PLH 001 | Product Launch Experts

7 out of 10 consumer product launches fail and only 2% of all inventions make any money. Launching products is full of pitfalls and failure points. The odds of product launch success are not in your favor. Insiders and big brands not only know but can outspend and survive when they make mistakes. Find out how product launch experts like Tracy Hazzard and Tom Hazzard with 26 years as consumer product designers for big and small brands – on-line and in-store, flip the odds, build in protective measures and resources, and guide you on what you ‘don’t know that you don’t know’ so you can avoid rookie errors, save valuable market time, spend less money, and successfully launch into a big acquirable brand.

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This has been a couple of years in the making. We’ve done these client calls and coaching episodes and we’ve mixed them into some of our other podcasts, but we’ve never made it its own thing. Now, it’s finally its own thing. We want to introduce ourselves in case you’re new to us and we also want to introduce what Product Launch Hazzards is going to be all about. With me is my partner and my husband, Tom Hazzard. We met in college, Rhode Island School of Design, way back when. Tom is an industrial designer. We’ve been practicing designing on and off together for over 26 years. We have lots of stories that’s why we wanted to start this podcast. We have so much history of things to talk about, things that we’ve done wrong, and things that our clients had done wrong. Being an industrial designer, it made him extremely inventive and creative. It’s helped us launched tons of products. In the last eight years, we did 250 consumer products and retail in one way or another. They do about $2 billion at mass market retail e-commerce combined. It’s sounds crazy because we’re really a small firm. It’s just us and an extended team. I wanted people to meet you. I’m onstage a lot more than you are so they don’t get to meet you as often. Usually, you’re with me if we can and you’re wearing the cool 3D printed tie. Hopefully, we’ll talk about some 3D printing things, although not too geeky, but talking about it related to product design and development and launching products, market testing, and things like that. Tom, you have some cool things. How many patents?

We’re either co or independent ventures on 37 or 38 patents at this point and we have more pending. It’s a natural side effect of being in product development. Just inherently, when you’re creating new products, you end up coming up with new things, and at times they’re patentable. It doesn’t always make sense to patent every little thing you come up with, but a lot of times, it does. It depends on your business strategy. We’ll definitely be talking about invention, patenting, trademarks, and copyrights because they’re hot topics in the product launching world and valuations to companies. That’s definitely something we want to go in. You’ve also been sourcing in China for a long time or developing in China. How long has that been that you’ve been doing that? I first went to China in 1998. We remember that because you could only make one phone call and that was all we could afford. It was so expensive. This was in the days of the PalmPilot, the Palm economy. That was the big market at the time and that’s what the business was related to. We were manufacturing and developing our own product at the time and I went to China to source manufacturing of it. That’s the consummate introductory story to what can go wrong and what does go wrong when you’re trying to launch a business and a product.

I want to make sure everybody who is here understands what industrial design is. Industrial design is not always that well-understood. Design is a very overused term in general in business because there was a lot of different kinds of design. There’s graphic design, package design, and even a lot of engineers call what they do design, and to an extent, it is. Industrial design, as it was taught to me and as I’ve practiced in my career, is a wonderful discipline. It’s about designing everything that you see about a consumer product. It can also be in the user interface, human factors, how people interact with a product or an object.

[Tweet “Industrial design is about designing everything that you see about a consumer product. “]

When we say user interface, we mean how someone interacts with it, not the software, not the UI or UX. We’re talking about how someone physically interfaces with a product and uses it, whether it’s a hand tool or a kitchen appliance or the interior to a car. Some people call that ergonomics in certain industries. When we do furniture, there’s a lot more ergonomics involved in that description of how someone interfaces with a product. The other way we like to talk about it is whether it’s walking down an aisle at retail in a store like a Target, whether it’s a nicer store in a mall, whether you’re online scrolling through a bunch of products, you have a split second to capture the consumers attention. An industrial designer has many jobs to do, many tasks that are very important in any development of a product. One of the most important is to make an emotional connection with that consumer to make them want to buy the product by what they see and to communicate its features, its benefits or why someone should buy that in that emotional connection. It’s a lot of burden in a split second.

