Launching Your Product Successfully With Tracy Leigh Hazzard – Part 2 From The Invention Stories Podcast With Robert Bear
If you have an idea for a product, the first thing you should do is learn more about Tracy Leigh Hazzard. Tracy is the owner of 37 patents who has brought over 267 products to the market that have sold for over $2 billion. While the typical success rate for inventors bringing their idea to the market is between 1% and 4%, Tracy has an 86% success rate. In the second of a two-part series, Tracy joins Robert Bear on The Invention Stories Podcast to talk about the invention process and share some great tools that are helpful for inventors. She also dispenses advice for those who are new to the inventing process but have winner ideas.
Listen to the podcast here:
This episode is our interview with Tracy Leigh Hazzard. This episode is the second part in a two-part series. Tracy Hazzard is the owner of 37 patents who has brought over 267 products to the market that have sold for over $2 billion. While the typical success rate for inventors bringing their idea to the market is between 1% and 4%, Tracy has an 86% success rate. Besides being featured in the Harvard Business Review, Forbes, Wired, CNNMoney, as well as being an Innovative Columnist for Inc. Magazine, a contributor to Thrive Global, she is the bestselling author of Guerrilla Patent Tactics and Successful Launching By Design. Simply stated, if you have an idea for a product, the first thing you should do is learn more about Tracy Leigh Hazzard. We have Tracy Hazzard on from Irvine, California, so let’s continue. What is it you’re doing?
Besides writing my column, which I write every month, I write six articles. I host four podcasts. I host a podcast called Product Launch Hazzards. I host a podcast called New Trust Economy, which is focused on the blockchain because Woz made me think about that. I’m exploring blockchain innovation, how it might help businesses be more successful and create more value in the process for influencers, inventors, and entrepreneurs. I host Feed Your Brand, which is the podcast for podcasters or videocasters, whichever one you want to be. It has got a lot of deep tech on there, but it also has a lot of great marketing tips and tools for growing your show and monetizing that show. It’s a service to my clients. We service our business through a podcast.
The fourth one is the one I’ve had the longest, which is called WTFFF?! 3D Printing Podcast. I don’t host it often anymore. Tom mostly does it, but we’ve done over 565 shows or something like that on 3D printing. They listened to my first episodes, come back, send us emails and messages, and say, “You changed my thinking about this technology. I was all in the tech and now I’m thinking I could make a product.” I’d love that I’ve inspired people to do that. Our goal there is to help people understand 3D printing and not give up on it as a possibility for what they might want to do with it.
There are some great tools out there to help the inventor now. You’ve been doing this a long time because I’ve been listening to your podcast. One of the things I found fascinating was that in the early days of the internet, you created your own shopping cart.It's a lot easier to create product-market fit with all the amazing tools we have. #TheInventionStoriesPodcast #RobertBear #podcastinterview Click To Tweet
It got hacked. You build it and it got a hole right in it. These things are so much easier now like Shopify. It’s amazing all the tools we have and that’s why it’s a lot easier to create product-market fit, understanding now than it was when I did it many years ago.
You see it all the time, product-market fit. You can have the best product, but if you have no access, you won’t succeed, and vice versa. You can have the best access. It’s right here on my notes. It’s what I had planned to bring up next.
That’s because you’re in the note, you see it too. You see it all the time in the stories and the failures of what you’re hearing. You understand, you look at that and you go, “They’re all making the same mistakes again and again.”
Our challenge here on our show is getting the real story the inventor goes on. They would rather give us the About Us website story, the glossed over, everything’s fine, and we’re doing well, which couldn’t be further from reality. That’s because when an inventor fails or makes a misstep, there’s shame or guilt when there shouldn’t be any.
Not everything that I’ve invented succeeded. I have a higher success rate, but I work for other people. They already have access and have a sales channel. They’re already in Costco. I just need to design them something new. My statistics are not reflective of inventors out there, minor reflective of industrial design firms out there, and the IDEO’s of the world. It’s very different. To compare them to me, that’s not possible because I have a deep understanding of systems and processes, and have access to infrastructure that most independents don’t have. From what I see on the independent side and from what we did this way back when is that, it is part of your inventive mindset that gets in the way 99% of the time.
