Brand Casters – Product Launch Expert with Tracy Hazzard from Plentiful Perspectives Podcast with Kevin A. Dunlap

If you’re launching a product in this day and age, where people are almost always online, you need to expand to the digital world. Otherwise, you just might find yourself falling behind. One of the great ways to put yourself out there is by showing your brand through online content. In this episode, Tracy Hazzard is with Kevin A. Dunlap for the Plentiful Perspectives Podcast to share her expertise on how you can start a business, create your brand, and take it to where the people are. As a product launch expert with a podcast company under her belt, Tracy has the knowledge and experience to help you market yourself through podcasting, blogging, and even Facebook Live. What are the first few things to take into consideration when launching products? How do you test the markets? How can you take your products on the shelves? She answers all of these and more. Plus, Tracy also lends her journey towards the success she is now to provide us with the lessons she learned along the way. 

Listen to the podcast here:


I met this lady on a website known as LinkedIn. She seems to be extremely professional. After chatting with her a little bit on LinkedIn, I wanted to have her on our show. Not only myself, but most of the readers can benefit from some of the services that she has. Her name is Tracy Hazzard. She has two main companies, but she’s running three different types of businesses here.

One of her companies is called Brandcasters, which is helping you build your personal brands, such as launching some of your other products and things like that. Her other company is called Hazz Design. She’s been a product launch expert for over 26 years and she’s also even a columnist for the online portion of Inc. Magazine. Tracy, welcome to the show.

Thanks so much for having me, Kevin. I’m excited to be here.

Thank you. I’m excited to have you here. I’ve come to find out that she has three different podcasts she does on her own. Could you tell me a little bit about the three different podcasts that you do?

My first one has reached 500 episodes and it’s called WTFFF?! That stands for What The Fused Filament Fabrication, which is a geeky term for 3D printing. If you don’t know anything about 3D printing and you want to learn about it, that’s the place. If you already do know what 3D printing is and you want to learn more about how to design for it, that’s the place. I love it. I didn’t think I could talk about it for 500 episodes, but evidently, I can. It does relate to my product design businesses. We’ve been using 3D printing for decades, so it’s not something new to us, but it is new to most people out there.

I spin-off. One we’ve done is called Product Launch Hazzards and that is a members-only podcast. You can’t access it live. It’s for my clients. It’s like having client calls all the time. It’s a private podcast. We provide that as an ongoing service to our clients when they’re not working with us or when they’re not ready to work with us yet. We do that. The other one that we have is called Feed Your Brand and that is for Brandcasters. It’s advanced techniques for content marketing.

There are lots of ninja tactics that we use to promote our podcasts or monetize things. I’m an online columnist, I have lots of tips about how to write better blogs or headlines. We interview lots of different people who are podcasting or blogging or are putting content out in an unusual way. Also, getting stuff that works because I’m tired of the stuff that makes you want to collapse with so much to do. I want the efficient stuff.

You’re writing an article in Inc. Magazine, you’re interviewing, and you’re doing three different podcasts. How often are you coming out with new material for these shows?

We do at least eight shows per podcast. That’s 32 shows a month plus the articles, so another six. I typically will write a few guest articles about 40 pieces of content every single month. There’s always an interview and a written post that goes with every single thing we do. Plus, lots of spin-offs and stuff. I have a team. That’s how you can do it. I can’t do it alone. I also do it efficiently. If I’m going to do an interview, I’m going to do a podcast recording and an article. I do both at the same time, so it’s efficient.

This is what I’m doing. I don’t know if this is the best way to do it. I’m going to ask you this and also for people that are out there that might be bloggers or podcasters that are reading. Are you posting these on your personal websites and things like that for SEO and things?

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The number one thing we want to do nowadays is to stop giving away our equity to Facebook, LinkedIn, and all of these other places. They’re great useful places to push promote, but they are not great places to build equity for you. You must always drive people back to your website. Even from the podcast, I don’t tell them to subscribe to iTunes.

I tell them to come to the website. You want to drive everyone back to your website and you want to make sure you have the highest Google power you can have there. Personally, on our podcast, sometimes we beat out major publications on Google because we push so much content all the time and that’s relevant. We can beat out certain pieces of information, so I can beat my Inc. column sometimes.

That’s exactly why I do my show because I’ll write a description based upon our interview as well and that will go on to the video version of the show, and then the audio version on the show. Those are two different things on my website. What that’s going to do for those of you is you’re using keyword-rich content. That’s when people start Googling you, you have all of this stuff out there.

You don’t have to try it. You don’t have to know anything about SEO tactics or tricks or anything like that because it’s naturally coming out of your mouth. You’re speaking to an expert who’s in a particular area. That expertise is going to be associated with you and your website. You don’t have to work that hard at trying those little gray hat tactics of trying to cram SEO words in there. The only thing that you have to do is make sure that you transcribe the full amount.

