How do you stand out in a saturated eCommerce market and get to the next level of business?
It takes a few things, including attracting the right people to your brand, ensuring that people have a great experience before and after they buy, getting the right systems and automation in place, as well as having the right support as you grow.
It sounds like a lot, but my guest this week, Tracy Matthews, has developed a unique framework that addresses all those things. The Desired Brand Effect is the 3 pillar methodology she created while struggling in her first business and now uses to help thousands of students build the business of their dreams.
I’m bringing you another kick-ass guest to the show this week, Tracy Matthews. I first met Tracy somewhere around the internet and since have been a guest on her top-rated podcast, Thrive by Design and even did a training for her group program, Flourish and Thrive Academy.
A jewelry designer, visionary, entrepreneur and mentor to creatives, Tracy has founded 4 companies over the last 25 years including Creatives Rule the World and Flourish & Thrive Academy where she helps people tap into their unique brand of creativity and impact to become better leaders, create financial freedom, and live more fulfilled and fun lives via courses, coaching, consulting, and retreats.
She’s been featured in top media outlets including Entrepreneur, InStyle, Martha Stewart Weddings, the Today Show, Yahoo Finance, Online Marketing Made Easy, and Creative Live. the woman knows what she’s talking about!
And now, she’s released her first book, the Desired Brand Effect, which is what we’re talking about today. It’s the 3 pillar methodology she created while struggling in her first business and the framework she uses to help thousands of students build the business of their dreams.
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The Desired Brand Effect is a repeatable model that can be used at every single level in your business. Can you touch on that a little bit?
Here’s the thing, it’s super easy to get lazy. You may think you are already dialled in on your dream client and know who your customers are, have all the systems in place but as you grow in business, what your business needs is going to differ completely from zero to six figures from six figures to $300,000, from $300,000 to $3 million.
All of those milestones and markers in business require a very different structure, and also a different way for you to look at it. But the one thing that stays consistent are the pillars of the Desired Brand Effect and the pillars are:
- Creating Desire
- Sharing Desire
- Scaling Desire
Each one is slightly different based on where you are in business. When you’re first starting out, this is going to help you lay a strong foundation for everything that you’re doing in business. It will give you structure and a container to get consistent, repeatable sales.
When you move from low six figures to mid six figures, you get to refine those processes and start really dialing in your brand experience, your branding, and the experience that people have with your brand. Your systems allow you to get to that next level.
Then, when you’re scaling to a seven or multiple seven figure business, what becomes really important are the back-end processes that you have—the systems, the structures, the team, the goals—and how you’re relating all the other aspects of the Desired Brand Effect into your business.
I liken each pillar to different phases in an educational career, like going from high school to college. There’s always more that you can do. I don’t want anyone to think you do it once and it’s done because what you’ll see is when you have problems in your business, like slow sales, or your business hits a plateau or you hit a point where you’re going backwards and your sales decline, is that these are all indicators that you need to refer back to the Desired Brand Effect model to solve those problems.
What are the three core pillars of the Desired Brand Effect and what falls under them?
This all about attracting the right people to your brand. The three components of this are:
Your brand assets
Anything physical that is used to represent your brand, such as your product or packaging, your website, your promotional materials, your line sheets, if you’re selling wholesale—basically all the things that you use to promote your brand. And we throw pricing in there because it’s an outlier.
This is your dream client or the people that you want to sell to. Some people might consider this a target market. It’s your social media followers, your entire friends and family or your professional peer networks—all the potential audience attract customers to your business.
Your brand voice and your messaging
This is all about how you talk to the world. Regardless of who you are, if you’re selling a physical product in the jewelry, luxury, or handmade space, you need to explain what you’re doing, and have a personality for your brand.
People don’t buy your product just because they like it. They buy it because of so many other things, which we describe in detail in the book.
This is really the primary experience of your customer. This is where you convert a prospect into a sale or a customer and it includes all of your sales and marketing activities and your customer experience.
