The Growth Lab comprises our free, local events across the country where we connect business owners to ideas that make a real impact. This year, Growth Lab is being fully rebranded both in look and feel and in content. It’s a significant enough change that we’re referring to it as Growth Lab 2.0.
We wanted to talk to the women behind the movement, Tracy Oswald and Jenn Karsner, about Growth Lab 2.0 and how they’ve transformed this event into an immersive learning experience.
Tracy and Jenn, I’m so thrilled to be talking with you both about Growth Lab 2.0. Let’s get right into it: What’s new that we can expect? Are you nervous about the changes? Excited?
Tracy Oswald: We set out in late 2018 to deliver a program we thought business owners and leaders would really want. It was met with tremendous enthusiasm, and it also evolved throughout 2019. Since the Growth Lab is so interactive, we were able to respond in real-time to the needs of each audience while maintaining the integrity of the program. And we learned SO much! Through our interactions all year and our surveys after each show, it became very clear that business owners all over the country wanted to learn 1) how to tell their brand story in meaningful ways, and 2) understand how to approach social media in a way that’s right for them.
Jenn Karsner: For Growth Lab 2.0, we wanted to take the content to the next level and dive deeper into subjects our previous attendees had expressed interest in. We have really centered the teachings around branding, strategic storytelling, and using that to monetize through social media. We must lead by example, and with that came strategic rebranding. We want the Growth Lab to not be your run of the mill event but more immersive, hands-on, and fun!
I assume that the change in content is because there are commonalities amongst business owners that have surfaced from a year’s worth of events, no matter the business or location. In addition to brand storytelling and social media marketing, what struggles have you noticed that are universal?
Tracy: The other commonalities we heard no matter what city we were in were that it’s hard to know who to listen to. There are so many companies and experts giving them advice and competing strategies when it comes to marketing and advertising. They also don’t have the time to devote to doing all their own marketing while running their business.
And that’s why LOCALiQ is the perfect partner for them! We simplify the marketing process – identifying the marketing solutions that will best work to help them reach their unique business goals and streamlining the process by having our team of experts execute on the campaigns for them. They can be as hands-on or hands-off as they want – we're all about an approach to marketing that is specialized just to them.
Jenn: Absolutely! We really listened to the wants and needs of local business owners and made changes where necessary. Across the board companies are struggling with how to tell their brand’s story and then being able to contextualize it across different platforms.
Part of telling your brand story is ensuring that your business is not a faceless entity. Don’t just know your brand story – share it! How does having a social media game plan factor into Growth Lab this time around?
Tracy: Social media is critical in 2020, especially for local businesses. Consumers EXPECT businesses to not only have a robust presence on social media but to deliver consistent value and to engage with them on the platform. And this can feel overwhelming for business owners because they’re not sure what to post or how to engage, and they feel immense pressure to do it on every platform.
We help simplify all of that by teaching them how to identify where their customers are on social media and then to craft their content and strategy to be very contextual to that platform. When we couple this with our “3 C’s of Social Media,” it gives them a clear way to activate and generate real revenue on social platforms. And the cool part is that we can absolutely help them with all of it with our LOCALiQ social media solutions that include full social media marketing and management plus social ads.
Jenn: Social media always seems to be a sore subject for a lot of business owners. There are so many rabbit holes you can crawl through and quite frankly we could do 100 events just centered around social media alone. We want business owners to be able to walk away from this event fully understanding how they can reach more people through meaningful content.
Growth Lab’s claim to fame is that it promises not to “sell” to the attendees. You offer your time, energy and training for free, and there are really no strings attached. We’re always told that content is king, but we expect to have to pay for it! Why do you think this aspect of Growth Lab still works?
Jenn: IT REALLY IS FREE, AND YES, WE REALLY AREN’T SELLING YOU ANYTHING! Being a part of the LOCALiQ family means embodying its values – one of them being that we truly care about and want to help local business owners. This is a thought leadership event, and we are here to inform and educate the local community by being in-service to them.
Tracy: LOCALiQ is committed to helping our communities grow and thrive – it's part of our DNA as part of the USA TODAY NETWORK where we operate in more than 300 markets across the country telling local stories and connecting with the people business owners are looking to reach. The Growth Lab program is one of the key ways we build on this focus.
We believe that when you give consistent value and show up and engage, it builds relationships and trust. And this causes people to WANT to do business with you!
