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Interview with Tracy Sheen – Leaning Into Tech & Tackling Technophobia – Episode #48

“At the end of the day, your business is your database.”

Tracy Sheen is recognized as a Certified Practicing Marketer by the Australian Marketing Institute. She is a speaker, small business digital coach, and the author of “The End of Technophobia: a practical guide to digitizing your business”. With over 30 years of experience in marketing, sales & small business technology, Tracy works with businesses to up-skill their digital understanding.

She has facilitated over 2000 workshops and webinars and is one of a handful of federally approved small business advisors. Tracy is a regular on judging panels for various Australian industry awards including the Australian Marketing Awards and the Australian Podcasting Awards.

In this episode, we talk about the challenges with hosting and growing a podcast, why CRMs are vital to small businesses, why your website is your true “digital real estate,” what digital overwhelm means to her, the challenges with marketing a book, how technophobia affects small business owners today and how it could potentially affect Millennials and Gen Z professionals 30-40 years from now, and more!


Full Episode Transcript:

Kenny Soto  0:03  

We are now recording in 54321. Hello, everyone and welcome to Kenny Soto’s Digital Marketing podcast. Today’s guest is Tracy. Hi, Tracy, how are you?


Tracy Sheen  0:16  

Hey, how you doing? I’m very well, it’s Friday afternoon in Australia. So you’re lucky, you’ve got me before my first one.


Kenny Soto  0:25  

That’s good to hear. So, before we started recording, you mentioned something that’s going to make me deviate just slightly. Because normally, when I start these interviews, I like to give context for the audience asking the guest, why they got into digital marketing, but you mentioned something that I think would be even better, which is you said you were the pioneer of podcasting in Australia. So could you elaborate on that comment, please?


Tracy Sheen  0:55  

Yeah, well, not the Pioneer. So I’m one of the early early adopters of podcasting in Australia. So I, one of my many careers in the lead up to figuring out what I wanted to do when I grow up, was to work in radio. So I did some radio announcing and copywriting and stuff like that. So when podcasting became a thing, I started listening to podcasts when they were still RSS feeds. 


And when they kind of started to become a thing, and iTunes picked them up and started pushing them out. I went, I kind of went, Okay, this is a way that we can really small business owners build, reach and grow communities. So I started podcasting, probably now about 11 years ago, 10 years ago. And it wasn’t really a big thing in Australia at that point. So I launched my first show, which was a huge failure, sat back launch, the second show kinda went, Yeah, okay, that I get it a little bit more. 


And they wanted to do something that was really differences, setback, looked around what was out there. And then I launched the world’s first panel style podcast. So my show was called not another business show. And it ran for about 18 months. And then I got too busy. Because everybody started to say, how are you putting this together? This is really unique, blah, blah, blah. But it’s actually in the middle of getting revamped right now. So very exciting. I’m pulling together a new group of people to create panels. So the idea was we did a 360 look at a business topic, as opposed to speaking to an expert and going narrow, but deep on a topic.


Kenny Soto  2:33  

For the listeners who are trying to pitch the idea of their team starting a podcast, what? Foundational, or I guess, what tidbits of advice can you give them so that they start off in the right step, if you will.


Tracy Sheen  2:55  

Do some work around your interview skills, research and interview. So a lot of what I do now is teach people how to interview. And that will set apart a into a podcast, if people can hear that you’ve put time, effort and energy into researching and interviewing. 


And then of course, Kenny is you know better than most people into the editing. So put the put the work into that and show the team or show the company that you have thought this through from an end user point of view. So storyboard it out, what would it look like? Who are you going to talk to? Why are you going to talk to them, present some research around why they’re a good fit, and then show the company how you would break that down? To make it a bite sized was nibble chunk for the audience, and then how you can repurpose it to use as an ongoing promotional tool for the business.


Kenny Soto  3:51  

This is a leading question, because I’m certain that I already know the answer. But I want to get your opinion, does having a podcast? Or I guess, is having a podcast, the best kind of strategy. If you are a business to consumer company, or b2b company, does it really matter?


Tracy Sheen  4:16  

I think it depends on who your audience is. A lot of what I see now is people get into podcasting because they enjoy it. Flip it, it needs to be about your client. So if your client is of an age group or demographic, or a psychographic that enjoys audio, then absolutely or podcasts will add credibility. They add, you know, a wealth of kind of goodness to the business.


 But make sure that you know who your audience is before you launch him because, again, Kenny, you’ve been doing this for over 12 months. There’s a lot of work that goes into making a podcast, right? Not just good. So you know, don’t leap in and go this is going to be the thing that’s going to set us apart because it is a lot of work. So, I mean, you can repurpose it to the cows come home, which is fantastic.


 So you create the podcast and from that you’ve got blogs, social content, emails, templates, downloads, all that kind of stuff that you can create. But at the end of the day, if your audience aren’t audio files, then perhaps is not the best strategy. So start with the end in mind and start with your audience in mind.


Kenny Soto  5:26  

Moving into some specifics, when it comes to digital marketing, my next question is, why are CRMs important for small business owners? And why should they leverage them?


Tracy Sheen  5:40  

Hmm, okay, so a CRM system, in my opinion, is probably the single most valuable piece of data that you own about your business. At the end of the day, your business is your database. So if you’re, like most business owners, I know are building this with the desire to either scale up or sell up, at some point, you need to have something to sell, you need to have something to scale. 


