Conquering the business world does not happen overnight. The business world with all its dynamics may sound glorious to conquer but it is never an answer that a little girl would give you once asked what her dream is. Tracy Hazard shares her amazing journey of ups and downs, twists and turns, wins and losses until she got to where she is right now. More than growing and understanding the ever-changing and tricky world of business, Tracy believes maintaining a meaningful connection with your community is essential. Her father once told her early on, “Carry your own luggage.” From then on, she has been packing what she can only carry. This has been her guide and the key to how she, along with her husband, Tom, made things happen.
We have Tracy Leigh Hazzard. Tracy is known as the product fixer. She’s the CEO of the industrial design firm, Hazz Design, and co-designer of over 250 consumer products you buy at retail every day. Since graduating from Rhode Island School of Design, she has been cutting, cleaning and creating for companies of all sizes, pushing them to rethink their product lines to strategically design in success and increase revenue. Tracy cohosts the WTFFF 3D Printing Podcast, the daily 3D start point for entrepreneurs, designers, and educators to scale the learning curve of the next industrial revolution.
Listen To The Episode Here: Growing And Connecting with Tracy Hazzard
Growing And Connecting with Tracy Hazzard
Tracy, how are you?
I’m good. I’m excited to talk to you.
I’m so thankful to have found you guys because you make this podcast happen and it is one of the best things I’ve ever done. You guys do such a good job with not only putting the podcast together but putting me in connection with people. It’s been absolutely amazing. Thank you so much.
You’re very welcome. We love to help grow other people’s businesses. It’s our thing. Whether it’s products or podcasts, we’re happy to do both.
Tracy, where are you from originally?
I’m from your neck of the woods from the East Coast. I was born in Connecticut. I’ve spent most of my life living in other places around the world actually, all over the place.
Did you ever live outside the States?
I did. I’ve lived in South Africa for two years at the height of apartheid in the late ‘70s.
How was that?
I was a child, I was eight or nine years old. It was different. What I always say to people is it was a sneak peek of what it might have been like to grow up in the ‘60s because I didn’t have that view. There was so much hostility and so much going on at the time and so much revolution. There were literal bombings happening. It was quite volatile and my parents got us out of there as quickly as they could. My dad was on an assignment. It was also such a beautiful country with such amazing people. To me, that was eye-opening. It gave me a different worldview than most people. I’ve appreciated that throughout my life.
Tracy, what were you into growing up as a kid?
I honestly thought that I would be the first female president of the United States. I pretty quickly decided that that was not for me. What I found out quickly is that it sounds a crazy thing to say, but I don’t care what other people think of me. When you’re in politics, you have to care. I learned quickly like, “I wasn’t going to care.” I still felt I was going to be who I was going to be. That’s when I decided school politics wasn’t for me. Maybe real politics wasn’t for me. That was early on one of those things. I always thought I wanted to be a writer. I always thought I wanted to write a book and be a writer and the whole things. One thing that I still have yet to do is publish my book. I write a column.
You liked writing growing up. You and your husband, Tom, have started so many companies and helped so many other companies start out. Where do you think that passion comes from?
It was Tom from the first thing. For the first time I met him, he always felt like he was, as he put it genetically unemployable. I never thought of myself like that. I didn’t know any entrepreneurs. I didn’t grow up like that. I grew up with people. My dad worked for an oil and gas company. He was an executive there. I always thought, “My path is a corporate path.” What I realized is that there is a certain amount of freedom to being able to create and do what you need to do. I was great at that creative part. That’s why I went to art school. That’s why all of that came out for me. The creative process was it. Getting stuff to market when you have an organization and you have structured and you have divisions, it was so frustrating to me. To be in control of something, that I liked. That’s attracted me to it. Tom came with one of the very first inventions back in the late ‘90s.
Which was what?
It was a stylist pen for handheld computers for PalmPilot. When he came up with that one, which was my idea, I didn’t want to have a stylus and a pen, but he invented it. This is our ongoing thing. I’m like, “This is a problem, figure out a solution.” He figures out a solution. It’s brilliant. I go, “We need to have a company that makes that.” That’s how these things have started for us. It’s like “That’s pretty brilliant. We need to do that.” Being in control and starting that company was amazing for me and at the same time, it taught me what I didn’t love. You’ve got both sides of it because it’s hard to start a business and a company, especially at that time. I was in my late twenties. It’s not a lot of experience to draw on.