What are people experiencing before they buy and after they buy? It’s not just customer service, it’s the front end and back end experience of the brand.
This also includes all the revenue generating activities you do. Creatives sometimes get shy when it comes to promoting themselves, but you have to be doing that 75% of the time that you spend in your business. Or someone on your team has to be doing that 75% of the time.
When you’re just starting out and you don’t have a team, that person is going to be you, which is important to think about. Eventually, you might have a sales team whose job is to promote your brand.
This is all about business planning, goal setting, getting the right systems and automation in place, and having the right support.
Support can be hiring a team, working with a mentor or coach or it could be finding a peer group of people who understand your plight.
The best thing to do if you’re joining a group is finding a curated peer group with a leader who has done what you’re trying to do. Follow people who have already done what you’re trying to do and have created the level of success that you want to create. Taking this route is much better than finding a peer group of people who are all in the same phase as you, and you all really do not know what you’re doing.
There’s a lot more, but those are the core aspects that when you’re doing everything right, you start seeing consistent, predictable sales in your business.
Using the core pillars to troubleshoot issues in your business
If you’re in that feast or famine cycle, Sharing Desire and Creating Desire are the core pillars you need to look at. If you’re getting a ton of repeat sales, you’re probably doing the Sharing Desire piece and the Scaling Desire piece really well. They’re integrating really well together because people are coming back and buying for a second time.
Now if your business hits a plateau, or you’re always hunting for new customers, that’s a problem that you need to identify with the Sharing Desire piece and the Scaling Desire piece. So it’s probable that you need to refine your experience and how you’re getting people to take that next step a second time, or the systems automation and all the other things you have in place.
When Creating Desire and Scaling Desire are working together, you’re going to see high profit margins, more impact with the work that you do and a bigger reach.
But if you see declining sales or you see your customers passing on a season or skipping what you’re doing, you’re probably in a business backslide, which is the worst of all of them—that’s the hardest to recover.
And this is what I mean about getting lazy. Sometimes when things are going along well, you can start to rest on your laurels. This happened to me. When things started backsliding in my business, I just started throwing things at the problem instead of actually digging in deep to figure out what the real issue was.
That led me to create a product that was, first, not aligned with what I stood for as a brand. And second, it led me down a destructive path of not really looking at what was going on with the systems and the team part of my business and eventually bankruptcy in 2008.
It’s important to be looking at all those things. Because you could experience any of those issues at any point in business. You can even experience those issues if you have a $10 million company. It is important to keep always looking at those things, and improving them and making them better.
When all these things work together, what ends up happening is you create financial security for yourself.
Do people struggle with a particular pillar more than the others?
There’s a bunch of assessments out there that talk about personality types and what your strengths are. There’s this one that I really love called Wealth Dynamics, which talks about where you should work in your business to create the most wealth. The eight types of personality are Creator, Star, Supporter, Deal Maker, Trader, Accumulator, Lord, and Mechanic.
Personally, I’m a Star with a Creator and Supporter wing, which means that I should be in front of people promoting my business and putting the spotlight on other people who have been successful using our methodology. If I spend most of my time doing that, then things will be successful.
If you identify as a maker or a designer, you’re probably more in the Creator realm. And if you’re someone who wants to start an eCommerce business, because you want to scale it, you’re probably going to be more like a Lord or Accumulator, which is going to make you a lot stronger at the systems but less strong in the creative parts of the business.
Most people I mentor are really strong at the creative parts of the business and less strong at the system’s part of the business so the Scaling Desire is where I often see people struggle.
Delegate out the parts of your business that are your weaknesses
Over time, you can hone those skills. It’s not that you can’t do it, it just doesn’t come as easily to you. We all have our natural inclinations and it’s great to acknowledge those things and really understand it, but when you are bootstrapping your business, you’re going to have to be all things until you can afford to hire people.
Have you got any failure stories, either in your own business or one of your students' businesses?