One of the BONUSES we’re offering this year is that we’re preparing the LOCALiQ Grader for every single one of our attendees! The LOCALiQ Grader combines smart insights and data intelligence to compare a businesses’ digital presence to its competitors. Each attendee will get a report that gives them an overall grade for their digital presence and shows them how they look compared to their competition, and based on their personalized score and evaluation, makes recommendations for tweaks to their marketing programs to get a better, and faster return on investment. And our expert account executives are always at the ready to help discuss and implement any of the strategies with our powerful solutions.
Tracy, let’s talk about you for minute. The emphasis of this year’s Growth Lab is telling your brand story. In addition to running content and event marketing at LOCALiQ, you are a coach, a public speaker, and an immersive theater enthusiast. What is your brand story?
Tracy: I’m glad you asked – here goes:
Do you ever feel like you’re just scratching the surface of what you’re capable of or meant to do, but these voices keep telling you you’re not good enough or smart enough to get there?
That’s exactly how I felt before I had an experience that changed the trajectory of my career and my life.
In August 2012, I was a successful sales leader in New York City, and I was living the life. Great family, beautiful house, nice clothes – I had it all.
Except, I was lonely and afraid. I become a professional at putting on a front that I was a successful and confident leader, when I felt just the opposite.
I fell into the trap of believing that if I just worked harder, put in more hours, I could achieve the success I wanted. I missed family trips and had no social life – all in an effort to make it to the next level that I could never quite reach.
So, I’d let myself zone out at night with Netflix and Cabernet trying to numb my self-doubt, anxiety and frustration.
Until a special night that same August where, during an incredible immersive experience (ask me about it!), I realized the potential for human connection, growth, and success is limitless and that I was meant to serve at a much higher level.
Now, after a journey that’s taken me from New York to Texas, I’m in a place where I get to serve people every day. Whether its business owners looking for new ways to grow through the LOCALiQ Growth Lab or female entrepreneurs I get to help in my personal coaching practice, I’m serving at the highest level.
That’s awesome! Now, Jenn, you’ve been working on The Growth Lab since its inception, but for Growth Lab 2.0, you are heavily invested in the creation of the content. You’re actually kicking off the event and acting as co-host. I know this is a really exciting time for you professionally! Can you share your brand story with us?
Jenn: Yes! I’ve been an entrepreneur since my early 20s and have owned an event-based education company teaching marketing strategy. I enjoyed the startup community so much that I earned my business coaching certificate and worked as a consultant specializing in branding and development.
So that was a perfect segue into the world of Growth Lab. Those marketing strategies that I used in the startup world are so universal and applicable to every local business. So it’s a really exciting evolution to see how what I was passionate about in my early 20s is still serving me and now serving LOCALiQ. Now I’m in a corporate environment, and while that was definitely a big transition to my working style, I have even more resources to build out my coaching and brand building practice.
And yes, I’m feeling like I’m on a positive upward climb! It’s an honor to speak for the company and to meet and develop so many local business owners around the country. I’m discovering just how common all their challenges are. We’re creating a community, and a resource center for real actionable help and ideas.
One of the people who inspires The Growth Lab’s hosts, Gary Vaynerchuck, says that the three words that should provide you with the most motivation are: You’re. Gonna. Die. So live your life and do something worthwhile with it! What are the three words that can best describe what participants will get out of Growth Lab?
Tracy: Love me some Gary V! What holds us back as business owners, marketers, leaders and humans is straight up FEAR. Fear that we’re going to ‘do it wrong.” Fear that we’re going to FAIL. Fear that everyone will laugh and know that we’ve never done something before. That fear shackles us to our present, and keeps us stuck in our loops, never really evolving and realizing the potential we have for growth and success. We’re so worried about what “other people” are going to say about what we do that we’re paralyzed and end up not trying new things.
And like Gary Vaynerchuk says, we’re all going to die, so just do the thing! At the Growth Lab we encourage experimenting and trying things even when you don’t know what the outcome will be. To view everything you do in your marketing as an experiment that will give you data about what to do next. Because that’s really what’s happening in marketing (and life!): have an idea, take an action, get a result, then adjust and refine your approach.
This year the three words that encapsulate the Growth Lab and what we’re bringing to local businesses are new ways to CONNECT, ENGAGE and CONVERT online, specifically on social media.
GrowthLab 2.0 may be on its way to a city near you in 2020. For more information, a full list of cities, and to register for an event, please visit our website. We can’t wait to meet you!