It is this do-it-yourself mentality, where you think you need to reinvent shopping carts and all of these things. It may have been in necessity then, but it’s not a necessity now. Being unwilling to reach out to experts, being unwilling to hire someone to do something for you because you think, “I’ve got a lot of skill. I’ve got a lot of engineering mindset.” What it does is it distracts you and detracts from your ability to do the thing that is most important, which is making sure that your invention is valuable to the world so you end up doing a lot. That’s where I see the do-it-yourself mentality hurts the adventurous most often and it is the thing that trips them up. Why would they admit that? It’s because that’s the thing that they believe is most valuable about themselves, that they’re highly capable and skilled, but it’s both. It’s a benefit and it’s a detriment.
Let’s say I’ve got an idea for an invention and I’m very new to inventing. I don’t know much about the invention process, but I’ve got an idea and I know it’s going to be a winner. I don’t need to do any market research. I come to you and I say, “Tracy, I like to have your advice.” What advice would you give me?
The first thing I do is I would say, “Google it.” Google it in layman’s terms. Don’t use your tech terms. What would somebody else call it if they were looking for it? Google it. There are two things that I want to see on Google. I don’t want to see nothing. Seeing nothing is a bad sign and there is no competition for what you want to do. Stop it right now. Understand more about it because if there isn’t even someone searching for topics on it, even if the product doesn’t exist, but that the topic areas of interest, you’re in a marketplace that is so disruptive, you’re going to spend millions of dollars educating people on why it’s good. Instead of having tapped into something that people already are desiring, they’re looking for it, and they have a need for it.
If you see other products, don’t get discouraged because if you see other products, the thing about it is that there’s a good sign and there’s a market that exists for it. You have something to compare yourself to, “Are you really better? Are you obviously better?” That’s the most important part. Is it obvious that the unique thing that you’ve added to it outshines all the other? Can you make it better, more cost-effective? It doesn’t mean it’s cheaper. You make it more cost-effective because you could make it more profitable. Is that possible? Now you have something to compare against. That’s an awesome way to go about it. That’s a lot of what I do when people come to me as I’m like, “I spend an hour prepping for the call with them. I look up their product and I do all of that.” I have to be the one to say, “I hate to tell you this, but you do have competition and here’s the competition. Here’s why your product is not better because all this stuff is hidden underneath and no one is going to see that in an image when they shop through Amazon. It’s not going to become aware of them. You have a hard sell and an educated sell.” If you don’t, you’ve got a good idea that’s worth pursuing to the next level.
We’ve been talking a lot about the invention process and your approach in general terms, but I’d like to use a specific example. We interviewed Bret Newman. He’s the inventor of the Soundverter Turboscoops. “I’m an audio file because I spent a lot of time editing. If you look up the word audio file on the dictionary, there’s a picture of me.” Let me give you a brief background about Bret. He noticed on a number of flat screens, they don’t have speakers that face forward. Long story short, he invented the Soundverter Turboscoops, an old piece of plastic, you put on the bottom of your television set and the sound comes out better without having to use a soundbar or anything like that.
My father-in-law who is hard of hearing always blasts his TV and the sound is completely distorted. I don’t mind anything aloud, but when it’s distorted, it drives me crazy. I can’t relax. Bret sent me a pair of Turboscoops. I popped them on and now my father-in-law doesn’t have to listen to it on such a high volume. He still listens to it loud, but it sounds clear and because it sounds clear, I can relax. Here’s my point, Bret is new to inventing and he holds a patent on the Turboscoops, and it’s a single product, but what advice would you give him?
Partner up because there’s got to be some audio companies. There’s this great company that I used to work with that does TV stands. In the TV stands, they added on this gaming shelf. It was just simply a shelf to put your speaker on, it raised it up and the sound was so much better. That was their bestselling product and they made $400 TV stands and this little $30 shelf killed it for them and made them millions of dollars. Companies that make products surrounding it, that could benefit from the sound improvement and those things. They’re perfect. Let them use their marketing arms. They’re already out there marketing to the right audience for you. You’re just adding a product in, they make a margin on it, and they take care of all that marketing for you. Now you’re in the right place. You’re selling it. All you’ve got to do is be making stuff and coming up with your next great idea.