It was both your first companies you started?
For Tom, it was his second. His first was a consulting firm. It’s a little bit different. There were no product sales.
EM 67 | Connecting With Your Community Connecting With Your Community: Managing people and having employees are the most stressful and hardest to do because you start to think of them as family.
A lot of learning on the fly then?
A lot of it like managing people, having employees. That, for me, became the most stressful and the hardest to do because you start to think of them as a family. It is a burden. They’re all so wonderful, but they are a burden at the end of the day. Every time you go to write out all those payroll checks, it was like, “Am I going to have enough business tomorrow?” When we were doing this, there were lots of volatile things happened to us. 9/11 happened. We got a patent infringement lawsuit with the largest industrial design firm in the world, IDEO and Palm Computing. It’s like, “Do we even have a business at the end of the day?”
That must have been frightening?
It was scary. It was one of those things where I always say that I went home after I found out that they were infringing on us and cried for twelve hours. I said, “What else are we going to do?” You get up and you put on your big girl pants and you go figure out what you’re going to do. What we did was crazy. This story, what happened, has become a case study in a course on IP, Intellectual Property, and entrepreneurship at Harvard Business Review.
What happened here?
It’s crazy, but it’s taught in 26 countries around the world. Every so often, I get a LinkedIn message from someone saying, “I learned all about your company.” I’m like, “Which company?” They’re like, “The one from the ‘90s. It was called TTools.” I was like, “Okay.” They teach the course in an interesting way. They teach what happened to us that we got infringed upon by this large industrial design firm. They made a stylus pen that looked almost exactly like ours. It had our patented feature. It came out in the catalog distributing the PalmPilot.
You had it first and they made a pretty much exact replica and then they tried to sue you?
No, we sued them. They infringed upon us, but here they are in the catalog. They’ve got the prime position, which we were never able to obtain. We understood now why we were never able to obtain it because they knew this invention was happening. We come to market first, we knew that. Back then it wasn’t first to file, it was first to invent. Your conception date mattered back then. The rules of patent infringement and all that has changed. We didn’t know, “Were we going to win?”
Did you have that date before them?
We believed we did.
It’s going to be tough to prove, right?
Yes. The courts have to decide. You disclose your dates in court when someone says, “Yes. That’s true. They were first.” They file interferences in the Patent Trademark Office. It’s a nasty mess. It’s worse now than it was back then. We get into this whole process and this is what happens. This is the first stage. It sets the playing field. It ends with me crying basically. What do you do? The second part is what we did do, which is gather together all of our investors. We had thirteen Angel investors. We had a PR independent agent. We had a lawyer and that was a friend of ours. We had a patent lawyer. We had a couple of them. We all gathered in a room with our top employees. We said, “What are we going to do?” At that time, we had $5,000 of cashflow because we had moved into a brand-new office.
We had spent all this money renovating and doing all this. We were tapped out on cash. We said, “For $5,000, we can do a little press and we can file the lawsuit,” but we can’t take it to court. We have no money to do any of that. We could do the filing and that’s it. That’s what we did at the end of the day. What happens is that when they teach the course, that’s at the point where they say, “Now what would you do?” They understand we have $5,000, what would you do? When you go into the third phase where they give their report and they’d say what they would do, 95% don’t do what we did. Keep in mind, this is pre-social media guys. The costs were a whole lot higher to do everything that we did. What we did was we put on our website, our conception date of our patent.
We put a whole timeline of every time we had met with people along the way at Palm Computing. We put a header up at the top that was like a GIF. It said, “Do we detect a bit of pen envy?” It was their pen and our pen. They were going stylus pen kind of thing. It went viral because there was this community around it that was called third-party developers, people were making cases and software and things for the PalmPilot. It was the first time that they existed. Nowadays, we consider them all app developers. They’re everywhere. Back then, they were new. They were worried that if Palm Computing was going to infringe upon someone who made a hard good, imagine how easy it would be to steal a piece of code. A whole lot cheaper and easier.