An industrial designer does not specialize in any particular product category. There are some that may, but industrial designers design everything from little widgets you would find in the checkout aisle at the grocery store to consumer electronics, to furniture, to cars, any kind of transportation, interior, exterior and any type of product, pet products, juvenile products, toys, bicycles scooters, and different things. There’s no limit. It’s a profession that specializes in how to visually create a design and how to manufacture it. It involves a great cross-section of disciplines from manufacturing constraints to marketing concerns to business concerns. In my career as an industrial designer, I’ve been everywhere from the executive boardroom that’s a serious strategic planning meeting all the way to the marketing meetings. How are we going to get attention and reach the right consumer? What is the right consumer for this product all the way to the factory floor and logistics? You get involved in everything because all of that matters in the cost.

One of the things that we practice in industrial design, product design specifically, is making sure that we are costing for salability. When you try to create all those features, that’s an important factor. We’re going to have a whole episode on that. We’re also going to do an episode on the difference between styling and design. That’s an important distinction because most people call themselves designers but they’re actually not. They don’t have that depth of knowledge about manufacturing costs and things like that. We want to differentiate that. One of the things that we talk about all the time, one of the core things on my talks that I give on stage, is about the idea that design is essential. If you do it right, it is essential to the sales process of something. It is not nice to have it be pretty. It is not about that because it is essential to the sales. Big companies like Herman Miller, Apple, Nike, etc. understand that clearly and have a significant percentage of their budget particularly for research design, advanced design, design for manufacturing, value-added design. All of those things are part of their process.

PLH 001 | Product Launch Experts

Product Launch Experts: Design is not just about making something pretty, it’s about getting the product made the way it needs to be made at the right price to be successful.

That’s what you’re competing against and you can’t afford not to have design in the process. We want to be able to bring that to you in little bits and pieces, but it also has a lot of risk to it. That’s what Product Launch Hazzards is all about. We want to help to reduce the risks, the things that you don’t know. We’ve been in the boardroom all the way to the manufacturing floor, sometimes even helping in the warehouse or helping sell the products to buyers at major retailers. We’ve experienced every aspect of the life cycle from cradle to grave of the lifecycle of a product. We see lots of things go wrong. We want to make you aware of those. We want to point them out. We also want to point out great experts that are our solutions. When we don’t know an answer, these are the people we go to. We want to introduce you to them along the way here and that’s part of what Product Launch Hazzards comprehensive group is going to be all about. That’s a little glimpse into industrial design. Design is not just about making something pretty, it’s about getting the product made the way it needs to be made at the right price to be successful.

Let’s talk a little bit about you, Tracy. You started as a textile designer, but we knew each other from day one even before you started to get educated as a textile designer, which is fabrics. Early in our careers, you came onboard. We started working together and you became a product designer, or as much as me, maybe focusing in different areas. Tracy is an expert in colors, materials, and finishes, which is a critical aspect in the area of product design. I do more of the engineering, CAD drawing, and some of that aspect of product design. There’s so much of product design that happens in and around, before and after that are Tracy’s areas of expertise. Tracy, why don’t you share a little bit about your background and history and what it is that you come to the table with your expertise? I started in textiles, but it got frustrating quickly for me because it’s not just a surface wrap and that’s how they wanted you to treat it. For me, at the end of the day when it’s on a piece of furniture, it becomes the furniture. It’s the reason people buy it.

If I didn’t understand who was buying this furniture, who was selling it, how it was going to be sold, what cost it needed to hit, then I couldn’t do a good job of designing the materials. It wasn’t something that was going to be applied after the fact. For me, that’s how I got more intimately involved with industrial and product design and got into the process of it. It always frustrated me that in industrial design coursework, in the school programs, that they love to model in gray. Everything is gray or white and it drove me crazy. I was like, “At the end of the day, I get it that you want to check out pure form or pure function and those kinds of things,” but the reality is that color context, materials, textures, changes the game. If you set your design based on a gray model, that is not what’s reality in an environment, how it’s going to be sold, and how someone’s going to interact with it. For me, it always was frustrating that that was part of the process. My ongoing goal is always to try to integrate it into the process, which is how we started working together more and more. We started working earlier instead of waiting for the designed to be done and then I’d apply the materials to it.

We recognized the strategic advantage. Two heads are better than one. You can get more perspective on a product. We’re not saying you want to design something by committee. We don’t advocate that at all, but we all have our preconceptions. We all have blinders to a certain extent and others involved in the process to critique, to offer their perspectives, usually in our experience, makes a product better, especially when it comes to color material and finishes. A lot of very young industrial designers avoid color decisions and don’t consider them from the beginning. It becomes an afterthought. That’s a rookie error, although we’ve seen some more experienced designers still do that. It’s more of a rookie error, but still it’s something that needs to be considered from the very beginning. Like that cliché, you’ve got to begin with the end in mind. It involves the market. Who’s going to buy it? How many consumer products do we buy all the time? Do we buy everything? We don’t. How do we know everything about what the consumer wants to buy? We need more perspectives involved in the process. The two of us combined, that made for better products.