If you don’t, then you’re wasting the opportunity to have 6,000 to 10,000 words associated with your brand on the website. You want to do it smartly. We advise and rewrite our own leading paragraphs for each one, so it doesn’t read like, “Kevin said. Tracy said.” It doesn’t read like that. You want it to read like a post. We take extra time and we triple transcribe to make that happen, but it’s worth it because the Google power happens within weeks, not months.

It’s good to know because I have heard that you’re doing a full transcription but I’ve never heard of a full transcription onto a blog.

This is why we started our brand casting business because many people were saying, “What are you doing? Your site is outranking ours. It’s killing it.” I was like, “We’re simply doing this.” They said, “Would you do that for me?” We started doing it for selected people and we started doing it for a company that has 800 revenue-generating websites that were all based on SEO tactics and written blog posts only.

We were doing a podcast and our show was at least 20% to 30%, outranking all the other websites at the same stage. It’s the spoken word, and then how we were blogging from that. I didn’t want to do more work. I didn’t want to write a blog on top of it all. That’s too much work. I’m a writer and I didn’t want to do that.

It does become difficult to come up with new content all the time. I’m surprised you’re able to do over 500 episodes on your WTFFF?! show.

We do interviews like you do, so it always keeps the content fresh. We do topics all the time, but that’s because we are experts in it. People are looking at what we think about something. There’s always something new going on in the industry to talk about. We’re using it in our daily business, there are also things that we discover about it like an easier way to do this or a new material no one’s ever tried before. There’s always an a-ha. There are trade shows that inspire you like CES and mini trade shows you might go to. All of those types of things show up. They give you new content, exciting ideas, and things to talk about.

That would be the trick as you if you’re in a technology platform. New technology is always coming up for fast computers or whatever it is that’s always coming up as well.

We try to stay timeless in the way that we talk about things so that it’s relevant to whoever might be learning in their process of learning about 3D printing. They can go along the way with us so that they will binge listen or binge watch in your case. You want them to do that so that they’re following a journey if that’s the case for them.

Product Launch | Tracy Hazzard | Plentiful Perspectives Podcast with Kevin A. Dunlap

Product Launch: The number one thing we want to do nowadays is to stop giving away our equity to Facebook and LinkedIn, and all of these other places.

 

I don’t want them to feel something that was just pulled out of politics or socioeconomic, something that happened unless it’s necessary to talk because it created such a massive shift in the marketplace and outdate something else. You would want to point that out. Otherwise, we try to stay away from that and only talk about things that make it relevant to them and moving forward.

That’s what I was writing and doing in this show, I wanted to make sure that it was something that was seamless or timeless. If you’re listening to the recording, two weeks later after it was posted versus it was six months later or maybe it was 2.5 years later, it’s still relevant for that timeframe.

Here’s where your website is important because when you reach 500 episodes, Apple or iTunes’ library only catalogs 300 episodes. Where are your other 200 going to be? This is a new problem. We have all those volumes on our website. They can read the blogs at any time. They can listen to those podcasts over the website. You don’t have to worry about whether or not they’re in the player or not.

The thing is, if they’re on your website, they’re staying on the website. Google recognizes that and you’re going to rank even higher based upon that as well. How did you even think about that? That’s a nice little feature.

It doesn’t matter where people are listening to it, your podcast statistics are drawing from wherever it’s served from. They could be listening on the website, Stitcher, iTunes, or somebody else’s directory. I’m in directories all over the world that I didn’t even know I was in like directories that are Brazil-only or something like that and you didn’t even know it. It doesn’t matter because all that matters is where that source file is and how it’s being accessed.

For anybody that’s starting out with a business, I’ve been hearing that to help promote yourself, do a lot of stuff like Facebook Live or something live. Start getting your face as part of your brand out there. Do you recommend this as a branding expert or maybe not?

Not first. Don’t get me wrong. Video is great because you can see the expression on my face and hear the passion. You get that coming across. It comes across in audio as well, but some people like that video. There’s a lot of video competition. YouTube got millions of videos to access every day. To be found there, you have to spend a lot of money to be highly ranked.

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You have to work hard at marketing. That’s not my core business. I want to operate in my core business. I want something that I do in marketing to be an easy way, to be passed on, or be an easy way for whoever wants to consume me. We do like to use multiple media methods. That’s why there’s written and some videos, but we tend to use videos like companions. An occasional Facebook Live when it makes sense.

Sometimes we’ll do a short video that shows how we use the machine, a demo when it makes sense to use it, and then we embed it in the blog post. If it’s going to be something, we want them to access it from the blog post. We never even worry about how we rank on YouTube or Facebook. In Facebook, if you don’t have big followership and a lot of fans that are active and matter, then doing video is not going to help you get more fans. It doesn’t do enough of that. Let’s say you had 1,000 fans. That’s low. Only about 130 of them will see any posts that you make at any given time.

Even if they have it see-first on your Facebook page.