They were afraid and they started sharing our message. Everyone was sharing the website. Our website crashed a few times. We got picked up by San Jose Mercury News and a Fortune Small Business. They wrote up this David versus Goliath articles that were amazing stories. It hit home because Palm Computing was about to go public. They were trying to become a public company. They didn’t want bad publicity. They made IDEO settle because there was an indemnification clause in their contract with IDEO. We couldn’t have known that. That was like a gift. We were lucky. In a sense, we got very lucky but it forced a settlement. We came away with our patent in hand and our business still intact. It was never quite the same though because it taps out your energy.
EM 67 | Connecting With Your Community Connecting With Your Community: It doesn’t matter whether you’re building a personal coaching business brand or whatever. If people don’t show up and don’t come to the door, you don’t have a business.
After that was over, what happens after that?
Unfortunately, right after that, that’s when 9/11 happened. We had already been diversifying our business. We were lucky. We learned very early on. We made some smart choices in our entrepreneurship venture. First off, we didn’t think of ourselves as entrepreneurs. We thought of ourselves as business owners. That mindset made a little bit of a shift. It didn’t feel as risky. We were building something established. The dot-com bubble burst and 9/11 happened, but we had managed to diversify our business and stabilize some things. At the end of the day, what we did was by having done that patent infringement suit and having established and created that core value, we were able to take that intellectual property and sell it off. License that and sell it. At the end of the day, our company had value even if we didn’t have sales. Our product had value. That’s where we’ve taken that through and translated that into everything we do for our clients and what we’ve done in our own businesses.
That bad thing that happened to you was almost like a huge free marketing thing that worked on in this neighborhood. It took a little spin on it and that’s amazing. Tracy, a lot of people are starting new businesses, branding, and patents. What do you think it takes to get the idea from your head down onto paper and to start making it happen? What’s that process like?
I want you to make a few products. I want you to make a few things. I want you to find out if your thing matters to a community. Thing, idea, whatever it is. Here I am, a person who’s designed hundreds of products. What matters more is if the product will sell, if the idea will sell, if people will show up to your business, if they’ll show up to your events. It doesn’t matter whether you’re building a personal coaching business brand, you’re building a practice like yours, a chiropractic practice. If people don’t show up and don’t come to the door, you don’t have a business. We have to make sure that people want to transact with us. Does that idea, what differentiates us, have value?
A good question is how do you add value to your product?
We can’t add value. We invent this. We have this, but we have to test whether or not it has perceived value. Does the market think it has value? It doesn’t matter what I think about it. I believe in my idea. I can tell you I’ve met thousands of inventors who think they have the next best thing on earth. They didn’t make any money. My statistics scare people. Seven out of ten consumer products fail. Fourteen out of fifteen fail on the home shopping network. That’s a scary statistic. Less than 2% of patents make their inventors any money. Keep in mind that companies like Apple are still built into that statistic. Less than 2% includes Apple who made $1 trillion.
Those are some pretty frightening statistics if you are trying to start a new brand or anything like that.
It is. Business fails. There’s like 70%, 80% business failures in the first three years. Those numbers are all there. I’ve done a study of the market because I write a column, so I’m constantly studying the stats and the data. What I learned was that it is product-market fit. Idea market fit what you’re selling. It doesn’t matter what that is. It doesn’t have to be a physical pen. It can be your services. That’s the product. Product market fit accounts for 56% of failure. It’s not lack of funds, bad team. It’s not all those typical things we think about. It’s that we’re trying to sell the wrong thing to the right market. We may have a great market, but we’re selling them the wrong thing. They don’t love what we have. It’s not valuable to them or we have the right thing, but we don’t know who that market is, how to find them or it’s too expensive to teach them. That fit is the biggest problem.
Do you have an example of a couple of those where it’s like the right product, wrong market and stuff like that?
There are tons of them over the years. What it really is, is thinking about it this way. If you already know who your market is, if you know that you attract on this, podcast people will expect miracles, people will want better health and wellness. They want to believe that these things can happen in their life, what would you make for them? What would they want in their lives? That’s a whole lot easier to do than it is to say, “I have this amazing pen. I’m going to sell it to this group.” It’s not going to track. That’s where it gets to. It’s not that the products aren’t amazing. It’s not that they were amiss. It’s that there was a mismatch here. It costs too much money or takes too much time. Somebody else comes into the marketplace with something better fit, spends more money. We see that a lot nowadays. It is not just in products. It’s in services all the time.
