EPISODE 30: Failing Forward and Other Hot Takes from Tara Stand
Hi, I'm Emily. Welcome to From hustle to hell. Yes, the podcast for entrepreneurs and business owners who don't want to do business the way it's always been done. Our businesses are tools for personal freedom, also incredible tools for creating the world we want to live in. And in this podcast, this is where I share insights and interviews on entrepreneurship for small business owners craving a GPS. So hop in let's joyride to a sustainable, profitable business that does more than make money. We'll talk about how you can become a catalyst for what you wish existed, but haven't been able to create your business.
It's my absolute pleasure to share this interview with Tara Stand of Fail to Fab. This interview was originally part of the Attract Your Ideal Paying Clients Summit in 2021, and honestly it’s one of the best interviews I’ve ever had the pleasure of facilitating.
Tara captured my attention with her keen emphasis on repeatable processes, and the fact that she really knows how to frame negativity in a transformative way.
She uses her degree in Industrial Engineering and black belt in innovation to help small and medium businesses jumpstart their growth. She spent 10 years sharpening her skills with the Manufacturing Extension Partnership in New York City, and has spoken at design for manufacturing summit, the US Department of Commerce's export tech and the city of New York's Fast Track program for small businesses. Plus, she tells the best stories, you'll want to listen up especially when we start talking about how her multi level marketer friend wasn't selling candles after all, Dawn dish soap and what we can learn from it. And her meaningful unique hook pointers are solid gold - and more important than ever if you want to stand out online.
little bit? Yeah, absolutely. So first of all, I'm super excited to be here, I think it's going to be a lot of fun. So when you know, as an engineer, we don't just throw things at a wall like spaghetti and hope that they stick, right. It's all very weird, very anti, let's go with our guy and then just pray that it works. And so very much that my engineering background impacts, the way that I look about messaging is like, let's look at what the numbers say. And then make decisions based on that. So my philosophy in marketing is that a lot of those decision makings doesn't even happen in for for the owner of the company, or for the head of marketing, because it's really about what the customer is saying and what the market is telling you. And so the best way to go about that is to take a design design approach, right? So think about it as a design problem as as you would an engineering, right. And in tech startups, we're going to fail fast, and we're going to fail cheap, and we're going to test so instead of doing this, what a lot of people do is like they plan, plan, plan, plan plan, and they make it try to make it as perfect as possible. And sometimes they take hours or even worse, like weeks and months and sometimes years before they make this big, beautiful thing. And then they birth it out to the world. And then crickets, we don't want to do that. And so instead of that we use a what we call cycles of learning. In engineering, we call them Deming cycles. But that's a little nerdy. Where we have a plan, we're like, okay, we're going to try this. And then we're going to do something about it, we need to learn more like maybe we need to learn some pricings, right? Or we need to learn if, if that message is really going to resonate with our clients, or if that's the right offering, and then we'll do a little test, we'll do the quickest, shortest cheapest test that we can. We'll analyze that test. And then we'll say, Okay, well, what do we need to do? Is that does that, is that a definite? Yes. And we're gonna run with it. Is that a different? No, and we're gonna kill it and then move on to the next thing? Or do we still need to learn more like it was a little inconclusive, and we need more information. And so in that way, we can test our messaging, we can test the problems that we're solving for our clients, we can test the language, we can test, the offerings, all of those things, without spending a lot of time, effort, money and energy and love on something that ultimately no one loves as much as we do.
I, I really appreciate wanting to like get into that fail fast thing that startups do within our own businesses, even if we're not a startup, because we can really learn from that. So that's a really good point. So part of what happens when we take action on that note is sort of we get to learn more. And when we learn more, we get to get, you know, more confident. And even when we fail, we can be confident in what we've learned and we can apply it to something else. And so what are we looking for in terms of learning by doing and what is it that we can learn? For as that's happening in order to get the insight that that could get lost if we're not paying attention.