They’d have to select that. It’s getting harder for them to see you. At most, you’ll probably get 130 people. If you pay for ads, you might get 2 to 3 times that, so that’s a technique you can do. You can pay even tiny like $1 a day and still get 2 to 3 times the amount of people watching you. They give a boost to people who spend money. If you do a Facebook Live, you might get that boost also, but it’s the same 1,000 people seeing you again. It doesn’t matter if they aren’t activating.

If you are getting a response back and lots of comments, your Facebook Live is helping people and getting shared, then keep doing it because there’s a good reason for it. If it’s just sitting there, maybe a handful of likes, then it’s not working for you, so do something else. We do it maybe once or twice a month.

It’s like a booster to remind people or our 1,000 fans, or however many we have, that we’re here and make sure that a larger audience sees us out of that 1,000. We don’t use it as a massive marketing technique. Spending money on Facebook videos is a great way to do it. If you’re spending ad dollars using video, it is a higher boost.

I’ve been noticing and I’ve heard this from a couple of sources that if you’re going to be putting a video on Facebook, they should have the caption turned on. Is that something you’ve noticed or you do or you don’t do?

Sometimes it helps because people are watching and they turn the sound off because they’re in an environment in which they don’t want to. For the most part, people who watch videos are watching it for the visuals. If you don’t have a visually compelling video and it’s just talking heads, probably the best thing you can do is turn the captions on or it won’t capture their attention. It depends on what it is. That’s why we prefer visual videos, the ones that are showing or demoing something. They’re short and they get them excited. If you want to find out more, go to this blog post or go to this podcast, or head somewhere else. We call them appetizers.

You said that you’re a product launch expert and you’ve been doing that for over 26 years. We didn’t mainly talk about shooting videos and podcasts. Let’s talk about your business as a product launch expert. Why did you get into that business? Why do you do that?

I’ve been doing this for decades. I have a design degree. I worked for big brands like Martha Stewart Living, Target, Walmart, and Costco. You probably bought products that I designed and you don’t even know it. It’s like being a ghostwriter. People don’t know who you are. People sometimes are reluctant to admit they used you, so you don’t get good referrals. If they do, they used you and they loved you, but they don’t want to share you because they want you to be available for their next project exclusively. They don’t want the competitors to use you. It got to be this difficult business to market.

Product Launch | Tracy Hazzard | Plentiful Perspectives Podcast with Kevin A. Dunlap

Product Launch: There’s always something new going on in the industry to talk about.

 

While it was great, we capped it a size. This happens to a lot of consulting companies and a lot of firms. We either had to go to a massive firm that was bigger with a bunch of junior designers, go out there, and market the firm as a whole, or we had to adopt a totally different method. My partner’s my husband. He and I both said, “This isn’t the lifestyle we want. We don’t want a massive amount of junior designers working for us. We want to have a business where we can interact with clients, but we can be picky. We can choose between the ones we want.”

We went out to diversify our business several years ago and do different things. That’s why we started a podcast and why we built 3D printing as part of our business. I speak all the time on stages everywhere to talk about launching Amazon Sellers Now. That’s an expanded part of our business and why I have a membership community. All of those things came out of the idea that I wanted to be able to still do exactly what I do great. Live in that excitement of working directly with a client and not losing touch with that, but I wanted to build a bigger, more sustainable business.

You’re launching products that are either something that’s tangible or maybe a new business program or something like that. Is that what you mainly work with?

We usually work with things that go into mass-market retail eCommerce so they would be sold on Amazon, Walmart.com, or anything like that. We haven’t done a ton on eBay, but it doesn’t matter. Our products are sold on eBay. We don’t do the selling part. We do the product development, the design part, finding products in Asia, and making them special and unique. Our gift is bringing them competitive advantages. A lot of times, that’s patenting. A lot of times, it’s not. It’s just better and more appealing to the marketplace.

That translates into no matter what you want to launch, service, product, or podcast. You have to have a lot of competitive intelligence. You have to bring a lot of, I call it me-only, a lot of special that only someone could get from me. When you think about it like that, that’s service to your audience but it’s something unique and tangible. At the end of the day, that’s the only place for that. When that happens, you’re in the golden competitive territory.

Do you help people build their products or service?

Yes. We prefer people don’t come to us with the product already pre-done because we can’t do much for them at that point. If someone has a product line, we’ll expand their programs and their lines. That’s what we do for the big brands like Martha Stewart.

Do you work with people that are starting out, new business owners, and new entrepreneurs?

All the time. We only take projects that are fun and challenging and that we can add something to. There’s lots of stuff out there that people are buying and reselling on Amazon. That’s not something we get involved in. There are lots of people out there who can help them find something. If you want something special, you want to make it unique, make it sell better, and sell it for 25%, 30% more margin, then we’re the people that help make that happen.

A lot of the people that I’ve interviewed so far, probably maybe 20% of them are coaches of some sort. They’re passion coaches, business coaches, business consultants, or a relationship coach. There’s another gentleman that came to launch one time. Would you be able to help them with their businesses?