How do you find the niche of what you’re trying to market? How do you put it there and everything like that?
That’s the new branding game. The new branding game is to start to have the ability to have direct conversations. Can I build a community where I can talk to them and/or can I tap into a community that’s already known? That’s why we have a huge group of people selling on Amazon, eBay, and places like that. Those shoppers already exist. We don’t have to attract shoppers. They’re already there. They’re buying stuff. All we have to do is get their attention for our thing because they’re there to shop. It’s a little less work. We don’t have to attract everyone completely. That’s where entrepreneurs fail so often. They build everything instead of, “Let’s test out here on Amazon, on eBay or on YouTube or on iTunes.” It doesn’t matter. Let me test where the audience already exists and see if people want to listen to me. I want to hear what I have to say. That’s track one. Now that I have a group that wants to hear what I have to say, let me understand more about them. Why do they like me? What do they think? What value do I add to them? How can I invent and intentionally invent or design something or find the right product or find the right service to help give them even more of what they want, what they already like? That’s a whole lot easier.
EM 67 | Connecting With Your Community Connecting With Your Community: It is important to build a team and surround yourself with the right people in the proper circle because it’s very tough to start something by yourself.
Do you think it takes a little bit to find your audience? A lot of doors can close for you right away and you’re getting started. That can be very discouraging. If you keep cranking up the content or if it’s a podcast or something, I don’t think anybody was reading in the beginning when I started doing this, but you keep it going because you liked doing it. Eventually, you find that market.
There should always be a good purpose for what you’re doing. Even if the purpose is not a clear return on investment in terms of like, “I’m going to get these many patients out of this podcast,” even if it’s not that clear, it is a clear business builder. It’s adding value to your website. There’s got to be some clear value for you to spend your hard-earned time. You’re busy. We have a line we have to meet, a minimum entry fee to the business world. We have to be on Facebook. We have to be on Twitter. We have to be in these places. We’ve got to give it the best content possible. That is the best us where we can be ourselves. If we can find a method by which we do that, whether it’s podcasting, doing videos or writing blogs, it doesn’t matter nowadays as long as it’s authentically you.
I recommend all formats because they give you ultimate power. Doing that where you can have your voice be heard by the people who want to hear it is a valuable connection because once you find those people, they want this from you. They want that from you. I didn’t realize early on that I thought, “I’m a designer. I design products for people. I can build podcasts for people. I’m a how-to girl.” That’s what I think. I know the how-to do anything, but I didn’t realize people wanted my straight advice. It took me a year of people saying, “Will you coach me, or will you mentor me?” I was going, “I don’t do that. That’s not my business. I’m not a life coach. I’m not a business coach. I’m not that.” For then me to go, “Yes, sure. Here’s my link. You can pay $500 a month to have an hour with me.” It was like, “Why wasn’t I doing that before?” That’s what they wanted from me. I wasn’t giving it to them and they were asking for it.
Tracy, how important is it to build a team and surround yourself in the proper circle because it’s very tough to start something by yourself. Even if it’s your own product, but it’s very beneficial to start a team and be supported in that way.
A team is so critical to everything that you do. Sometimes it’s a service. You’re buying a service business or you’re buying them to do a done-for-you system. It can be any one of those things, but what it needs to be is that giving you the opportunity to be brilliantly you. Whatever it is that has to support that. You’re the doctor. You were in the patient rooms, having the direct, helping them, improving them, and fixing them. You can’t do that because you’re spending time doing insurance paperwork. That’s a huge mistake and a huge miss. Running a practice is a lot clearer because lots of people have done it. You have a clear path if you understand that. I need someone to handle insurance. I need someone to handle my appointments and my phones. You understand that. For many of our businesses, we don’t understand what our businesses are supposed to look like. We don’t understand what that support team looks like. That’s where we start to fall apart because we aren’t following a business model.
I have a bunch of people I can look at. They’ve done it for 25 years. I can pick what I like, what they’re doing, and make it my own. How does somebody that’s entering a new field that’s cutting edge? They don’t have that blueprint. You got to do the best you can. It’s trial and error at that point?
