Dragons’ Den 2015 episode one review: ‘Involve me and I will understand’

This article by Guy Blaskey was originally published on BusinessZone

Dragons’ Den is reality for the people involved, but the situation is one that most of us won’t encounter on a regular basis. However there are key things entrepreneurs can learn to help in everyday business life. Here are two from the first episode in the new series.

Lesson 1: Get your audience involved

Confucius said: “Tell me and I will forget, show me and I will remember, involve me and I will understand”. This was key to the success of the Clean Heels pitch. Ally Stevenson successfully got Deborah Meaden involved. Deborah experienced the benefit of the product first hand, then sold the idea to the other Dragons. Having Deborah sell to her fellow investors made the pitch far more effective than Ally herself telling them about the benefits.

In the second pitch, Henry Ofodieze, founder of wifi controlled light bulb brand Easy Bulb, could have easily got the Dragons involved too by getting them to try the app that powers his product. But he didn’t. I am not saying that this is the reason that his pitch failed, however had he got a Dragon to try changing the colour of the light bulb they might have developed more of an emotional connection with what he was offering, and been more likely to consider what Henry was selling.

Nicola Fletcher, founder of equestrian hi viz clothing brand Equisafety, already had Deborah Meaden as a customer so she was already involved! I don’t think the entrepreneur made the most of it though. She should have had Deborah telling all of the other Dragons about how good her products are, and how much money people in the Equestrian market spend. When running a business, make the most of influencers who like your brand and use their testimonials to your advantage.

Lesson 2: Research

Key to getting people to feel involved with your pitch is to research who you are pitching to, so that you can make what you are selling relevant to them and counter any objections.

Henry went into his pitch without knowing about competing apps that offer a better version of what he was offering, and without a plan to take on a competitive product made by Philips, one of the biggest electrical suppliers in the world. Had he done his research and made a plan, he would have been more successful with his pitch as passion for a product is not enough.

The worst bit of non-preparedness came from Josh and Hyrum Cook, co-founders of photo booth brand Zeven Media. They were pitching a photography product to Peter Jones, the owner of one of the biggest photography companies in the UK, but they went into the Den without knowing that fact. Peter however was complementary about their pitch and their product and only declared himself ‘out’ for competitive reasons.

Firstly, I think that he should have given them a harder time. The whole panel said what great salesmen they were, but great salesmen should know who they are pitching to and what they want. Secondly, had they done their research they would have been prepared and given Peter a way in which their operation could be merged with his. They would then be part of one of the biggest photography companies in the UK which would have given them the chance to grow.

The young entrepreneurs did get three offers but, in my view, they chose the wrong Dragon. Not only did they pick the offer that gave them the worst commercial terms, but had they researched Kelly Hoppen they would have known that she is the one who would best be able to push a product whose benefit versus its competition is its design. Had they researched Duncan Bannatyne they would know that he owns five hotels, which host regular weddings and events, which could use the company’s photo booths.