Yeah, absolutely. And so the things that you're looking for is a really simple evaluation technique. So every time we do a launch, every time my husband and I go on vacation or have an argument every time we look at new messaging or new products to launch, we use a very simple evaluation technique. And the first thing we do is we always figure out what went well, because it's so easy to go to the negative because our brains are pre wired to look for problems, right? So first of all, we go with what went well, and sometimes that what went well is just, hey, I learned something, or I tried a new thing. And it didn't actually kill me. Which is wonderful. Because sometimes it's just the first step is overcoming that fear. But we always start with what went well. And the more you do this, this list will get bigger, and the next list will get smaller. And that next list is what didn't go well. And that's where we go through. You know what, what went wrong? Right? What? No one responded it, like literally no one answered my email, literally, no clicks on my ads, things like that. Or even you know, I spent $5,000 on ads, and I got five clicks, what what happened? And so then that next step, so that's step two, step three is what? What improvements can I make? Right? So is it calling five of my current customers to talk to them about what they really liked about us? And what they don't really like? And what they'd like to see us? What else? What else? What else? Is it going to look at our previous ad campaigns that worked really well and saying, Okay, well, what language do we use? How did we, how is this different? What isn't hitting quite right? So there's a lot of different things that we can test right to fail forward. And then the next thing is the most important, which is next steps, right? So we can list a list of improvements till you know, five miles long, but unless we actually figure out what those next steps are, and then put dates to them, we won't act on them. And then that whole five minute evaluation technique goes out the window, and we didn't do anything. So
you said a phrase that I really, really like, which is fail forward? Can you tell us a little bit more about fail forward?
I would love to. So I think that there's so much angst, right about failure in our lives, it starts when we're young, right? It starts when we're at school, and typically, particularly American schools, right, you get a grade. And if you get a D, like, That's it, or an F, and that's it, and you fail, and you may have to retake a class, but there's no chance that you can demonstrate your learning by saying, Okay, well, can I resubmit it? Or can you just tell me what I did wrong? And I'm going to work on it and give it back to you, right? So we're already conditioned from a very young age to say failures bad. And we don't want to do that. And so if we're gonna fail, we're just not going to move forward, we're just going to, like, go do something else that we know that we can be successful. But in reality, failures where all the learning happens, right? And so I want to take back that word as something that's actually really positive, because you're not done until you just stop getting up off the ground from your last failure. And so that feeling forward is really about okay. Yeah, it didn't work exactly how we want it to be. And maybe it was a spectacular, awful hot mess that I never want to think about it again. But, right, because I happens to happen in life in business. It happens. And so but we take that, and instead of going, I don't want to think about it, I just want to go move on to the next thing. Take a second. And where that learning happens is in that valuation stuff where we're actually figuring out what can I take from that? What did I learn from that? What can I move forward with, right? And so in that way, we're really taking that failure and pushing it to our advantage, because now we learn something that we shouldn't do again, right? Or we learned, Hey, maybe I don't know, something that I didn't even know I didn't know before. Right. And so that's great. And that's what failing forward is all about.
Love that. So inspiring to think of failure is less about one and done and more about iteration. I mean, that's really what it is. So I love that.
It's like taking that ladder and taking like little tiny steps up. And as long as we're taking little tiny steps up. A friend and a colleague of mine a dear friend of mine, always says you know, even if you only improve 10% This year, and you improve 10% Next year, the 10% After that, you're still 100% head of anybody who decided to do nothing. And that has always been really powerful to me.
I love that that is really inspiring. I it, it really starts to add up when you start thinking about failure as opportunities to expand that resistance that happens to that failure is a place where you can you can excavate, you can excavate, and you can learn from that. And, and to that end, you know, when people are making mistakes, there are some common ones that we can maybe try to avoid, like, we don't have to learn everything ourselves. what are maybe some of the mistakes that people are making in their messaging? And what can we do to fix those?
