236: The Power of a Name and How to Disrupt an Industry with Jeremy ParkerDave Lukas, The Misfit Entrepreneur_Breakthrough Entrepreneurship
02/10/21 • 51 min
This week’s Misfit Entrepreneur is Jeremy Parker. Jeremy is a serial entrepreneur and founder of Swag.com. Swag.com is the best place for companies to buy and distribute quality promotional products that people will actually want to keep. They work with over 5,000 companies including Facebook, Google, Amazon, Spotify and Tik Tok. The company was ranked #218 on 2020’s INC 500 list and has been growing tremendously.
But, a promotional products company growing massively in age of no tradeshows or in person meetings where these things are typically exchanged, how can that be? That was exactly the question I had when I was first introduced to Jeremy. What is he doing differently at Swag that has people flocking to them?
I thought it best he share his secrets with you.
Jeremy went to Boston University for filmmaking. But he also liked branding. He chose filmmaking because YouTube was just beginning, and he saw a way to tell stories/market through filmmaking. He did a documentary that won the Vail Film Festival. It was this point that he had to make the decision on if he wanted to continue down the filmmaking path or go to his true passion in marketing. He went back for his final year in college and focused on marketing. He decided to start a high-end T-shirt business and use it as a learning process – right before the crash in 2007.
Just after getting started, all the places he was selling his shirts to were starting to have trouble. He decided to index the price of his shirts to the price of the DOW Jones. Every 100 pts it fell equaled a discount on his shirts. Jeremy wrote to Mark Cuban sharing what he was doing, and Mark shared it on his Maverick blog. It then got seen by the CEO of MV Sports, a larger player in the promotional space. After meeting, the CEO committed to help fund his next business.
He decided to re-imagine university apparel and started a brand under MV Sport. He then started a company doing product placement in Youtube Videos which then sold to a publicly traded company.
He always liked the promotions business and new it was stuck in old ways and needed to be tailored to work with the Millennial buyer.
Talk to use about the early days and getting going. What is your best advice for entrepreneurs just starting out?
- When you start a business, you have to put yourself out there, listen to your customers and adapt quickly.
- Know the power of a name as the name of your company have a huge impact on your success if done right.
- They successfully negotiated to get the exclusive license to use the Swag.com domain for 2 years in exchange for a little equity and have the option to buy the domain for $200k during that period.
- Then, Jeremy went big. He did a top-down approach to get logos and focused on Facebook and others to get any type of sale so it could then be referenced to parlay future sales.
- They focused on sales first and didn’t even build out the website.
- They got a number of Blue-chip companies, got their feedback for what they wanted in a buying experience and then built the Swag platform around it.
- Don’t be afraid to go after the big clients from the start.
Is there a framework you use for disrupting an industry?
- Look for an industry or niche where every player is doing things the same or not collectively serving a market.
- You can either disrupt by doing something that no one is doing or by recognizing that the players are doing it wrong or not adapting to the changes in the market because they are “stuck in their ways.”
- You have to talk to all those you think are customer and get great feedback you can use to fix the problems and pain points they have as a group.
- Customers will tell you what they are looking for.
- You will not have everything clients want and have it working properly and that is ok. You solve a problem and continue to improve.
What has been the most impactful decision for your success during the pandemic?
- Pivoting. They started to sell masks, either blank or printed with logos, etc. Access to their manufacturing power for clients.
- They kept their team intact.
- The sped up the release of Swag Distribution where they allowed clients to ship 1 item or a few at a time to individual addresses. Swag would hold the inventory and clients could send them out to whoever they want at any time. This made a huge difference and gave clients a new way to engage and promote.
- They changed to give the customer experience people needed in the pandemic quickly.
How do you get customers today? What works? What doesn’t?
- Started with knocking on doors
- Graduated to Google Ads
- Once customers were coming in, they thought long term, SEO
- Content strategy is crit...
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