I like to go to a been-there, done-that again and again model. I say this all the time to people. Because I’m a digital marketer or something like that. I’m starting to do Facebook ads and all of those things. It’s a new business or I’m hiring a new firm and I’m screening them. I want someone who knows advertising. I want someone who knows the mindset of consumers. I want someone who knows how to construct a good copy, thinking about whether or not they’ve got years of practice or deep experience in some particular area. Back to my pen, early on in our business, I learned this lesson the very hard way. Tom and I, we invented these stylus pens. This was before it was easy to go to Asia to make things. We decided to go down this road in Connecticut to affirm that had been injection molding products and did all kinds of things.
They’d never made pens before. We thought, “This is a pen. It’s a couple of plastic bodies. You screw them together, no big deal.” They engineered the screw mechanism between the two parts of the pen. We engineered the style of the pen itself, the outside, the style of it. They did the inner mechanism engineering for us. They created the mold and created the tool. We’ve got a few thousand pieces off of it first. We started because we have presold them immediately shipping them out to people. Within two weeks, we got people sending us messages, “My pen is exploding.” I was like, “We’re going to be out of business before we even started.” What was happening was as people were writing, the two pieces of the pen were unscrewing because they were threaded in the wrong direction. They were threaded normal way. You have to counter thread them in order to counteract your writing.
That’s something you definitely didn’t probably think of. How could you?
How could we have known that if we were not a company that made pens? We had discounted and said we didn’t want to go to someone who was making pens. We didn’t consider them. We thought, “We know these guys. They’ve done injection molding, that’s all they need is plastic.” This is where I say, you want someone with deep knowledge in your category, especially if you don’t have it.
Tracy, what are some of the big mistakes you guys made early on that you would almost like a gift or fast track a couple people because I’m sure you made a bunch. You have some very successful products. You definitely didn’t hit all home runs?
No, we didn’t. We have a much higher hit ratio than most, but part of it is simply because early on I figured out that market fit thing. We refuse clients who don’t already have that stuff in order for themselves. We know it won’t be successful, so it will take longer and it won’t work. A couple of the critical things I think that happens. I would say this to a lot of women out there. The women entrepreneurs take too long to get to market. It takes longer. It’s an entrepreneurial thing to be a bit of a perfectionist.
EM 67 | Connecting With Your Community Connecting With Your Community: Hope is not a plan, so you’ve got to have one.
Why do you think that is?
It’s more of a female thing. We had a lot. We believe we have to be perfect. It’s difficult for a lot of people. They finessed their course so much and spend tens of thousands of dollars getting it right or they spend a year writing their book. I am a big fan of let’s do a small test of something. Let’s test a chapter. Let’s test one segment of the course. Let’s run the course for free. Do it live for 30 days and record it all along and see if there’s value in it. We say, “Now if people like that and now people are buying that. They’re willing to pay for that. Now I’m going to go and have professionally recorded over time and get it right.” Making sure that you have what I call the market proof stage is so critically important. We spend way too much time in perfection. I have a big problem in that process as well. I want it to be absolutely right. Getting things out there to get that market feedback faster is so critical because our market is moving fast.
Have any of your products that you thought that were going to be okay or maybe you thought it wasn’t your best product ends up being bigger? You have a product. They’re like, “This is going to be a home run. This is a hit,” then it doesn’t do as well as that one. What do you think that’s all about?
For me, I’m not that invested in them. That’s the thing at the end of the day because most often they are not my products, I’m designing them for somebody else. I care about the market. I want to make sure that they’re successful, but I can design a different one. I’m flexible. I’ve seen things fail so quickly and had nothing to do with being a good product because a buyer didn’t want to put it on the shelf at Target. They didn’t like the salesperson. They decided to kill it. I’ve seen things like that happen. Tom and I have a platinum record product that we found out that it’s no longer available. It went for seven years in Costco. To have a product in Costco for seven years is a platinum record. It did about $20 million a year on average. My clients were pretty happy with that. No competitor ever came in to replace it. It will be interesting to see what they’ve done with it now. Maybe it ran its course and the styles no longer right. We haven’t designed it in three years. We haven’t redesigned it. Those things happened.