Yeah, and this is, I think, this is the hardest one in so many ways. Because when we build a business, we build it, because we feel like we have something to offer the world that the world could really use, right? And so or sometimes we started because we weren't bots, like there's a million reasons, but ultimately, all those reasons are about us, right? But in business, when you're trying to sell something, or you're trying to market something, or you're trying to even give something away, you have to really think about the other person, right? Whoever your customer or client is that you're giving this thing to whether they pay you for it or not. They have to have a reason to pick it up, right? I mean, think about all of those robo calls that you get about like, you want a weekend at the Hyatt and the Bahamas are like, congratulations, we're giving you a free cruise for two and nobody, like I don't know, anybody that's actually like, Oh, tell me more. Good point. So because they're not overcoming that stop of, of your customers perspective of, well, what's in it for me, right? If you're not solving a problem for me, if you're not fulfilling a wish, or a desire for me, I'm not going to buy and so in our messaging, often will say like, this is the greatest thing since sliced bread. And so because it's amazing and awesome, and I built it, then you should totally buy it. And expecially people who do not love you already are just gonna walk by and be like, That's just another person Hawking their wares. Instead of really thinking about that other person, right? Your customer who is the person that pays your bills, right? You are not actually, as a business owner, you're actually the person who pays your own bills, it's the people that pay you to deliver a service, give them a thing, do something for them. And so you have to really serve the person that's paying your bills. I think that's the biggest mistake. And so instead of saying, you know, a friend of mine had gotten into, like a multi level marketing years and years ago about selling candles, right? And so she's like, well, there's so many people in my area that do this, how can I stand apart and like, Well, why do people use candles? What are some of the things that they use candles for? And if you build your party's like your home parties, around those problems, like, oh, I need a moment to myself, I need a moment of relaxation. Now you're selling relaxation, you're not selling candles to candles anymore, right? Like, that's the way that you sell relaxation. Or like, hey, I want to feel sexy, or I want like a romantic moment with my partner. And then you're selling like romantic, sexy instead of fat candle. It's just the vehicle that you're using to do that. So I think that's the long answer. The short answer is instead of selling this thing that you love, sell it like love your customer, and what problems that they have. And once you start loving your customer and their problems, and solving those problems for them, instead of the thing, it's becomes a lot easier, right? Because then you're not me, like if a thing fails, then it's okay. Because there's still other ways that you can solve these problems for your customer. And have them paid pay you for it, which is amazing. Yeah,
yes. Yes. So finding, so you talk about something that called a meaningful, unique hook. And I want to know what a lot more about that.
So being meaningfully unique is a really it's a very simple concept, but it's also really powerful. So first of all, something has to be meaningful to your customer. Right? So if I have,
let's say, you know, three headed horse, for example. Sometimes my examples get weird when I do them on the fly.
Right? That's not really very, it's unique, right? I think we can all agree that a 300 force is very unique. But if you're going to mass market with 300 horse, like it's not very meaningful, right? It doesn't do anything for us that one headed horse can't do, right. And so, can you really justify the costs of creating a three headed horse on the other side, like you can have something meaningful? Like, let's say, Joy dish soap, right? But it's not very unique. There's dish soaps everywhere. And so Oh, which isn't to say that commodities cannot become meaningfully unique. And that's actually the secret behind companies like Dawn, companies like tide, the thing that they do is it despite the fact that just soap laundry detergent are, by any stretch of one's imagination, a commodity, right? Like you can't not make it a commodity, the reason that they can demand more money for the same product on the shelf as a joy, or I guess I don't even bother looking at other brands. Is because every year they innovate, right? So it's not just tied, it's tied with race. It's not just tied, it's tied with this company, right? So they're making their product meaningful, I can get clean clothes out of it. And unique because nobody else offers tied with for breeze, right? Nobody else offers those dual benefits that you can get. And so that way, it's unique. Same thing with Don, one of the things that Don like Don's like, Okay, we have a problem to solve. And that problem is that people washed it, like people need clean dishes, right. And then what they learned is, it's actually really fascinating, or at least to me, because I can geek out over it. But what they learned is that the way that we wash dishes has actually changed over time. So instead of just putting dishes in like a bin or whatever, and letting them soak, what they found is people are just putting dish soap on the sponge and start washing, they're like, Wait, aren't you soap doesn't work very well that way. And so what we're going to do is we're going to create a whole new formula and market it for like, quick dishwashing, like you've got two dishes, just like put it on the spot, wash the dish, and you're done. And it's pre formulated, it comes in different packaging, and it looks very different. And now we can charge a premium for that. And so in that it's meaningful because it washes the dishes. And it's unique because no buddy else is solving that problem in that way.
