Tracy Oswald, VP of The Growth Lab, sat down with us to share her vision, how she came up with the idea for a client and business owner education program that doesn’t ask for anything in return, and why she almost didn’t move forward with a new (and potentially crazy!) idea.
Hi, Tracy! Why don’t we start off by talking a little bit about The Growth Lab. Tell us what that is.
Tracy: The Growth Lab is a mission to help connect business owners and leaders to experts, new ideas, and experiences – all designed to help them grow.
We’re activating The Growth Lab in five different ways: Live and virtual events, a podcast (coming really soon!), blog and video content, online courses, and a subscription community. Some of these things, like the live events, have already launched, others are in the works, and the rest will be launching later in the year.
The power of The Growth Lab lies in its core values: Connection, community, and experimenting. And the really cool thing about it is that everything we do is “in service of” these business owners, which means we are here to help them grow their business, their leadership, and live more connected lives, and we do that without any sales ask. No overt discussion of our products or services at all.
Wow, that’s a pretty big thing – no sales ask! How did you come up with this idea for The Growth Lab?
I love this question! Back in August, our leadership team asked me what it would look like to design a “customer/public facing education program.” Something that would educate business owners about marketing. I thought about all the companies who do this really well already – Facebook, Google, all of the big players in the content and education/engagement game. They all have some version of an online academy, podcasts, webinars, and live events. As I looked deeper into how the very best were doing this, I encountered a theme. Along with the great content they were delivering, there was almost always some kind of “sales ask” attached to everything. I would attend a webinar that promised to teach me about social advertising and at the end of the webinar there was a hard sell about that company’s social advertising programs. These companies and others do so much so well, yet, there’s always an ask (sometimes even a little aggressive, in my opinion!), always a list I have to subscribe to in order to get their “good stuff.”
What does this trend start doing to the business owners participating in these brands’ programs?
Now, I’m not saying that this isn’t effective marketing. It absolutely has its place, and when done well, can be very effective at converting “leads.” The problem is that everyone, and I mean EVERYONE is doing this now, and consumers are jaded to this offering of “thought leadership” because it’s so conditional. They can almost predict, down to the minute, when a brand’s generosity is going to turn into a sales pitch.
And that affects trust. And in this day and age, transparency and authenticity equals trust in the mind of the consumer. If you’re giving with one hand and taking with the other, it hurts your transparency AND authenticity scores, and trust goes out the window.
The bigger issue is that these people requesting information from companies or attending events to help their business grow, are not leads, they are actual humans.
How did this realization impact what you wanted to create?
I wanted to create a way to engage with business owners and leaders that takes the sales ask completely off the table. A way that allows LOCALiQ to build brand authority in the marketplace based on giving. We are disrupting our space by serving powerfully without asking for anything in return (and that scares some people!).
Think about one of the most iconic brand builders in modern history – Gary V. He’s incredibly successful, has built amazing companies, and he is “out there” on social media, video, podcasts, events, giving away everything he knows for free. Without asking for anything. He teaches, engages and serves his people and the public at large by sharing and connecting. No ask, no sell.
And I want to be really vulnerable here…I almost didn’t create this. When I sat down to build the thing that leadership asked me to, my gut instinct was to “color inside the lines,” to look at what other companies were doing, copy best practices, and build some kind of client-facing education program. It would have still been challenging, but it also would have been much safer. But, there was something inside me that kept telling me to push past it and even though it was really risky to propose this big idea – serving hard without asking for anything – which flies in the face of the very thing we do – sell companies marketing solutions to help them sell their things.
So, what pushed you to do this BIG thing if you knew it was new and risky?
Somewhere inside me I knew that this was the thing that would set us apart. So, I acknowledged that fear, asked it to dance, and built The Growth Lab plan. I put my whole heart and everything I’ve ever learned and studied into creating this. I didn’t censor myself and didn’t hold back, not once. And there’s a big lesson in that for me and for anyone who has ever felt like they had a great idea but were too afraid to say it out loud.
I’m inspired! You’re so passionate about this and about helping business owners grow and reach their full potential. Now, it’s so interesting to me that your initiative is about not selling when your background is in training and sales. How did that equip you for The Growth Lab and everything it entails?
My background in training absolutely helps as I’m creating content and live experiences. It’s important to know how people interact with ideas and what makes those ideas “stick,” and that’s usually an emotional connection with the content. People need to be able to imagine themselves as the protagonist of the story you’re telling, living all the challenges and victories of the “idea” for them to form a connection to it.