[Tweet “Gender bias in product design is a big problem. Being gender neutral is a negative. “]

Gender bias is a big problem. We talk about this all the time. We practice something we call gender blend design. It does not mean having no gender. Being gender neutral is a negative. It means it’s got no design to it. It’s got no appeal to either gender or for the most part, gender neutral is by default actually male. When you have that, you have a market that’s 86% controlled by women. Probably even closer to 90% in the US consumer retail are influenced or controlled by women. These are not my statistics. They keep growing every year. They’re getting bigger and bigger. There’s a research study that shows how big the influences at retail and yet, at retail in product design, it’s incredibly low. There are fewer and fewer women involved in the process. When you go to Asia, you’ll see that. There are no women product designers, there are no women engineers. There might be women in factory, which we love and that’s a great perspective, but there are no women beyond the sales process. You don’t get into that influence when you’re shopping in Asia which is the majority of what retail is now. We call it sourced but that’s a mistake. It’s shopped from a catalog. Maybe you change the color and that’s about it. Maybe you’d change a feature. That’s what we call styled.

When you’re not designing with the core consumer with no perspective on what they want, then you don’t have as much synergy and it doesn’t last as long in the market. It doesn’t thrive. Big companies know that. Big companies have design staffs that are much more balanced. They work hard to create that. We were talking to GE because we’ve spoken at South by Southwest. We did a live podcast from the stage there. GE was telling us that their entire 3D printer additive manufacturing department is about 50% women which is very impressive. Women fly on planes and they are an industry and all of those things, but it’s not like consumer product with such an extreme control. It’s much more of a 50/50 influence in purchase control. That is incredible because they see how important it is. That’s maybe the biggest tip. We’ve been going to China a lot and we have never witnessed a woman involved in product development or design in any Chinese factory. That’s a big tip and takeaway.

If you’ve been importing products from China, maybe already as a private labeler or even to resell other people’s products, to realize if you’re shopping for products over there and you’re trying to sell products mostly to a female consumer market that no women were involved in the engineering or design of those products that, to me, should start setting off some alarm bells. Maybe in certain product categories that’s not a big deal and it won’t make a difference to your sales, but in the vast majority of markets, it will make a big difference. You need to have a female perspective if you’re going to develop and sell a product that’s intended to be bought by women. I write an Inc. column. It’s in the innovation section that’s called By Design. It’s specifically about product design but I touch on lots of broad areas like bringing products to market marketing, influencer marketing, all kinds of broad areas. More of that problems and issues come from not getting enough customers, not getting synergy between the market and product fit. We’re going to deep dive into market research, ways to do market research, and ways to do that successfully. We want to deep dive into all of these little topics and areas because there are ways at which you can learn that.

On the website, in the public area, even if you’re not a member, all of the Inc. column, every single one of my articles is there. There are also 40 from Hazz Design that we’ve written over the years. Hazz Design is the name of our design consulting business. They’re there as well. There’s lots of deeper dives into the little topic areas. There will be blogs from every single one of these posted there, too. You’re going to have lots of content that you can consume there and get some deeper information. I want to tell the story of our experience in 1998 when we started our own business because this is a good perspective to understand. This is the setup for us to why we did it the hard way. We did everything the hard way. When you do it the hard way, it opens your eyes to all those pitfalls, all those problems, all those product launch hazards that can happen and how these things can go about, and where the problems are.

PLH 001 | Product Launch Experts

Product Launch Experts: When you do it the hard way, it opens your eyes to all those pitfalls, all those problems, all those product launch hazards that can happen.

We changed our model of business very early on because of that information. We want to set that up so that everyone can understand our perspective. We were at Traffic & Conversion, a big digital marketing trade show. Daymond John was speaking on the stage. He was saying, “I get this question all the time that I have this huge library of information of things that I learned along the way, but until somebody asks me the question, I don’t know that I know this.” We actively know that we know this because it’s become a critical factor in how we do things differently. Why are we able to do 250 products in less than ten years, launched them and have them be extremely successful? We have almost nine out of ten successes there. The consumer retail market has seven out of ten failures. We look at that and we go, “It’s because of these things.” One of the reasons we started the show is to share that.