Joint venture partnering with the right people who can take on and do the stuff that you don’t know how to do, or you don’t have the capability of doing is an accelerator. It’s going to get you selling stuff faster and more quickly. That’s fantastic and a great way to do it, especially when you only have a single product. Another problem is that you’re not a brand until you have a product line and until you’re serving a niche market, and you’re going back and forth. Maybe it’s audio files that are your target market. That’s fantastic, but if you don’t have a microphone and you don’t have all of these other things in your product line, then partner up with somebody who does and add your product to their line.
You would advise Bret to partner up rather than to see if you can get into Best Buy, Target or Walmart?
Absolutely. Here’s the thing, they don’t trust you. They don’t know you and you only have one product. It’s a lot of work for a big retailer to set you up on their platform and get you in as a preferred vendor and you can’t be audited. It’s so much expense and money and in the end, you’ll lose money in the process because you won’t have the cashflow to scale up to that size. I have a woman who did a mop pad that was completely sustainable. She got herself into Walmart, but she’s been stuck there with the same sales, the same number of stores that carry her because she hasn’t expanded her product line. The amount of volume that they do is good, but it doesn’t yield enough profit for her to reinvest that into growing her brand. Without brand growth, they’re not going to add you to more stores. You end up hurting yourself in the long run.You're not a brand until you have a product line and you're serving a niche market. #TheInventionStoriesPodcast #RobertBear #podcastinterview Click To Tweet
That’s what people don’t understand about how the retail market works. They think, “This should be on the shelf at Best Buy,” in this particular case. Getting on the shelf at Best Buy in and of itself is so much effort and work that you should be selling it somewhere else first. It will be easier later if you’re already mixed in with all these other products, selling, and turning. Best Buy, it’s going to go. “We want it. We’re going to take those people’s products, your products, and I’m going to create a whole brand around it.” Now all of you are selling hundreds of thousands of units.
That’s good advice and I’ll be sure to pass it on to Bret. I enjoy listening to the Product Launch Hazzards Podcast. I’m learning so much from them and look forward to listening to the rest, as well as reading everything on your website because it’s your 86% success rate. It makes me want to learn what you know and have shared, or at least try to. I’ve also learned a lot from interviewing the inventors and sharing their stories over the years. I’d like to try something starting now. For those of you reading, I want to encourage you to send your feedback to us at InventionStories@Yahoo.com or InventionStoriesPodcast@Gmail.com. If Bret agrees, I’d like to help him succeed with his Soundverter Turboscoops. I choose Bret because not only do I believe in his product but it’s lightweight, easy to ship, and smart. Each episode going forward will update you on the progress he has made. What do you think, Tracy?
I love that.
I thought of it because I enjoy listening to it and learning about the inventor’s journey, but I wanted to see if I could take what I’ve learned to help an inventor.
The stories are great, but stories don’t point you in the way of success. What I’ve found over time is it’s the partners. What you’ll find on Product Launch Hazzards as you continue forward is that, at some point, I’ll shift and start introducing you to the people that I refer people to. That’s the big difference there. If you want to know about mass-market retail and what goes on, I’m not the expert. Timothy Bush of TLB Consulting is the expert here. I’ve learned a lot from working on projects with him, sending him clients and going through it. I do have my direct experience mostly with Costco, Target and places like that but it’s not in every product category. He has broad product category experience. When I don’t know anything about food and he knows a tremendous amount about food.
Having mind share with these people that I bring on the show has expanded over the last decade, my ability to serve clients and make sure that they get all the way through the process and to success. How we do it is we handoff at the right time to all of these people. There’s a trust factor that goes on because our mind share is so similar. He’s not going to undermine what I’ve done and make people redo stuff because that’s what happens. You get into, “Now you’re working with me, and my sales process is different or my marketing method is different. We have to redo all that stuff.” I don’t want my clients to waste their money. I don’t want inventors to recycle through those things and I have to do stuff again because there’s nothing worse than redoing.