I didn’t expect that chair to be that big a hit. I knew it was good. You can’t anticipate something lasting that long in a marketplace. I don’t think anyone can foresee that. One of the things that I do every year is I color forecast. I pick the colors that are going to be popular for the next year. I say I’m never wrong, I’ll probably be wrong occasionally. I’m very rarely wrong. It’s because buying doesn’t change. Consumer habits don’t change. What people want in life, what they can see, and what they value, that doesn’t change over time. It’s a matter of did I embody it this time and did I get that right? Let me ask them. That perception back and forth is so critically important. Watching what’s going on in your marketplace, this is where a lot of people fall off. They think they don’t have any competitors. Like, “I’ve got something so new, no one else has it.” I’m like, “No, you have a competitor. You have a competitor for your dollar.” It might be something completely unrelated.
How you make those adjustments when somebody comes out with something similar to you? You still have a good product, but these people are riding your tail or they might even have something a little bit better of a feature. How do you keep up with that?
We are always ahead. We’re always onto the next thing. That’s why I say I’m not that invested because I’m already under the next design. We are always staying ahead of that. The deep knowledge that we’re gaining while we’re selling that one product we built into the next product and exceeded where they could go. When someone comes and copies, it’s that a copy. They don’t have any of that underlying knowledge as to why people liked it, what wanted it, and they don’t know what to do next. We’re always up on top of that. That’s how we like to round out value for people. We give them full programs, full lines, and full brands because it matters at the end of the day that you provide more than one thing.
Tracy, you guys have started a pretty remarkable podcast. You were on the podcast game like early stages. When did you start podcasting?
Five years ago. We did start pretty early. We started with that 3D print podcast. You mentioned WTFFF?!. I like to figure out how to do something, how to break a system, how to make it work better. That’s what we did. We figured out how to make a successful podcast work for business. It was a market test for us. It was a test to see if our clients would want to buy services surrounding 3D printing. We came to a very clear no, pretty much within four months of launching the show.
People want the value of the information. The show itself was valuable. We then said, “What are we going to do with that?” We built a website. We had podcast some videos because we had started doing videos in there, podcast videos and blog posts. We had what we now call Brandcasting. Our company is called Brandcasters. We now call that Brandcasting because you’re taking one piece of content, but you’re putting it into all formats. We hit on this formula of tapping into the Google algorithm. At a time at which voice recognition was being tested by them because now we have Google Home. We have Amazon Alexa. We were on it before, we didn’t know why it was working. It was just working.
We know there’s a whole bunch of reasons why it wasn’t working. We didn’t back then. We had built this team and this system to produce our shows because it was a lot of work. We were doing one a day so it was a lot of work. People would come up to us and go, “Would you produce my show for me?” I was like, “I don’t think we’re in that business.” For four months I said, “I don’t think we’re in that business.” Tom finally said, “I want to be in that business.” I said, “Okay, let’s do it then.” That’s how we took on a handful of clients. We beta tested it. We made sure we could scale it. We started growing a team. We have 40 employees worldwide. My team works 24 hours a day, which helps us produce enough content. The last time I checked we had 150 shows that we help produce are on our platform. I think our high was 350 episodes or something in a given month.
Tracy, how do you view social media and how vital do you think it is to grow a business? A lot of people have a negative connotation about it. It all depends on how you use it. If you let it work for you and you put your brand in the proper place, there’s nothing better. How do you feel about all that?
This is the thing that it’s a hot button. I don’t love Twitter. I’m not a 140-character person. I know they’ll increase it to 280, but I’m still not there. I’m a long tail post person. It’s not for me. It’s never been for me. I have to be on Twitter because of Inc. My Inc. column requires us to tweet out all of our articles. It’s part of the platform. I have a Twitter handle. I get strolled there all the time when I write articles. I write controversial articles. I don’t think they’re controversial, but people think they are when I write about artificial intelligence or AR or VR, virtual reality, stuff like that. It hits people’s hot buttons about job losses and all kinds of stuff like that. Fine, but I’m not in it for the conversation so I don’t participate in the conversation there. I participate where I’m comfortable. I’m comfortable on LinkedIn and Facebook. I know I can have a conversation there. As long as you’re going to participate yourself, I’m not a fan of hiring a firm and letting them do all the posting. There’s a certain amount of posting you need. I want my episodes to go out. I want people to know they’re there.