Let’s start with how we did everything wrong. In 1997, out came the PalmPilot. It was late 1997 and I asked for one for my birthday. The PalmPilot comes out and I saw this advertisement for it in a magazine. I saw it and I handed it to Tom and I go, “I want one of those.” For anyone who knows us, that is like a forbidden thing to give a device, an electronic thing, an appliance, anything like that as a birthday gift to your wife. In my world, that has never been a good move. We were looking at that and he was like, “Are you sure?” I was like, “Yes,” because instantly I saw time-saving and convenience. I saw the potential of what it could do right then and there and so I wanted to explore it. I bought a PalmPilot. It was the first model. It was US Robotics at the time and over several years, they got bought up by 3Com and then it became Palm. In the beginning, it was US Robotics. I opened up the box and set up the device. There was a catalog that came in it and in the catalog were cases and accessories because the US Robotics was smart. They started the very first developer marketplace, the third-party developer model like we have app developers now. They started that back then and that was smart. They had launched with them already planned. There had been companies who are developing cases and they were working with Cross Pen who was in the catalog who created the stylus pen. I was like, “That makes sense because who wants to go from a pen to a stylus and have to juggle both things in your hand. That doesn’t make sense. I want one of those.” We bought us both one. The marketing for this thing was very vague. The implication was it was both an ink pen for writing stylus and writing Pilot. They call it a stylus pen. Nobody knew at that time what that meant.

We spent money on these things, these Cross Pens. We probably spend $50 each at the time on these pens. All it was was Cross Pen with a dummy refill in it that was a plastic stylus point. There was no ink. It was just a fancy stylus, a little nicer than the plastic one it comes with. Consumer advocate that I am, I sent the thing back with a nasty note saying, “This is false advertising. You don’t know what you’re talking about. This is not what I want.” That’s what I did. You kept yours for a little while though? I kept it and used it. It was a little bigger because the stylus was small. The little stylus was so thin for my hands. It was hard to work with. I like that it was a bigger instrument. I saw how frustrated Tracy was with this and I saw this as a design problem to solve. We lived in Rhode Island at the time and I was on a train back to Rhode Island from New York City and I had been thinking for weeks, if not months, there’s got to be a better way. There was the old BIC pen that we had had an elementary school that had four colors and you could click a different one and get a different color. It’s like, “You could put a stylus in there. That’s one way you could do it.” Somebody did and it wasn’t very elegant and it’s an ugly pen anyway. This is the artistic part of the process, the creative part. I sketch in a sketchbook all the time and I kept sketching different ideas for how to do it. I eventually came up with a sketch, showed it to Tracy, and the light bulb went off in her head and this was the beginning of a company. We would become a whole new company that rose for about five years. We developed our own.

[Tweet “This is the old model that lots of inventors and people who come up with an idea follow. You sketch it out, you make a prototype, you say that it has potential, you go get some money. It doesn’t work like that anymore”]

This stylus tip you can see like a fountain pen, but that’s the plastic tip that you use to use on a touch screen and then you click the ink pen beyond it. It’s a normal click-style pen. You just clicked the ink on it or kick it back when you’re going to write out on the screen or on a paper. It’s elegant, beautiful. This was our nicer model we designed and we built an entire company around that product with a lot of employees in the US. Originally, it was domestically manufactured. We did the typical thing that you would do. This is the model that lots of inventors and product launches, people who come up with an idea, this is the model that they follow. You sketch it out, you make a prototype, you say that it has potential, you go get some investors. In this case, we got our family investor. We brought in our family investors to help pay for the tooling and the first run and we just started this business. Back then, we didn’t have Amazon. We didn’t have WordPress. We had to build our own website from scratch and encoding our own Shopping Carts even. That was dicey. There was no Alibaba so we couldn’t even figure out how to go to Asia at that point. The internet was rough. There were no email programs. There’s no Infusionsoft. We had to do everything manually. It was not as easy back then. We had CompuServe and AOL and just even having your own email was like a new thing. That was a new thing at that time. It was really hard. I stayed up all night to build a database to just take orders and be able to follow the customer service. There were no customer service or follow-up programs. Call centers where there, but we would have to go hire a whole company and then monitor them. There was just so much to reinvent and do at that time and we did all of those things. In the process, we filed patents. That was the first thing we did. We spent quite a bit of money on that.