It’s costly and time-consuming. Time is the worst thing to consume when you’re on your way to a mass market because there’s only so much of a window for opportunity. We want to make sure that happens. That’s where aligning yourself with those right people will give you more ability to help more people. If you can identify this guy has got a great product and he’s onto something, you just need to bring them the right people over time. You don’t have to learn it and to do it. You just have to know who to bring them to. That’s where my business has shifted. More of what I do is give people an overview strategy on how it could work, evaluate their idea, and then I send them to all those other people at the right time so that they don’t get distracted.
A lot of times, inventors like to do a lot themselves, but the other thing that they do is procrastinate about the thing that they don’t love the most and take the longest to hire that person. If it was sales, they take the longest to hire a sales and marketing team. They vet them and they take this long because they’re nervous about this part. They feel they don’t have core knowledge of how it should work and they’re afraid of being taken advantage of which there’s a high likelihood they will be if they act too quickly. That’s where you have to come up with trusting the person who might be helping you the most, whether it’s your attorney or your manufacturer, and ask them for the next referral. That’s a great way to go about it. They’re not going to steer you wrong. The manufacturer is not going to turn you to a marketing agency that’s going to do you wrong because then you won’t make more products to sell. It’s a cycle. It’s in their best interest to turn you on to the best people.
It seems like you’ve got it figured out. You own the map to find the lost treasure because the industry averages 1% to 4% success rate and you’re at 86%. I’m listening to you here now, on your podcast, and reading your articles. I’m a believer. The problem is there are a lot of people in companies that prey on inventors by promising incredible success rates and return on investments, but they are nothing but a bunch of crooks.
This is why most people don’t qualify because in order to make that happen, your product, your market, and all of those things have to be in the right metrics and in the right area of ways which I can help you. That doesn’t mean I can’t refer you to someone else so that you can build some of those things at the lower end. That’s what I do most often. I want to be clear. I never pay referral fees to any of my people, and I never allow them to pay referral fees back to me. That is not how we work, because that just makes you pay more money. That is not an okay thing. That is unethical to me. There’s none of this affiliate marketing thing going on with the people who are on my show or any of that. We do not have any of that going on. I don’t allow it.
I did notice that the Product Launch Hazzards Podcast wasn’t sponsored.
We don’t do it.
We’ve thought about allowing someone to sponsor our show. We get a lot of offers from companies I don’t even know, but I don’t feel comfortable promoting something that I don’t use or don’t believe in.
I agree with it. The been there, done that again and again rule is my thing. If I don’t work with them or if I don’t have a client who’s successfully worked with them, I don’t introduce them to my people. You should be careful too because there are a lot of scam artists out there. That’s an honorable ethical thing. I’m proud of you for doing that way. Your audience should be so grateful.
I don’t listen to too many podcasts, but one of my favorites is Business Wars by Wondery.
I love Business Wars. It’s one of my favorite shows.
I’ll be listening to one of their episodes, be all into it, here comes the music and two minutes of commercials. Sometimes I’ll drive long distances and so I save up the Business Wars episode. I’ll binge listen to them along the highway and the commercials come on and I’ll be fumbling with my phone trying to advance through them, so I don’t have to listen to the same commercials over and over. It ruins the podcast. If someone’s making a choice, whether to listen to one of two podcasts, one has commercials, one doesn’t, it gives me an edge. I feel like the business world is trying to find new ways to jam commercials into our brains, with podcasting being new. They’re trying to make commercials and podcasts the norm and I’m a fan of just keeping the invention story pure. These people have already suffered. What they’ve done is a beautiful thing. They tried to make their dreams come true. I feel honored that they’re sharing it with me. It seems wrong to chop it up and commercialize it.
The reality is that you have to keep going. The more stories you bring to the world, the more people will learn because we learn more from failures than we do from successes. I know this because I don’t have enough traffic on my show. Part of it is because I don’t market it at all. I did it for the community that is on my email list. It’s a personal passion project. We decided to switch the model up and all of the partners, the experts that I bring to them, we’re all pooling our dollars to advertise the show. Instead of doing referral fees or any of those things, we said, “Why don’t we collaboratively advertise together to draw the right audience in?” In the end, everybody will have more business. It will be fine.