The Brandcasters, the brand and podcast side of the business, yes. We help people like that all the time and sometimes it translates into coaching about what’s unique about their business and strategy and tactics for making that better. We’re the how-to people. If you want to know how to do something and get it done fast but don’t want to do it yourself, that’s where our area of expertise is. We’re the people who get stuff launched, get it done quickly, and do it with probably a lot more exciting detail than you would do if you had to learn it all yourself.

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For the last several years, for myself, I’ve been developing my programs. That’s going off to other people’s classes and slowly going through it. Obviously, you’ve been through this for going on for a few decades, so you’ve seen the good, the bad, and the ugly. You’ve seen it all.

I’ve seen some ugly, and what I see is a lot of time wasted. It’s time and money wasted at the beginning of things. My favorite example that I’ve written about in my column and I use in my presentations all the time is a woman who developed a striped shirt. It’s a simple idea. You can get this in your head. She thought, “Why should you go to a Texas Rangers or a Boston Red Sox game and wear their logo? Why not wear the team colors in a striped shirt? Classier.” This is her idea. She tells a bunch of friends and they go, “That sounds cool and fun.”

She goes down this road. She’s a PR and marketing expert, so she has an area of expertise. She spends all this time and money building a beautiful website and a PR plan for launching it. She meets someone who can make the product in India for her. He gives her all the pricing and she said, “I can do this.” She buys 10,000 shirts in various colors, so she has her garage full of them. Five years later, she spent $150,000 between the website, products, and launching, she throws the most brilliant marketing campaign that caught my eye. She threw a kick-stopper campaign to stop her crazy business because it wasn’t working.

She should have found that out with five pieces. Showing them around and had gotten people who aren’t her friends to tell her what they think, “Would they buy this?” She throws some up on Amazon and see if they sell in a place where if it’s good, it will sell and spend maybe $5,000. That would have been on the high side to me. If she had done that, she would have found out within months that is not a viable business. She should do something else.

That’s the whole thing. You do need a test market.

She got it tested and people don’t. It happens all the time with coaches because they get a couple of great clients who say they’re wonderful and they think they’ve got something here. It doesn’t translate into getting the word out to a broader audience, a higher conversion rate, and more people joining your programs. How do you get that momentum going? You’ve got to get beyond the group of people who know you and find out what people think. “Is it priced right? Am I presenting it right? Am I in the right place to even meet the right people?”

That requires lots of testing, refining, pivoting, retesting again, and getting that part rather than worrying about every single detail. What I see happen is that they say, “My program must be broken. Let me revise my program again.” They redo their course, but it has nothing to do with the course. It is the fact that they’re not connecting to the marketplace. The people who need them still aren’t accessing them. That’s the most important. If you can access them, you can build anything to sell to them later. That’s easier.

There’s a lady and I took her class years ago. She has this phrase that her father told her, “Build a plane while you’re flying it.”

That’s not totally my favorite. I believe in a plan. Hope is not a plan and not a strategy. That is our mantra here. You should have a plan because you have nothing to measure against it. It’s like, “If I’m building this plane on the way down and I hit 10,000 feet and I don’t have wings yet, should I parachute out? When is the time?” If you have nothing to compare against, none of those things along the way, you have no metrics and milestones. You don’t know if you’re getting the right answers and whether you should shift.

A critical part of what happens is pivoting or shifting. It’s not a gigantic turnaround. It might be a little degree and that degree difference is going to make a huge amount of money or a huge amount of time lost later. You have to have a clear plan about what you’re doing along the way. I don’t think they should have tools for everything and build the whole plane. Don’t get me wrong. That’s expensive. You don’t know if it’s going to fly. You got to have a plan along the way of how to do that or how to stop when it’s going badly.

That’s why you build it up because you’re building it as you’ve seen what the market is doing. That’s what she meant by that. You’ve been doing this for over 26 years and you talked about your company called Hazz Design.

Hazz Design is my old company. I’ve had that the longest. It simply is a consulting firm for product development. Our specialty is getting stuff ready to launch and doing it in the right order. We have a clear process we use that keeps and reserves budget for the massive amount of marketing you have to spend later for promotion costs.

It’s hard to get your products found on a shelf. Think of how noisy the online world is and how busy the shelves at Target are. These are expensive propositions. You can’t afford to make mistakes. Yet, it happens all the time. 7 out of 10 consumer products fail in the marketplace and 14 out of 15 products on HSN and QVC fail miserably.

I’ve even heard someone say that 1 in 15,000 ideas are any good. The odds are stacked against you that you’re going to spend a ton of money and get it wrong. That to me is a crime. We have the flipped odds. We have an 86% commercialization rate because we reject projects before $5,000 is spent. We stop a project, shift it, and make it right.

Product Launch | Tracy Hazzard | Plentiful Perspectives Podcast with Kevin A. Dunlap

Product Launch: If your Facebook live is really making people share, then keep doing it because there’s obviously a good reason for it.