This was extraordinarily patentable as a utility patent and then there were design patents as well. We filed trademarks. We called it TTools. Throttle was the name of the first pen, the plastic version. This is the nice metal version. It was a killer trademark. Then we did what everyone wants to do. We want to get access, we want it to be in that catalog that shipped with a box, and we work so hard to try to get in that catalog. We went tons of times to visit them in Silicon Valley, US Robotics at first then 3Com and Palm. They’ve been out multiple times and everybody loved the product, and we were puzzled why they weren’t interested in putting it in their catalog. We had this wonderful grassroots organic campaign. We had things go wrong. Our first tool had errors in it. The pens fell apart. We had to reship them to customers. There were a whole bunch of things that happen along the way, but we had this fabulous grassroots early-adopters who just were our biggest proponents. We love them and we were happy with that, but we wanted to grow faster. Being in the catalog would have meant that. The day that we moved into the offices, we were about to move into the offices, the painting had just been done and I walked in, got our first set of mail out of the mailbox. We just had this office because we were expanding into printing names, onto the logos, onto the side of the pen because we were doing more and more pharmaceutical business, FedEx Ground was one of our clients and we’re doing more things like that. We had developed a whole printing room and we had so many employees that we needed the space.

We had moved out of our house, our third floor of our house. I walk in there and it smells like paint and I’m so excited. The colors are cool and the office furniture is new and everything is so great. I open up my mail and I get the catalog. Once you are a customer, you receive the catalog every quarter. I opened up the catalog and right on the inside of it, there’s this stylus pen that looks exactly like ours and it is not ours. I was so devastated. I wanted to cry. I went home, told Tom, showed him that. I literally went to bed and cried. I didn’t know what to do. I thought we’re going to lose our business. We’re going to lose this. It had become a significant business at this point because it’s commercial sales of pens, done in custom logos, giving away at trade shows, all these things. It had become a big business. We were doing $1 million in sales or pretty close to that. Maybe $800,000 right around that timeframe and we were like, “We had just gotten the office action that our patent was going to issue.” We knew it was going to issue. We didn’t have the paperwork yet. We didn’t have the number yet but it was on the way. Here we are, we have a patent and we’re like, “I thought that was the be-all and end-all. We get this, and we are now infringed upon. We were devastated. I cried. I’ve always been a little more optimistic than you have about things. I was mad certainly. There was a prototype that I physically made and this was before 3D printing was available. I made a physical model the hard way and flew out to California and showed the people at US Robotics and they said, “I’ve never seen anything like it. This is brilliant.”

I knew that they hadn’t come up with it on their own. We knew that whether it was intentionally knocking us off or it just happened within a big company and no one was being careful about it. One way or another, they had knocked us off. They were infringing on our patents and we tried to work it out with them. It was a little different than that, too, because they had a third party who was making that and who had designed that, and that was IDEO. They are the largest industrial design agency in the world and they designed the Palm itself at that time. That current model of it had been designed by them. They had all this insider information into what the form factor was and they designed their pen to dock with it. It was devastating. Here we’re going up against an industrial design giant and at that time, the tech giant and who was trying to go public. Actually at the end of the day, that’s what ended up being our advantage. When I woke up the next morning after crying all night and not sleeping very well and Tom was still pissed, I said, “What are we going to do? Let’s gather our team, let’s gather our investors. Let’s get them on the phone.” At that time we had thirteen, not just Tom’s mom. We had members to an LLC at that time, a whole another story that will change our perspective on how we operate as well. Having investors is interesting. We gathered them all together and we said, “What are we going to do? We have only about $5,000 of cash flow.” We only had $5,000 that we could use for anything because we had just gotten into the new office. It had been quite an expenditure and we have employees. There was no legal budget. There wasn’t a budget to do anything.