I love how you're comparing dish soaps, because that's really accessible. And also, the other thing that that Don does that maybe as part of their meaningful, unique hook isn't even related to dishes, right? Like Don is particularly good at cleaning, oh, oil spills, right and cleaning up animals. And so they have this
whole National Wildlife Society. Yeah, so that is actually a thing. Again, another thing, and not only that, it does something else. So one, it's unique, because nobody else no other soap has a partnership with the National Wildlife Society. The other thing that it does, so we have, right when we're building out our messaging, we have like, what problem are you solving? What promise Can you can you give to your customer that you're gonna solve that problem for them? The other side of that is the proof. And so the proof that Don works is that Look how amazing we are at cutting grease and gentle because nobody else cuts grease on wild animals, so they can get rereleased into the wild. And that's such a huge reason to believe them. That's such a huge proof that it is Onyx scapel blee better than anyone else. Right?
Yes, that is such a great example of how to use your meaningful, unique hook in like multiple at multiple levels, right? Really take it to the next level there. And that really makes sense because they're, you know, like, like with dish soap. You know, for example, in my business, there are hundreds of 1000s of other people who are doing very similar work to what I'm doing, and even in the same field. And so making how do we try to make ourselves unique? What are what are some ways that we sell based on our uniqueness? So like not just what makes us different? But how do we leverage that when we're selling as opposed to just saying, Look at me, I'm different? What are what are some really specific examples and insight you can give us?
Yeah, so the first thing, it really starts with your customer and deciding who you want to serve. And so what am I one of my favorite examples, right, is that a lot of women in particular will be like, Oh, well, I want to sell to Mom, mom entrepreneurs, right? Or I want to sell the moms or I want to sell because that's a major life changing moment. But okay, but what kind of moms, right, because a mom with a newborn has very different issues than a mom with a teenager, which has very different issues than a mom of a toddler and has very different issues to a mom whose children have flown the nest and are already very settled. And so what Who are you talking to? Because we just like, hey, all moms, no one's gonna listen to you. And And likewise, if you say, hey, everybody in their brother really needs my new amazing product and but in reality, if you walk into Grand Central Station, and you're like, Yo person, no one's got like, you might get a couple people looking to see who the crazy person is yelling, but you're not gonna get a lot of people turning around. However, if you get super specific and you're like, hey, bye Bob in the yellow shirt and the long red hair, everyone's going to turn around, even though they're not Bob in the yellow shirt with long red hair, because they're like, Wait, there's a story here. And I want to know how it ends, right? Like, they become curious, even though it's not for them. So you end up getting, you know, three quarters of Grand Central Station turning around looking at you simply by virtue of creating a story for them, even if it's not for them. And so that's the first step is really nailing down who your very specific customer is. The next part of that is saying, Okay, well, what problems do they have that I can solve? And so maybe, you know what, one of my favorite stories is actually not even to begin with. But one of my favorite stories is I don't even know their name. So this is a crap story. And I'm sorry for that. But it's interesting. This person who was a yogi, and they wanted to, like you said, right, like, tons of people sell the same thing. And the people that are really successful find a unique, meaningfully unique way of selling it. So what he said is like, Okay, well, I want to sell yoga, but who is my customer? Who, who really needs like that flexibility, the ability to have core strength, all like, Inner Inner Peace in the moment. It's like weight high powered executives, or like people who work in offices really mean yoga. So let me just create yoga for the office. Right? And so yoga for the office became like, he's not doing anything fundamentally more different than other Yogi's except for finding a really specific niche. And now, when, as an executive, and like, oh, well, I want to bring a unique perk into my office, you know, this yoga instructor or this yoga instructor, this yoga instructor that works with people with like, maybe joint issues, and this yoga instructor that maybe works with pregnant ladies. Oh, and this one actually does things specifically for the office. It's a no brainer choice. Right? And that's what you want to do with your uniqueness is that for that customer segment, you want to make yourself a no brainer choice. And the, the way to do that, like, you can make shit up in the like, not it has to be true. It has to be true. Right? Right. Right. But in that way, like he didn't make up yoga, he didn't create yoga for the office in a completely new way. He reimagined it in a way that saying, like, let me just pluck something unique out of the sky. And like this is now my path. But now because it's for the office, I actually have a whole bunch of ideas for services and products that I can also sell these people. Because again, I'm in love with solving the problem of people having back issues in their office, instead of selling yoga.