EM 67 | Connecting With Your Community Connecting With Your Community: Too often, we try to take way more than we can carry. In our overwhelm, we don’t serve our clients well and we don’t serve ourselves well.
When I want to say something, I want to say something. I don’t allow that happen in my process. It has served me well. I have a much smaller community than most influencers. My community has been with me for a long time. They’re active and engaged. I ran a webinar. I ran a series of three to help people plan their content. I had over 100 people sign up and 50 people showed up. Everyone was like, “Don’t you want hundreds of people?” I was like, “No, I got 50 people and I got 30 plus minutes of questions from them.” That to me, I’m adding value. I know I’m adding value. I’m interacting with my community. I can do that with the size it is. If I had 500,000 followers, I couldn’t do it. The value wouldn’t be there. I’m a fan of smaller communities but very dialed in, so that you’re helping each other. Getting to be you.
It’s huge that you do have the interaction in your own account because people appreciate that more knowing that it’s you. They get more in touch with it because you do follow other accounts. You know it’s not that person. It’s fun to follow, but I wish that it was this person in their live account. You get more of a personal thing with it.
Here’s an example of how well my community knows me mostly because of the podcast, but my 3D print community knows me well. We have a Facebook page called 3D Start Point. I have a company that manages some of the postings on there because of the website. I have a fully managed website over there. Tom and I have come out and spoken. My family was in Newtown, Connecticut. The shootings that happened with the children there. The 3D printed guns were emerging on the marketplace. We felt we had to come forward and say something. We did it again because my sister was at Route 91. She was one of the people shot at. She survived, traumatized, but we feel we had to say something. Bump stocks are in the news again because they got banned. The 3D printed bump stocks were being offered on the marketplace everywhere. Tom and I came out and we said, “We’re not making a political message, but we want you to be aware, these things are probably not designed safely.” That’s number one thing you shouldn’t be doing.
As a designer, I questioned whether or not you should design something that can do harm. Is that a good idea? That’s the way we approached the episode. We did not approach it from a banned gun or take guns away or anything. A post appeared on our Facebook page that was like clickbaity saying something about guns. My community started private messaging us and messaging, commenting within this post saying, “Tom and Tracy must have been hacked. They couldn’t have possibly posted this.” They know our voice. When I saw it, I flipped out and I fired the firm. I was like, “You didn’t even take the time to listen to any of our episodes. That’s what the shows. Our audience knows more than you do about what we do.” That’s not okay. I fired them. That’s where you can do harm to your brand and your business. It’s better not to post than it is to post something that it goes against who you are and what you think.
Tracy, what are you guys up to now? Do you have anything in the works?
We’ve been debating like a plan. We think these things through every year. That’s part of our process. Tom and I both believe hope is not a plan. You got to have one. We think these things through. We’re considering shutting down our design business altogether in the next year and focusing completely on Brandcasters. We’ve already scaled back a lot. I’ve only taken a few clients that I thought were fun to keep the creative and have fun. We’re at a stage where our business is getting so big that we want to grow it faster. In order to pour fuel into it, we’ve got to be all in, in a different way than we’ve been already. That’s what I see on the forefront for us. I see Brandcasters and Podetize.
Can you go into that because I have so many people that said they want to start a podcast? They have absolutely no idea what to do. I try to coach them a little bit on what to do, but you are the pros at it. You make it so easy. All I had to do is press the record button, send it to you guys, and it’s done. What is your advice on podcasting and how to get that going?
There are two sides to it. There are people like you who you’ve got a great business and you’re busy. You need to push the record button and all are done. You’ve got others who are in these startup tester businesses and they don’t know what they’re doing. Maybe they don’t know if they’ve got the right audience, do they have the right show? They need some strategy and coaching help. They also don’t have the funds to be able to pay someone to produce it for you. They are in what I call the DIY model, do it yourself. We have services for both of them. It is the DIY one that we’re growing to help those people who want to start a podcast but don’t know what to do. Don’t have the money. They’ll let somebody do it for them. Brandcasters is there for those who believe that I’m going to pay some money to save time. I still think we’re not that expensive.