We said, “We have $5,000. What can we do with $5,000 and make it go and make it effective and keep our business from going under? We have to figure out a way to make that happen so that they don’t take over all of our business. What can we do?” The lawyers wanted to file a patent infringement lawsuit. It was our PR agent, Amy Ferguson, who said, “Let’s try a little PR campaign,” and our great graphic designer, Abbott, came up with this cool campaign that would be grassroots that we could feed out to the community that we had built that we had started because they were starting to be this third party developer annoyance because it happens. iTunes starts to integrate apps that somebody developed on the App Store and starts to integrate it right into their DOS and all of a sudden, you’re out of business. Palm was starting to do that and we were just the most obvious because we had a patent. When you start to integrate code and little bits of software and features, it’s not as obvious. We were like the spokesperson for the David versus Goliath story and for third party developers being stolen from. That’s the story that they played. We did, in fact, still have to file a lawsuit in order to make it. We filed a Federal Patent Infringement Lawsuit against Palm Computing who is the company at the time. We filed it and IDEO and that got a lot of attention. That started to get editors at newspapers and magazines interested.

PLH 001 | Product Launch Experts

Product Launch Experts: We were like the spokesperson for the David versus Goliath story and for third party developers being stolen from.

San Jose Mercury News, San Francisco Chronicle, and then Fortune Small Business at that time, which is now CNN Money, started writing the stories and it was this David-Goliath story. We lived in Providence, Rhode Island at the time. The local papers picked that up as well. There were just these stories about “This is what’s happening in the reality of this world and what’s going on,” but it was the cool graphic campaign and the thing that lawyers tell you not to do, which is at that time was just to reveal your invention date and those timeline and all of this. We put a full timeline on our website of every time we met with them, every time we shared our model with them, the fact that there was an NDA signed, what dates those were. When we invented it, we had a whole timeline on it. It was like, “Here’s our story. We’re laying out our court case,” because we knew we only had enough money to file it. We didn’t have enough money to take it to court. It was somewhat of a bluff. The fabulous thing that Sixten did, which I always loved is this little graphic. I have a little clip of it. I use it in presentations all the time. It had our pen that one that Tom showed you there and their pen below it, which is a little bit smaller, and the graphic in there said, “Do we detect a bit of pen envy?” People loved it. It was funny. It was a viral campaign. No social media, but it went viral. People were sharing it. People were laughing about it. They were sending it around in emails. They were commenting on our page.

We had it in the traditional print media everywhere we could go. That’s what we did incredibly well, using Amy Ferguson, our PR agent, to get the word out everywhere. Eventually, what happened is it puts so much pressure on the executives at Palm Computing who had more important things to deal with as they’re trying to take that company public. They have different advisors and investors seeing these write ups in the San Francisco Chronicle, San Jose Mercury News, Fortune Small Business, and they’re like, “This is going to hurt our stock price.” Eventually, there was a fortunate set of circumstances. We also played it right and it brought Palm to the negotiating table to do most of the right thing to settle the lawsuit in our favor. That may be a subject for a whole another episode at some point. Even when you win, you lose sometimes. This is all this vast experience that we’ve had in so many aspects of business. There was never any money. We barely recouped our legal expenses. We certainly didn’t recoup decline sales for a period of time and the energy. It wasn’t a windfall. We wish it was. We can’t say that, but we did do a couple of things that we’re glad we did. We are always asked, and this actual case study is taught at the Harvard Business Review in 26 countries around the world. It might even be more by now and it’s an IP and entrepreneurship course the way that it’s taught in three parts. In the second part, the course study is to choose what you would do, to sue or not to sue. What to do and they don’t hear what we did until the third part. It’s a rare percentage, less than 10%, maybe even less than 5%, according to the professor teaches it that actually choose the model we do because it was such a risk. It was so crazy and that it would actually work and it did work.

It’s a little easier now to think about that because we have social media. It might work more often now than it would have then, but it was hard, expensive, and time-consuming. We didn’t recoup that, but what we did was we saved our company. We saved our intellectual property and we also saved our design value. That design integrity mattered to the two of us. At the end of the day, we didn’t want to start our careers with this point that was like, “You’re not original.” We’ve always been able to sit from that point of, “This is it.” We also have a whole different thing. We think there are a dozen lessons that we learned, but just a few of them off the top of my head is that we use intellectual property. We use patents and trademarks and copyrights different than most people. We don’t use it like we are intending to defend it someday because we know how hard that is. While we might use that as an offensive strategy, we don’t think about it as our defensive strategy because we know that the bigger the pockets, the easier it is for them to do that. That’s a difference we do there, how to use the media. We have been good with that our entire careers and we’re even better at it now because I have an inside track, so we know what the media is like. That’s something we do. One of the other things that we do well because of what we learned there is we learned the importance of building your community first. Community matters more than the product. Your access to that community matters. It’s been the thing that we’ve sought out first.

