but was very conscious not to overstock (and waste my time).

The day arrived, I had my laptop ready (Google Analytics on standby), then BOOM! The T-shirts received a 20 second review with all of the presenters interacting and playing with the T-shirts. The website traffic started building, and the orders started flooding in. Throughout the evening I received an order every 30 seconds for two and a half hours. The orders didn’t stop for the next two weeks before Christmas – I had to bribe my friends with pizza and beer to keep up with the packing!

This really emphasised the power of television, considering the product was only on air for a very short period of time. This has also given my brand significant credibility when talking to new retailers and justification that there is a demand for the product.

When trading at the Gadget Show Live at the end of March, it was great to meet people who were familiar with the product from TV, and especially great to hear about their stories interacting with the T-shirts on Christmas day! Also, there were an abundance of people buying the T-shirts who had seen them on TV, but didn’t have an opportunity to buy one at the time.

What do you think makes your business a good candidate for TV?

I am very lucky to be able to offer a product that is unique and has proved to be consistently appealing to TV producers and researchers, unlike my direct competitors. If you are proposing a product that is different to what’s currently being offered, you have to make sure it is recognised. Something else I strongly believe is that producers are always keen to hear about the story behind the product or service, which inevitably has a huge impact on the popularity of the product - there are far too many products simply imported and shifted onwards.

How do you maximise the impact of your TV appearances and ensure interested viewers can find you easily?

It is fundamental to make sure the public can easily find your product or service, having received such a great opportunity. The majority of my target market are currently sat with a smartphone or tablet on the sofa, so the answer is obvious - have an efficient, well-established website up and running. Also, the power of social media is overwhelming. A simple hashtag could act as the catalyst to connecting to the public. Having the resources available to respond to potential customers is absolutely essential. The use of “As Seen on” taglines on your website is vital, as potential customers may revisit the site to try and find you a few weeks later.

Have you had to pitch or apply for opportunities, or have they mostly happened organically?

I have typically been contacted organically, which is really great. Of course, this does not guarantee that your product/service is going to be aired. There have been a couple of opportunities which haven’t materialised, this has (of course) not left me disheartened!  it’s a researcher’s job to bring the concepts to the table. However, I have learned that it is a ‘numbers game’ with regards to the opportunities that have not materialised, like anything else.

Any tips for startups looking to get their products on tv (or for a TV appearance?)

  • Make sure you are stock ready (the worst thing in the world is to run out of stock) and do not hesitate to ask for extra help if you are running the business solo. My number one mistake was not asking for help, I barely slept for a month and only just managed to send out all of the orders before heading home for Christmas.
  • Ensure that your website and social media is accurately reflecting the product or service that you are offering, whilst demonstrating all of your achievements to date (don’t be afraid to explain how the business started and has grown!
  • Despite the number of orders you receive, consider the individual customers enquires the most important thing you receive.
  • Don’t stop. Don’t give up!

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