 

We find the right market or we fix the product to meet the market. We do all of those things early on to make it right before we hit into the expensive things you have to buy like a full utility and international patent, before you would buy tooling and all that inventory like those striped shirts in the garage. Before you would make all those decisions, you have a higher likelihood for knowing you are going to be successful and risk reduction along the way because you’ve gotten some answers.

It sounds like you provide a valuable service.

It works for everyone. The number one thing is to prove it. You can say you have a great product idea and you provide a great service but can you prove it? Have you gone out there and tried it? It’s not that hard. We get people who say, “I’ve invented the best baby product ever.” Moms are picky, especially moms of newborns and toddlers.

They care about what goes in their kid’s mouths or around them. Did you ask them? Did you go to a meetup of mothers of preschoolers’ or moms’ groups? They won’t charge you anything. You can show up there and buy them natural healthy snacks for their kids and maybe some coffee. They could probably use some coffee and ask them what they think. They’ll tell you. Would they spend money on it?

There are lots of ways to get good results. You can do the same thing as a coach, as a service provider. You can go there and find the right people. Ask them, “Do you need my services? If I provided it in this way, would you use me?” There’s no not proving it. I call them yes-men and no-women. Yes-men say, “Yes, you’re great. I love you.”

No-women all say, “Kevin, we love you. We don’t want you to risk anything. We don’t want you to fail. We’re going to tell you don’t do it.” That’s as bad than telling you not to do it because they love you because they’re afraid of the risk for you. That derails you as well. You don’t want people saying, “You’re wonderful. This is terrible. It’s a great idea.” You need to have an objective review of that from somebody who would use it and buy it.

A word that came to my mind was constructive criticism.

You got to listen to it. A lot of people don’t want to hear it.

If it’s not in alignment with how they’re thinking, they can either take that in a negative way. I used to do a lot of stuff on stage and film. During the rehearsals, the director will come out there and say, “Bob, you did this wrong. Tracy, you should do this better.” You may take it personally, but no, he’s trying to make you better at what you’re doing.

Everyone loves the story of someone and went to 10,000 different people and they said, “No,” but then they still made a success of it. I think of the story of Sara Blakely and Spanx. She got turned away by so many VCs. It was ridiculous. Look at how phenomenally successful she is. A lot of times you’re out there and they don’t get it and you get it. All along the way, what she did know was that her core audience wanted it.

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They were begging her. She couldn’t make enough in her garage to keep up with the demand of people who are buying it. The VCs didn’t get it but her core market did. That’s what you have to underline. If you’re going to defy all of those people who keep telling you, “This isn’t any good,” you better know you’re right and you better have that underlying proof that you’re right along the way.

That’s part of that 1 in 15,000. The movie that came to my mind was Jennifer Lawrence’s movie called Joy where she created this special mop, the self-wringing mop.

That movie gives me anxiety. I watched it once and I was like, “I can never watch this again.” It was horrible because I watch all those things that happen to entrepreneurs and inventors that is nasty about the industry in the marketplace, they all happened to her. I’ve had it happen to me. I had a patent infringed upon. I know that anxiety, like, “I’m not going to be able to pay my people. I’m going to have to let everybody go. I’m failing my family. I’m going to lose my house.” These happen. I hear these stories all the time. It’s the rare individual like that who gets to make it.

There is something to say about persistence. There’s also something to say about, “Go ahead and stop doing what you’re doing.”

I want to flip the odds. My goal is always about how to do this better. There is a better method for doing this. I’ve done 250 products in eight years alone with an almost 90% success rate. That means 90% of them made money. In my case, making money means, at minimum, they do about $1 million a year at retail because that’s the lowest selling Amazon product I would make. Some of them do $20 million a year, just a single skew. You’re talking about a lot of the value that gets added into the marketplace and for those brands and those companies. I have a high level of responsibility for being right.

I can’t rely on my gut that says, “I’m right.” I got to have some proof in the process because somebody else’s family is going to rely on my ability to be successful for them. That’s a lot of burden. I can’t be wrong. I can’t pick the wrong color. Can you imagine that? That’s a huge decision we make every single day is, “Are we making this in the right color?” I have to have some data, research, and backup because otherwise, it’s too risky for me to take on their behalf. I can’t treat that callously.

It’s your success rate. You don’t want to take on anybody where you say, “Last week, I was also dealing with somebody just like you.”

That’s why I have a litmus test when I take calls from people and a lot of them don’t pass it. They’re not ready for me yet and that’s okay. They’re not ready to listen. What I don’t want to happen though is that they get caught in that trap of spending $10,000 or $20,000 with an invent help group or patenting and not getting anywhere with them.

That was part of why we started our membership group, which we’re going to expand because we wanted to give a safer place for people to get information about what does work and what are maybe some of the right ways to do things and some of the right resources to use. Even if I can’t take them on, there is a place that can help them.