[Tweet “Community matters more than the product. Your access to that market or community matters most. “]

We searched for that. That’s one of the reasons we were early on Amazon and working with our clients to get them into Amazon and wanted that to happen. We saw the power of e-commerce early on. In 1998, I bought my first book on Amazon. We have been customers all along. Seeing that power, especially with women, and seeing growth, the reality is we’re talking about market. One of the most critical things is a product and market fit. You can have the best product in the world, but if you don’t have access to the market that will want to buy it or can’t create that market, it doesn’t matter how good your product is. The same thing, you’d have this tremendous market and access to this great market and if you’ve got the wrong product, that market isn’t going to care. Product market fit is a big one. We like to also term it in terms of this is one of the ways why we’ve worked so well at mass market retail. Mass market retail is a built-in market. It’s a channel. It’s an access to a marketplace. It’s like that Palm catalog. It’s its own access. It’s got its own list. It’s got its own people and it’s a whole lot easier and cheaper to tap into somebody else’s than build it yourself and if you want to also build an original product. If you don’t have an original product, maybe you want to build an original community focused around something. We live in that original product world so it’s a whole lot faster, cheaper, and easier to access someone else’s marketplace and be successful within that fit, finding the market that’s going to fit our original product. It is easier to go that direction.

That’s how we always work. A lot of our brands and the companies that we work with already know their core market place. Maybe they had their own Shopify shop and they’re fabulous with direct response market. They could build that up and they’re amazing with that, or they’ll just kill it on Amazon and they’re just amazing with that. That helps us guide them in designing original product and making the product better to fit that market place and refine the fit so it does better than other products. It lasts longer than other products. At the end of the day, what we’re all about here is we want to show you the right things in the right order with the right resources. Sometimes those are tools, sometimes those are just strategies and tactics. Then when you do that, you can out-design or outsource because that’s also a critical part. You have to have something unique there. Outsource and then our profit can have a bigger, broader a term to it. It might be growing your market. It might be actually being more profitable. It might be out profiting your competition. Either way, what it’s doing is creating a much more successful and more guaranteed success. We’re upping your odds on that, flipping the odds like we did, reducing your risks, avoiding those common pitfalls and rookie errors and even not such rookie errors. There are so many potential problems. Big brands make huge mistakes and it costs a tremendous amount of money. The only reason they survive is they have a whole lot more money and can survive big mistakes. They can absorb that. The younger companies and especially startups can’t afford that.

One of the things I want to mention is this product was in the first early five years of our career. There’s been so much more experience since then. We want to help share our experience with you and help you avoid those pitfalls. It’s not just us. There are a lot of other experts here at Product Launch Hazzards in their areas of expertise that are here to help you do the same. We’re going to be exposing you to all of them. Our goal in this first 50 episodes is to get through, introduce you to all the experts, introduce you to all of these pitfall topics, hazards that we might expose, good practices, good resources, good things that you should be looking for and give you a framework for that. I hate to call it a 101 series because it’s not elemental. These are like deep dive insider things. They are elemental to what we do. We are lucky that we can identify them. We know them and that’s because these are the questions that come up again and again every time I give a speech somewhere, every time we’re in front of an inventor group or an e-commerce group, Amazon Sellers group. I did the prosper show and there’s a thousand people, and the questions that they asked were the same ones we deal with all the time.

These first 50 episodes are going to deep dive into that. If you have questions, if you have things that are just burning, this is a reason to come join our membership group. The Product Launch Hazzards right at this moment, we’ve opened it up, it used to only be clients. Now, it’s not. It’s expanded beyond that and we want you to come in so you can ask questions of these people that you cannot afford to have on retainer. That’s the idea. What we wanted to do was to create this amazing group of experts where you could get answers to something like, “Do I need a warning label for this?” You’re almost ready to finish up your box design. You can ask early on. You know you’re going to need it and you can find somebody who might the right attorney for you or the right compliance people to help you write that. You could decide, “Should I patent this? Is it patentable?” These are things that you have burning questions on. You can ask those things earlier, find someone who can do a small consult with you and then when you’re ready, go and do them. They aren’t people that you have to have full-on consulting agreements with, retainer agreements with. We want you to be able to access that and do it because when you don’t ask the questions. That’s when you fall into the pit.

PLH 001 | Product Launch Experts

Product Launch Experts: It doesn’t matter how seasoned you are, an expert you are. There is going to be some area that you’re not as strong in and you need help of experts.