The first failure story that I’ll tell you is my own. I did all these things to grow a company, but I was avoiding parts of my business that were hard to look at, like the financials. I kept investing money into the business instead of thinking about it. I was really focused on revenue as opposed to profit. Basically, I would spend all the profit and reinvest it back into the company or into trade shows or new events.
So, when 2008 came around, and the market started crashing, I made a bunch of big mistakes, like taking on orders that weren’t approved by my factor. A factor is a company that finances your receivables for your business so that you have cash flow to create inventory.
I was taking on orders that my factor didn’t approve, and I shipped $30,000 to $100,000 orders without approval, which is super risky, especially when the market starts crashing. I had put the cost of financing those orders into lines of credit, which were maxed out. That created a huge windfall and I screwed myself over. But I could’ve prevented that by identifying that I was putting myself in jeopardy had I not been afraid to actually look at the real numbers.
That was a huge lesson to be more aware of my profit margins, and constantly audit those things. This is why I have people on my team who will look at those things for me. They remind me to pay attention to particular things, identify where we need to cut costs, figure out where we need to restructure or where we can invest more money in marketing.
Another business failure is actually that of one of my students, because I think this is really powerful, especially for people who rely on third party platforms for the majority of their sales. They sold almost $500,000 worth of product a year on Etsy and $50,000 worth of product a year on their website. Then a hurricane hit in Houston and it flooded their studio. Their internet was out for two weeks and they had no way of communicating with their Etsy customers. And overnight, their business was taken out because their Etsy store got closed.
Be smart about how you’re building your business. You can use those third party platforms to generate revenue—they’re great—but you have to focus on having control over your customer, owning the customer information, incentivizing people to buy on your website and investing your marketing dollars on promoting your branded website.
Have you got any success stories, whether it’s something you do with yourself or a strategy that you helped one of your students implement?
I really want to celebrate Twyla, who’s been working with us for a couple of years. When she came to us in 2018/2019, she already had a pretty successful business. She already had a six-figure company and was growing, but she was doing everything herself.
She really wanted to get out of doing things in person because she was going to markets and setting up a kiosk every single day to make sales.
After working with us, she made over $200,000. We were super excited for her and then COVID hit and half her revenue went away because the market went away.
She had a rough year, but she stayed positive throughout the whole thing and focused on getting customers from social media as well as building her email list to buy from her online.
She did all the online things that she could think of to promote her business. Admittedly, she had a down year in 2020 but then, when things opened up in 2021, she had built all these systems and had set up all these automations to really optimize in the Scaling Desire piece of the Desire Brand Effect. She was able to hire two salespeople for her markets and was able to take two months off her business when her mother sadly passed away.
She took the time to do the legwork. She did the proper planning, created systems, developed automations, streamlined things in her business, documenting as she did so when she hired people, it was easy to get things off her plate.
The thing about her is she dropped out of high school and she started a business really young, which just goes to show that higher education and all these other things don’t matter. It just takes the proper training and understanding how a business needs to run. Anyone can have a successful business.
What’s the #1 takeaway from this episode?
The most important place to start is figuring out what matters most to you and what success looks like to you. It’s really easy to get into this rat race of comparing yourself to other people.
The thing that’s amazing about the Desired Brand Effect is there’s a lot of flexibility in the model. You can cater it to whatever business you have.
The reason I say this is that the first business that I ever built was a jewelry company and I got everything I wanted. Besides the business failure—that wasn’t something I wanted—but I got everything I wanted inside the business. I was a really well-known designer for a period of time. I was in all the stores, I did all the things. But instead of designing a business that supported the life that I wanted, I designed a business that made me a slave and burned me out.
So when I started my second jewelry company, the first thing I started with was, what do I want my life to look like? How much money do I want to take home?
From there, I figured out how to make that happen. I knew I needed to do X, Y and Z. That’s why I moved into a fine jewelry model because I knew I wasn’t going to have to work so hard and I got to do the things that I love the most in the business, which were designing and connecting with the customers. It gave me so much flexibility and allowed me to start another business.