I’m going to shift gears a little bit. We’re going to talk more about you and how the readers, the entrepreneur, or those students who want to be an entrepreneur could also benefit. With that, I’d like to talk about your successes, your challenges, your fears, and things like that. Let’s dive in. When you’re first starting out years ago, what were some of the first early successes that showed you that you could do what you did?

I didn’t start out as an entrepreneur. I was a reluctant entrepreneur. I wanted to be within a company. I went straight out of college and went to work for a big textile manufacturing company and then eventually worked for Herman Miller, the inventor, and maker of the Aeron chair. I’m sure you’ve probably seen that iconic mesh chair that’s in almost every tech company. I was lucky to work early in these design-driven companies with great processes and great research. I saw that expansive look at how products get made and how things get launched so I had a bigger and broader view of it.

I also saw that it paid off to be an entrepreneur. If you had a lot of gumption, leadership, and ideas that you could be heard if you framed them right. That goes to pitching. If you could pitch it right, internally, you could get lots of things done. I graduated from college and I was 21. I couldn’t even rent a car. They would send me up to go meet with automotive manufacturers and discuss what colors and what materials should be in your Chevy truck. I looked like a truck driver at that time. I had to go present to them what would be the design that they should have ten years into the future because that’s how long it would take before that truck would be in the marketplace.

I had to have all sorts of confidence. Being empowered like that by an organization to go out there and speak my mind and have to learn how to pitch again was the biggest lesson I could have ever gotten. That taught me the basis for everything, how to be concise, how to get your point across, how to do that and be convincing, and how to have some data. You can’t talk about what I like and what I feel. You have to talk about what would work.

You had to back it up.

I learned that early on and that’s become a basis for success for me.

Let’s talk about the successes. What successes are you achieving?

It’s never enough. I’m probably harder on myself than anyone else. We have two businesses at once, it was a heavy investment year. It felt like constant reinvesting back into the business and not personally rewarding enough. That happens for everyone. It’s a reinvention year and everyone goes through waves like that. For us, we hit a couple of milestones of awesome sales volume on some of the products we’ve been selling.

When you get a product that goes into mass-market retail, Costco in this particular case, and it gets in year after year, it’s rare. We have a platinum record seller of an office chair that’s available at Costco for $99. Every single day, you can buy it there. If we look at the numbers of that, that’s probably the best-selling product out of any competitive industry we’ve worked in. In all different product categories, that’s the most successful product that we’ve ever found. We’re like, “We should celebrate.” The reality is like, “I designed that several years ago and I’m on to the new thing.”

You have a little hard time celebrating the successes enough and realizing, “That has come a long way.” You have to be conscious of that and sit back and make yourself aware of that, especially when you’re in a relaunch. For us, that’s what it is. Every month we’re launching somebody’s product. We’re launching something new. It’s always in startup mode.

It’s always high intensity and it feels anxiety-driven for a lot of our clients. We’re always in calm-down mode, “We’ve got this. You’re going to be okay.” It feels like a lot of that and that makes it harder to be like, “We got it.” The successes feel a little qualified, which is terrible. My goal is to ship that because we should be hitting a lot of higher milestones and we won’t be working in that part of the business. I built more teams.

With the successes, let’s talk about some of your early-on things that went on as well. When you have success, it usually follows after a big fear.

For me, we operate right on the edge of fear all the time. That’s why I like to balance out my work with corporations and with startups because if we were all in the startup world, my anxiety level would be way too high. Everybody’s livelihood, the families of the new people they’re hiring, that’s like having more businesses on your back. For me, I take it very personally. I don’t want to have everything that I do be that way. Otherwise, it would be too intense. I have my own family.

Product Launch | Tracy Hazzard | Plentiful Perspectives Podcast with Kevin A. Dunlap

Product Launch: You need to have an objective review from somebody who would actually use your product and buy it.

 

My daughter joined my business and she’s COO of my Brandcasters business. She’s doing a phenomenal job. I feel relieved by that. My biggest success was letting her take over that. It was a big fear point for me. It was like, “I have to give this 23-year-old kid out of college who is my daughter, who I adore. What if she gets pissed every time I tell her, ‘That’s not the way I would do it?’” My fear was that it would ruin our relationship but instead, it made it better. It has to go through that fear stage. It’s for everybody.

Can you have a qualified fear? I would feel a little better if I could sit back and say, “That’s fear pinging at me. It’s that fear I should listen to because I’m doing something risky.” I’m conscious of that, “Am I going to risk my family, my home, and my client’s livelihood family and home?” If it’s any of those things, I had to take it back, look at the numbers, and say, “Is this the right thing? Am I recommending the wrong thing? Am I listening to the wrong thing?” That’s something that you have to qualify for yourself. If you’re conscious of it that it’s fear-driven, then at least you’re conscious of the fact that maybe you’re reacting, you’re not sitting back, and making a conscious decision to do something.