You need to know what you don’t know. It doesn’t matter how seasoned you are, an expert you are in a certain area, there’s always going to be one area that have this entire world of creating a product, buying it, importing it, selling it, marketing. There is going to be some area that you’re not as strong in and you need help of experts. You don’t have to hire all these employees and your company at great expense to get it. That’s the idea of this membership site. You can pay a little bit every month and get help with what you need and access to experts. There are going to be about a dozen experts, including us. You’ll have a dozen Office Hours. That’s what we’re going to call these, it’s Office Hours. The first part is us just talking about a topic. It might be the expert might be assigned the biggest question that we’ve been asked on the portal and/or the biggest question they know they get every time they speak. We’ll have them address those and knock them out over the course of the first few months. The reality is, is it’s your participation that’s going to refine that. If you have the burning questions, you got to show up live and ask them. You’ve got to submit them into the group because we will also ask some that are emailed ahead of time. For those of you that can’t be there live and are going to watch the replay, you may want your question to be asked so you make sure you get that question in.

The times and all of that are posted on the site so you’ll know when the hours are. You’ll know which experts you want to choose into. We’re going to be doing all these introductory episodes and those are going to be public. You’ll be able to meet every single one of those experts before you join the group if you would like. You’ll be able to come in and already know who you want to listen to. Ongoing topics beyond those first you said 50 or so is what it’s going to be. Those podcasts and those Office Hours and videos are only going to be for members only. You get the introductory series to understand what it’s about, to see what value you could get out of it. To continue to participate and be able to ask those questions and be able to even listen to the Product Launch Hazzards Podcast ongoing, you’ve got to be a member. It’s going to be for members only. There are videos, podcasts, and blogs. All of those will be in the private membership group. There’s also a document library, a resource library, and some of these are the ones we use. The contracts we use with our factory, the sample forms we used to track samples or review them with our clients, review them with buyers. We’ve used these for decades. Twenty years of experience of documents not just ours but of other experts as well. There are there for you as a resource. We always advocate you get your own attorney if it’s a legal document. This is just for reference and to give you some ideas, suggestions along the way, help illuminate things to you that you might know you need. Then you always do want to get a seasoned expert of which we have available within Product Launch Hazzards to help you, but at least you can get very far along the way.

Eventually, we’re working on the back end of a calculator for you that goes cost basis, market basis. You can flip back and forth, but it also shows you the difference between e-commerce and on the shelf because we get those questions all the time. Our good friend Tim Bush who is On The Shelf expert who we participated in his podcast and he participates in ours all the time is going to be one of the experts who probably do more than one Office Hours. I know him a month just because there’s going to be so many questions. We’ve got lots of great experts like that coming in and we look forward to sharing that with you. I hope that we’ve shared enough about who we are, what we’re going to be, and what Product Launched Hazzards is here for. If you have any questions or comments, please go to the blog post for this episode at Our membership information is there as well.

We could have gone on for hours and hours. There are so many deeper dive that we will take. If there is a little bit here that you’re interested in or something that’s like, “You didn’t touch on that,” we’re going to get to it. It’ll be within our Office Hours series, our podcast. If there’s a question and you want to hear more, especially as you become a member, then let us know and we’ll be happy to address it in the future issue. If we’re not experts in it, we’ll get someone who is. If we don’t have an expert in the group, we will find one for you that we trust, and we will vet them because that’s important to us as well. We’re covering the majority of disciplines within this whole vast world. We look forward to this journey with you and helping you succeed with your business.

Tune in to our next Office Hours. Connect with us and find out more about Tracy and Tom in our Experts Directory.

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About The Authors

PLH 001 | Product Launch ExpertsTom Hazzard

An inventor with 37 patents and an unprecedented 86% success rate for consumer product designs, Tom Hazzard has been rethinking brand innovation to design in success for over 25 years. Tom’s patented innovations provide entrepreneurs and businesses of all sizes a system to spread their brand, grow valuable consumers, and diversify into higher converting revenue streams without a lot of time, cost or effort. Tom is co-host of the Forbes-featured fast growth WTFFF?! 3D Printing podcast as well as host of two new podcasts, Feed Your Brand & Product Launch Hazzards borne out of his core business, Hazz Design, where he has designed and developed over 250 products that generate $2 Billion in revenue for retail and e-commerce clients.

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