If we get more audience into the show, we’re going to have more educated clients. At the end of the day, that matters more. In your stories, people see themselves in that. They’re like, “That’s me,” and mine, it’s like a cold bucket of water poured over them to say, “This is not going to work this way.” It works a different way than you’ve been taught or you think. Nobody wants someone to do that to them. They don’t willingly do it so we don’t get the listeners either. That’s okay with me because the few that we do, I’m helping and I’m happy with that. I’ve changed their lives, I know that. I’m good with that. This is not a short-term plan for me.The more stories you bring to the world, the more people will learn because we learn more from failures than we do from successes. #TheInventionStoriesPodcast #RobertBear #podcastinterview Click To Tweet
To your point, this is why I have my second company. We invented a method by which we put advertisements on podcasts because I hated what you heard there, what you hear, this interruption, and this systematized thing that happens that came out of the radio. It doesn’t belong in podcasts. The podcast hosts should be in control of advertisements and making sure that they’re the right fit for their audience. When they’re irrelevant, they should be able to take them out without a lot of work, a lot of editing, or without any of that. That’s why we invented our newest business because of that.
What’s the name of it?
That’s called Podetize. It’s a hosting platform for podcasts, but it has ad mixing capability. You don’t need to use it from day one. You can host on ours just like any RSS, whether you’re with Libsyn, SoundCloud, or whoever you’re with. When you host with us, you have the future ability to take ads on your show. More importantly, you can put ads on a specific show. If one specific show says, “An ad for a lawyer who I’ve worked with makes a lot of sense on this show because this is about patenting and that’s where this one went wrong. Let me put that lawyer ad here and let me put this marketing group’s ad here because that’s where this show went wrong marketing.” You’re in complete control of that whole process of where those ads get placed, what they’re about, and when they are.
You could advertise for cool product ideas on your show when they have something to promo like, “They’re offering a Kickstarter and I want to support Bret. I’ll put that in for the next 30 days. I could take it out of my show when it’s all over.” That’s what I always want. I want inventors and I want you guys to be in control of the information, process, and outcome. It belongs to you because you’re the creative force, inventor, mindset, and host. If I can return value to that, that’s what I want to do. We talked about my interviewing Steve Wozniak. That is why Wozniak is so excited about blockchain and other things like that. What he wants is inventors and creators of the world to get value from the get-go. They want it to be built into the process that if you came up with this idea and somebody else took it and run with it, you’re still going to get your equity, value, percentage, and it’s going to be built into the blockchain. No one can take that credit and value away from you. That’s my mission in the world. It’s like, “Can I get it so that you get it?” Somebody else doesn’t take it from you.
You identify yourself as Tracy Hazzard Inc. columnist, column brand strategist, product launch expert, 3D printing, product design, and innovation. Why do you list yourself as an Inc. columnist first?
It’s the attractor point. If I want to get to talk, I need to be what they’re looking for. People don’t know to go looking for a ghost designer, which is what I do for people. I’m designing under their brand. They don’t know to look for that. When they say Inc. columnist, they think like, “I need PR.” It would be great to be connected with that person. Whether it’s on the podcasting side of the businesses that I run or the design side, they all need publicity and someone to write about their story and care about them. Inc. columnist and podcast hosts are always at the top of my bio for people because I met someone who might be able to promote them someday.
What’s the best way for someone to contact you?
The best way to contact me is to friend me on LinkedIn like you did. That’s the easiest way to do it because I am on there all the time.
You’ve been reading our interview with Tracy Leigh Hazzard part two. I want to thank Tracy for being our guest. For more information, please visit HazzDesign.com, ProductLaunchHazzards.com, or TracyLeighHazzard.com. The proceeding has not been a paid advertisement nor endorsement. Our goal at InventionStories.com and the show is to help people invent smarter. Interviewing Tracy Hazzard helps us accomplish this goal.
Thank you for reading the show and for sharing it. It is our hope that by sharing the journey, the inventor goes on since having the idea not only helps inspire others who have an idea for an invention but gives them some advice on what to do and what to avoid. I recommend that you proceed with caution because there are some terrible people and companies out there that are constantly ripping off the inventor. We invite you to check out the InventionStories.com website, and either tell us who you are using the guest book or click on the link to share your story. It’s free. I invite you to connect with me on LinkedIn and friend me on Facebook. Thank you very much for reading and please tell a friend.
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