In a part of my book, Designing Your Own Destiny, there’s a difference between responding and reacting. Responding is a conscious decision, while reacting is an emotional decision. That’s good. What would you say to anybody out there that’s coming up with big fears? I’m sure you deal with a lot of startup entrepreneurs and you see a lot of the same things over and over again. What would you suggest to those people that are getting started to get past the fears? “Is it going to sell? Am I going to lose everything? Am I even good enough?” I’m not sure you see those kinds of fears.

The, “Am I good enough?” is a harder question to deal with. With questions like, “Is my product good enough? Is my idea good enough?” I can deal with that because there’s data you can throw at that. “Am I good enough? Am I big enough?” It’s a question I ask myself a lot of times. “Am I being big enough for what I need to be for my business?” It’s a question and there’s always a fear attached to it that keeps us playing small. That is one of the things I work on all the time. I have a life coach I work with. I adore her. I know when it’s time to talk to her again because I know when I start restraining myself, then I am letting fear drive.

I couldn’t have said that several years ago. I was not in a place where I could have said that. I was in a place in which I was in save mode. I was saving my family by building this business, protecting them, closing us off, and doing mama bear things. That’s what I had to do at the time. When I said, “Enough is enough. I can’t operate like this.

This is not who I am. This is not healthy. This is not good for our family. Let’s change things up.” You got to expand yourself. When you realize that you need that, you’ll keep seeking it. I find that people who recognize that are the ones who have not done the analysis work or have not sat back and realized that they come from a place of fear that they have a lot more work to do.

With fears also come challenges. Even with the word failure, I don’t like using the word failure. Some people resonate with the word. I will always say in almost every one of my shows, there is no such thing as failure. I’m NLP certified. One of the things they say, “There’s no such thing as failures, only feedback.” Failure is your perception of a situation because some people’s failure could be somebody else’s launching pad.

I love failure because failure is the best feedback for me. That’s something I can fix. I’m a designer, I can fix that. When you don’t get a response, that’s worst to me. Zero response kills me. When you have no feedback and no information, I can’t do anything with that. That’s the worst that could happen in my business. Failures, I’m accustomed to it. It’s something that I’m working hard to make sure that my daughters are accustomed to it, too. It’s one of the critical factors that hold girls back from science, technology, engineering, art, and math a lot as well.

From our 3D printing world, we will look at pushing that. I love 3D printing because if you print up a product and it looks terrible, you scrape it off the plate and you start again. You make a modification and you start again. Having something that’s physically representative of failure and making them used to it early on is a great way to get accustomed to that. What I want is for everyone to feel accustomed to this idea of failure.

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I went to art school. When you go to art school, you do a project and they have a critique. It’s harsh. They’re not nice to you. That’s not their job. Their job is to make you better the next time so you will improve in your process. They only have four years if you go to a four-year school to get you through that process.

Having that ability to constantly accept criticism and then take that in and turn it back into something else and not take it personally and treat it as a failure, that’s a huge skill. I want to get that across to the people that I work with and my daughters and get everyone accustomed to the idea that failure is just a word.

I’m glad you said that because I was about to say that you cannot take it personally.

You can’t take it personally. The whole design process is about failure. That’s what design testing is. Design of experiment. It invites failure because if you find the failure point, then you know how to dial it back and make it successful. It’s part of the process. You have to embrace it.

I feel your biggest lessons come from your setbacks, they come from those things. If everything always went right every time around, then you’re never growing, learning, and pushing yourself.

I read a book and this is one of my favorite books that I’ve read in the last several years, Shane Snow’s Smartcuts. They did a study of surgeons in hospitals and something went wrong in the operation. They would have this post-op discussion and presentation of what went wrong. Typically, a postmortem literally because that’s usually a fatal outcome. What they found was that the surgeons who were presenting what went wrong almost never got it right. They almost never saw what was wrong, but in observing other people’s failures, those doctors improved. They didn’t make the same mistakes.

We have a hard time looking at our failures, analyzing them, and learning from them. We have to also go out there and learn from other people’s failures. That’s where we can learn the most. He also talks in his book, in this chapter about startups in Silicon Valley and they’re all analyzing what went wrong. They were always like, “The market shifted.”

“It wasn’t what we expected. The VCs pulled out and we lost our funding,” and all of these things. All the other startups in the group who are watching them going, “Those guys didn’t have this. They were missing that.” You’re not self-analytical about it, too. Get out there and learn from other people’s failures.

That’s the purpose of this show, especially the second half, I want people to learn from the successes and the failures that you went through so that they would say, “It’s okay that I’m going through this similar situation. It’s okay that I may be hiring my daughter to be my chief operations officer.” We’re coming close to the end. One of the things I always like to ask is what are some lessons that you’ve learned or some upbeat moments that you’ve learned or even tidbits that you would like to share with somebody that’s starting up their businesses or starting a new product line even?