Yes, and so getting creative around. Maybe that niche that we're serving, you know, niching down can sound really scary. Because we think of it as a funnel where like, you know, you know, these are your potential customers, and you're narrowing it down to like a smaller group of people. But you know, just like you've pointed out, you know, that can actually be more powerful for your brand that you're building that can actually lead you to having more impact on those people that you are reaching, and they become your customers, because you're identifying a very, very specific thing for them. And that's part of your meaningful, unique hook. I really like thinking about, and the way that you talk about using our creativity in this way. I think so often, we try to think about just how we get creative about how we talk about it, which is part of it. But really getting creative about where our niche is, is like a really interesting way of adding a different kind of creativity. So I think that's it's a really neat perspective. What is so we're coming up on the on the end of our time together. I know, this has been so interesting. I love the stories that you've told. They really just highlight exactly what what we're talking about today. And, and so what is of all of these of all this stuff that we've talked about, and of what you know about your, your clients and your experience, what is one thing, one piece of actionable advice that if we do it, we're gonna see a positive shift?
Yeah, I think it is. Get real and this is hard. It sounds so simple. Like you said that shifting down and reaching down and it doesn't have to be niching down to like one idea, but rather an umbrella of like, what problems you're solving for that person. And so right because you can solve the problem, back problems in the office many, many different ways. So just because like I am interested in yoga, I might be also really interested in tech analogy I might really like as far as different gadgets that you can use on your back. And I might be interested in central oils and things like that, I can put that all under ISIL back problems for people in the office, right. And so I think that the most important thing, and again, it's so hard. And this is undeniably with my clients, this is what we spend the most time on. Because once you got this, you can go so far, because we always talk like, oh, you know, I have clarity now. And then I made $100,000 My business next year. And that's absolutely true. Right? Because once you have clarity, like all of the other steps become like, got to sound really Pat, but really clear, right? And so I am super clear on those three things, right? So who is my target number one target customer, and then add a modifier to it in some way, right. So like, not just moms, but like moms who have five kids, or not just moms, but moms who have five kids and want to go to Disney for you know, $2,000, or things like that, right? So, first step is add a modifier. The second thing is getting really clear on what specific problem we are solving for them. Once you have those two things, being really meaningfully unique in your offer, or the promise to solve those things becomes even easier. And so even if you start with the thing, right, so let's say like my friend who is selling candles, right, I'm already starting with the thing. Well, now I have to think go backwards, right? What problems why do people buy the candles in the first place? And sometimes it's okay, if you don't know yourself. The thing that I love about this amazing world of information, like this information rich world that we live in, is that there are no problems that have not been solved. Yeah, I mean, there are but not really in your life, right? I mean, large physics, space, ocean type problems, but go ask somebody like, why are you buying candles today? Like what's happening in your life? Why? And if you're a candle by yourself, really think about what drives you to do that. I have a friend, she actually has, she has no smell. She she was born without a sense of smell, smell. And there was this, like, we used to all work in an office together, many, many, many moons ago. And we became good friends. And we still talk today. But when we when we were in our 20s. And she would use she would take one of us to go buy linen spray with her. Like, why do you smell? She's like, well, you know, if I want to how to gentleman collar over. I want to make sure that everything's like nothing's turning him off. Right. And so that's a fence. Like, that's such a bizarre niche of like, we make things that smells so good. You don't even have to question it. Because right you don't have to bring a girlfriend with you shopping for linens.