My sales background is extremely helpful because selling for me was always just a matter of how I could help the person across the table from me, and that taught me how to ask the important questions and then shut up and listen. These skills are also very helpful when I’m interviewing guests on the podcast. Our guests are pretty used to running their own show, most of them are CEOs and startup founders, and most of them have their own podcasts, so keeping control of the conversation while having a great time and getting answers to the questions in 40 minutes or less can be challenging! My “sales” skills definitely help here!
Also, my experience as a coach continues to help me as we’re evolving. When you create, develop, and execute something like this, you spend a lot of time doing things you’ve never done before and that can feel….scary at times. I also had to learn how to talk about this “mission” as I was developing it. Self-awareness and humility helped me to keep the fear at bay and stay in a space that allowed me to create and execute.
Beyond your experience with training and coaching, you’re very into immersive theater. What is that and how does it help here?
Immersive theater is like traditional theater, but the audience is part of the show. You get to participate and interact with the actors.
My connection to the immersive theater world was (and still is!) a big factor in creating “experience,” especially for our live events. I always think: “What do I want people to leave our events knowing, believing and doing?” And then I reverse-engineer the event to create the experience that will allow them to know, believe, and do these “new” things. Great live events involve a bit of “theater” and should always be an emotional experience for the attendees, an experience that leaves them thinking…”Wow, that was SO different and SO valuable and also a little…magical.”
Magical – that’s a great word to get people excited. What exactly can people expect from The Growth Lab events – besides magic?
In a word, connection. Connection to new ideas, connection to like-minded business owners in their community, connection to a sense of self-confidence, and above all, a connection to “what’s possible” for them as a business owner.
Our live events are unlike the standard (and boring, sorry it had to be said!) conferences people have been to a thousand times. And we’ll be supporting attendees post-event with a way to stay connected to each other and us, and keep the conversation and learning going through virtual masterminds.
You’ve had a few of these events already. What has the reaction been?
People don’t believe that we are there JUST to help them. Even when I say that at the start of the event, invariably someone will ask at the end: “Ok, so what now? What are you selling?” And this reaction is proof positive that we need more companies to stop treating people like LEADS and start treating them like humans. We are all in this together!
And, the exciting part is that this is just the beginning!
Speaking of just the beginning, you’re about to launch The Growth Lab Podcast next month. What can people expect to hear?
Our weekly interview-style podcast through The Growth Lab Show will have business, leadership, and life experts on to help business owners get out of their heads and into action that will fuel growth. And, the cool thing is that we have FUN, too. We know that people are busy and want information and entertainment at the same time! You can expect to hear from the most successful entrepreneurs, CEOs, and leaders in a fun, informative format you can listen to on your drive into work, at your desk, or while you’re on the treadmill.
Love that! I can’t wait to listen. So, you’ve been on this journey of creating and executing on The Growth Lab for some time now – what’s been your favorite thing?
So many things, but I’ll keep it to two distinct “favorites” so far:
- How the Growth Lab program technically hasn’t really “launched yet” but it has already connected so many to people they can learn from, draw inspiration from, and help them grow.
- It’s reinforced my belief that people really do want to help each other, and when you show up giving with BOTH hands, you ALWAYS win, and so do they.
And what are you most looking forward to and excited about when it comes to The Growth Lab?
What it can become. We are at a point in business, in our social climate and our personal lives where people want real connection. People want something they can believe in, belong to, and grow with. They want companies to show up in a way that speaks to them, not their “demographic,” to them as a person and a business leader. The Growth Lab is positioning LOCALiQ to be just that for people looking for a partner that is truly different from all the others. One that understands that to earn their trust, they have to be transparent and authentic.
I’m personally excited to be part of a brand that’s investing in that transparency and authenticity through The Growth Lab. So, I want to know: What’s in store for the future? Can you give us a sneak peek?
In addition to the live events, virtual events, and podcast, we’re going to create a membership community for business owners and leaders to stay engaged with each other, with us, and with our experts. Because we have a huge network with many experts and such deep data and insights, we’ll be able to provide value across the spectrum – marketing strategy, customer experience, brand engagement, business scaling, team building, and so much more. In our community we’ll be able to not only share all of this with our members, we’ll be creating a community for them to engage with and support each other, AND we’ll be able to listen. Listen to their concerns, successes and plans so that we can evolve in real-time to serve them powerfully.
*Interview shortened and edited for clarity.