Product ideas, my personal ideas, it could be service ideas, new things we want to build in our business, I treat them like we’re playing cards. I’ve got a hand I’m playing and there are certain things that I can accomplish that would make this a perfect hand. I’m going to draw cards and if it fits my hand, I’m going to keep it. Often, somebody goes, “It’s an ace. It’s such a good card,” but there’s no place for it in your hand, so you discard it. I always treat that as a discard pile.

This is not trash. We’re not shredding our ideas. They’re not permanently gone. That deck is going to get shuffled and it’s going to come back up. Maybe the next hand that I have or my hand will have shifted and it will be right the next time around. I like to treat those ideas that they’re going to come back again. They’re not gone. I don’t have to ruminate over them.

Product Launch | Tracy Hazzard | Plentiful Perspectives Podcast with Kevin A. Dunlap

Product Launch: Digital inventory is the future.

 

I don’t have to be like, “I missed my opportunity.” No, it just wasn’t right at that moment. I try to treat it with that level of, “They’re not my babies.” I have three babies. I know the difference. If you can treat those ideas about your business and stop grasping onto all of them because that’s hard. We can only do so much with the resources we have. We can be a lot more successful.

Be willing to let go.

You got to let go of some things. Let go of the consciousness that it will come back to you when it’s right. I always have that mindset. I only let it go when it’s over.

There’s a thing that I’ve heard quite often and this pertains to sales. This can also pertain to your product. They say, “A no doesn’t mean a no. It means not now.” It may not work in this market right now because we’re in a weird and appreciating market. We’re in an improving market. Your idea works great if it’s in a declining market or whatever it is.

If you got a small or a big hand, it doesn’t matter. It’s what resources you have at that moment. It can work or it doesn’t work. You got to make some decisions. You can’t agonize over them and stall and take your time and wait for everything to be right. It doesn’t always work like that. It’s like, “What’s right at this moment so I can keep progressing? What’s the best choice I can make today?” Make it. I’m analytical about what I do but I don’t agonize over those decisions because they’re not typically fatal. There’s always an opportunity to adjust.

Be able to make a decision to start moving forward and don’t let fear paralyze you from even getting started. If this is something that they say, “I’ve been toying with this idea for six months.” It’s time to go out there and start testing it to see if there’s a market for it. You could be a perfect prime example that could help them in the long run.

These are little lessons that we learn all the time that becomes a daily part of what we do. What I found is that people are always shocked. “Look at all you do. Look at all those podcasts you do. Look at all these blog posts. Look at all you do in a month. How do you do all of that?” I was like, “I never stop taking action.” I don’t overthink it. If it’s not working, I would have stopped doing it a long time ago. I don’t have time for that. It’s constantly taking action. The path starts to form itself in front of you.

Our final question I’ll be asking is what do you see yourself in the future? What steps do you see are going to be happening in all of your businesses?

It’s hard for a lot of people to see because it sounds like I’ve got desperate businesses. It does sound like three businesses. It sounds like a 3D printing business and industry right there, a business in marketing and branding, and content marketing, and a business developing products. The three are coming together to be a multibillion-dollar business. That’s what you’re going to see from us.

It is a business that is focused on providing digital content of a product, service, brand, content, and information, and providing all of that in a very different way than we’ve seen before. It’s a great way to test the market, test out your ideas, and to not get encumbered. Whether you’re a massive retailer like Costco, Walmart, and Target with inventory in any way shape, form, or end up with 10,000 striped shirts in your garage. Digital inventory is the future. That’s where we’re moving towards overall.

Product Launch | Tracy Hazzard | Plentiful Perspectives Podcast with Kevin A. Dunlap

 

I agree with that because I’ve got a couple of digital products. This is no cost to me. Maybe where I’m hosting, it may cost a monthly fee, or they take a percentage or whatever it is. Digital products are the way of the future.

Imagine if we can do that with physical products. That’s the future.

Tracy, it has been a great pleasure having you on the show. If somebody out there wants to get ahold of you, what is the best way to get a hold of you? Do you have a website that you want to give or a business line?

The best way, if you’re on social media, to meet me is like you did on LinkedIn. You can find me at Tracy Hazzard on LinkedIn. You can also find me at HazzDesign.com and that’s a jumping-off point for all our podcasts and everything we do.

Tracy, it has been a great pleasure having you on the show. I learned a lot, and I may be called to your Hazz Design website and promoting some of the stuff that I’m doing. I appreciate you taking the time out of your schedule. I know you’ve got 30 plus things going on, one per day. Thank you very much for being on the show.

You’re welcome. It’s been a pleasure.

Any last words that you’d have with the audience?

Take action. Start moving. Start launching. It’s so much fun to be actively testing out your ideas. Do it.

One of the greatest treasures that a person goes through is getting that first successful launch. Now they have a proven test record that they can do it. Rinse and repeat.

Prove that you can do it.

For the readers, have a wonderful afternoon or evening or whatever time of day it is for you. Thank you, Tracy.

Thank you.

Watch the episode here:

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Kevin A. Dunlap