That is such a great examples like so great. Oh my gosh.
Well, I think that that is that is the one thing you know, definitely to put it down in point like once you get your customer problem, promise and proof that you can solve that problem. I think once you have that it makes so much other things easier, because then it's not a good decision. Right. I had I'll tell you one more quick story about a company worked with China name drop on name drop, because yeah, I wouldn't say so. Mike's hot honey. Miner. Like, if you haven't had it, you should go try it. It's kind of like, do you know me? He's great. Super sweet guy. He's amazing. So early on in his company, what are the problems that he was having? Is he like, he's like, I really want people to think of this not as honey but as a condiment. And so I have this lid that to me says condiment, but it doesn't pour like people have trouble getting the honey out of it. Or this typical honey lid, but I don't want them to like think that it's typical honey, right? So he's really struggle like it took him like, at some point. He comes he's like, I've really been struggling with this. Like I've really been thinking about it for like a couple weeks. And like Mike just ask people he's like, wait, what? I might ask it like cuz you bought it at that point. He was going to grocery stores and like, take the two lids be like, which one do you like better? Doesn't matter. Like or buy a short supply stand in Whole Foods while you've got two different bottle lids and see which are they being picked up at the same at the same like rate is one clearly being picked up more than the other? Like that's not a decision you have to make as a business owner. Your customers will make it for you. And ultimately, what he found out is that his customers don't give it crap about which lid was on their thing. They're like, No, I love spicy honey. I don't really care what kind of lid it has on it as long as I can get my honey out. And so in that way he took after that he took the weekend and did what I what I said like he. And he's like, he comes back to me on like Monday or Tuesday. Remember, he's like, yeah, they don't care. Makes it you've been stressing over this for weeks. And ultimately, it wasn't your decision. It's always your market's decision in that way. Like, it's just not about you.
That is such a fun story. Thank you so much for sharing that. Before one last thing, if one last question. We're going to we're going to be posting a freebie alongside this interview from you. So people will be able to access that. But beyond that, what is MIT what are maybe a couple of ways that people can find you and engage with you.
Ah, don't I hide. Um So beyond that, the way that you can find me is I have a podcast called the valence band podcast. It's on Apple podcasts, and Spotify. And I have a go a daily, sometimes weekly newsletter that I send out with like interesting business bytes and philosophy and stuff like that. And I'm Facebook page. So at fieldpath. Everything's built, that website failed, failed, failed, failed. Because again, I want to reclaim that failure as something that brings you closer to being amazing.
Tara, thank you so much for the amazing insights that you shared with us today. I'm I'm walking away with some really great stories to keep in mind around my own work. I know that this I know that other people are too. And just thank you so much for being here. Thank you so much for sharing so much of your of your knowledge with us so freely. And and I'm so excited to connect with you and hear more on your podcast. So thank you so much.
Absolutely. Thank you so much, Emily for having me. This was absolutely amazing. Oh, and I forgot if you have any questions, email me at Tara at failed fab.com
Thank you, Tara,
thank you so much for having so much fun. You're really