We’re pretty reasonable. That’s the idea of the model of what we do there. We’re going to take care of all that tech and all the hard part. On the DIY side, we don’t want you to have to deal with some of the techs. We try to take it out of there. Let’s say you’ve got a great live stream and you’ve done tons of live streams. You want to take that and turn it into a podcast. You don’t care about that highly produced, edited podcast side of it. You want to put what they call bumpers, intros, and outros, onto your audio track, strip off your audio, put that on there and produce it into a podcast. We’ve got an automated system to do it now. It’s come out. We’re moving into more services like that. We have a full course. It’s free for anyone who hosts with us. We’ve always had it there. People didn’t take advantage of it because it’s a lot of work to launch a podcast. You’ve got to put some time and energy. It’s the exact same things we do for our clients. We’ve given out in a course for free. The book will come out to support that. Tom and I invented a new microphone. You don’t have to have a cable. You don’t have to hook to your computer. What do you do if you want to do video?
Cordless mic records for you. You can do field interviews.
One of the best things that you do too is you produce the podcast, but you also transcribe the entire episode into a blog post. That helps my podcast reach a lot more people because some people do like to look at the blog posts. That’s not my thing at all. You take care of that. I’m not interested in typing all that out. You do a phenomenal job. You’re hitting every avenue.
What we don’t realize is that Google has changed over time. Google controls how people find us. People are Googling the pain, the problems. You know they’re coming to you from pain. The best chiropractor for back pain, the best chiropractor to help my golf game, whatever it might be. What Google is doing that’s interesting is they’re creating something called relevance. If I like to read, they’re going to give me a blog post first. If you like to watch videos, they’re going to send you a video first. If your content isn’t in all formats, blog, video, audio, then you’re not going to get anyone who types in the best chiropractor. You’re not going to get them. They’re only going to serve up the content that’s relevant to what I like to view or listen to. That’s helpful. Also, there’s locality. You’ve tapped into locality because you don’t even have to type New Jersey. You’re going to get the people from New Jersey. They’re automatically going to send you over Dr. Hayford across the country. Even though she’s got a great podcast, they’re going to send you first because you’re local.
Tracy, what is one piece of advice that you would like to give the audience that’s resonated with you over the years that’s hit home for you?
My dad has been one of my mentors throughout my life. He’s always been there. He was an executive in an oil and gas company. He’s been my example of how to be a leader and how to do that. Early on, he taught me something that I don’t think he realized what he taught me. He taught me that I had to carry my own luggage. When we were little, we had to carry your own luggage on the plane. You can’t pack more than you can carry. Too often, we try to take on way more than we can carry, way more than we can do. In our overwhelm, we don’t serve our clients well. We don’t serve ourselves well. We don’t serve our health well. We don’t do things well because we are taking on way too much. My dad taught me that early on. It’s something I try hard to live by. I can tell you it’s the hardest thing. The hardest thing I do every single day is trying to figure out how to pack lighter.
That especially rings true with you. How do you pack lighter with something that you want to continue?
That’s why I looked at this and said, “We got to divest ourselves a part of our business. I don’t need to pack lighter because I can’t be all me. I need to be 100% me for my business. I need to be 100% me for every one of my clients. How can I do that? You have to sometimes make hard decisions. You may have heard this before, but to decide is to cut, to cut out. Making the decision about what to cut out of your business, out of your life, say no more in a way. It’s hard to do. I’m a mom of three girls. It’s hard to say no to any of them. Sometimes that’s exactly what you have to do.
Tracy, thank you so much for coming on. You’re a wealth of knowledge in the networking and branding department. I loved this episode. Where can people find you online and get in touch with you in general?
If you want to find out more about the Brandcasters, FeedYourBrand.co. Feed Your Brand is our podcast for those aspiring podcasters. On the product side, I have another podcast. I run three podcasts. Product Launch Hazzards is my podcast for podcasters. That is going to stick around because I have twenty experts in all areas of product launching there to service people. I created a community that can help you whether I’m there or not.
Tracy, thank you so much. I will talk to you soon.
It sounds good. Thanks so much for having me.