So if you’re looking to scale, you need procedures, systems, policies, everything in place, and part of that is going to be a robust CRM, that you can just grow the business through. So you know, you’re tracking leads, you’re tracking data of conversations, you’re tracking all of that good stuff. If your end plan is to sell up, then one of the things that’s going to entice a buyer is to be able to say, I have a database of X number of people and the size of the database is really kind of dependent on what it is you’re selling. 


But let’s say we’ve got a database of 10,000 people, and I can show you that of those 10,000 people, you know, X percentage are regular purchases, our open rate is this out, you know, so you’re able to quantify what it is that you’re trying to sell instead of some kind of a theoretical, you know, we’ve got a social media following of 32,000 people or whatever, which we all know doesn’t really convert into dollars unless you’ve got a solid strategy behind it. 


So CRM is probably, in my opinion, the single most important piece of data capturing business building software that you’re going to have. And the second part to that is how do we leverage it, you keep going back to the data. And then marketing now for me is not about you know, waiting to switch on a light switch, it’s being able to go back and look at what you know, about the clients that you’re working with. 


And continually funnel that continually streamline that, continually hone that until you know exactly, you know, what makes a client convert what takes them from potential client to purchase or what keeps them in the system, what brings them back as a return client, what then brings them into a raving fan to bring clients into the business, if you’re not tracking that data about, you know, open rates, conversion rates, you know, where they’re going on your social, where they’re going on your website, what that’s looking like how long they’re spending, all that kind of stuff, then you don’t really have any, any data you’re shooting into the brace.


Kenny Soto  8:27  

This is a question that I’m going to ask based on some of the posts that you have published on LinkedIn. What is more important, your website or your social media channels?


Tracy Sheen  8:44  

For me, it’s always website. First, it’s the only piece of digital real estate you’ll ever own. That’s not to say social media is not important, because we all know that it’s it’s really important. But, you know, just last year during quiet when COVID was big, first time around in Australia or we were all in lockdown as a country. And, you know, we had people scrambling to move online for the first time. I had three clients that I can think of off the top of my head that lost their social media pages, for whatever reason, trolls, whatever reason, and they lost their entire business overnight, because they didn’t have a website with any kind of capturing system off the back end to transition people into a CRM or into a database. So website first always, and your socials and everything else that you’re posting and talking about should be funneling people back to your website.


Kenny Soto  9:48  

You define for the audience what digital overwhelm means to you?


Tracy Sheen  9:57  

Yeah, so a lot of the people I work with Kenny and probably or older than most of your audience. So a lot of my clients and people I work with are over 40. So they’re Gen X. And technology happened to them. So they’re not digital natives. You know, they didn’t have computers at school, they didn’t grow up with tech. 


And consequently, everything feels to them as though it’s happened to them, you know, Facebook happened to them, the iPhone happened to them, emails happened to them out of out of high school, they had to get their head around that and then websites happened to them. And then social media has just been a tsunami of, of digital overwhelm, and they don’t really know where to start, they’ve often become adept at a couple of things, because they’ve had to, you know, maybe they use a particular couple of platforms in their business. 


And through that, they’ve kind of figured out how to post to Facebook, or figured out how to use Instagram or something like that. But they don’t really know, the nuances, they probably don’t know how to run ads, they don’t know how to track conversions. They don’t know a lot of the stuff that you know, we take for granted, so overwhelmed for them is just literally they’re exceptionally good at what they do. 


But everywhere they turn somebody saying to them, oh, you need to be on Facebook, you need to be on clubhouse, oh, why aren’t you sending an email newsletter, when was the last time you updated your website, if you’ve got SEO in place, you know, and it’s just one more thing after another, they’ve probably been burnt by a web developer, they’ve been burnt by an SEO person or they’ve been burned by a marketer, or they’ve tried to run Facebook ads or Google ads in the past. And that hasn’t worked. So they just throw their hands up and go on, none of this stuff works. So it’s just the the thought that all of this stuff has happened to them, and they’re now trying to navigate their way out of it.


Kenny Soto  12:01  

Now, let’s segue. And this is a great segue actually, to talking about your book, can you explain to the audience what your book is about?


Tracy Sheen  12:12  

Yeah, so my book is called The End of technophobia, A Practical Guide to digitizing your business. And again, my audience is typically those that are over 40. And technology’s happened to them. So over the past, I’ve been in, you know, marketing, sales and small business technology since 1990. 


So, you know, probably before you, a lot of your audience was born, to be honest, I got into the industry when mobile phones were like two years old, and in Australia, so been here and at the leading edge of small business marketing since then. So as part of the launch of SMS technology, I was part of the crew that bought iPhones to Australia, all that kind of stuff. 


So over the last few years, as I transitioned into working with small business owners in a marketing capacity as a marketing coach and doing some digital marketing, agency kind of stuff, I kept hearing the same things over and over and over again, and that’s, you know, we’re overwhelmed. We’ve been burned before, we’re looking for more time back in the business, we’re looking for more money, we’re looking for more leads. So over the last couple of years, I partnered with the Australian federal government as one of the proof advisors for one of their programs called the Australian Small Business Advisory Service. 


So during the last two years, I’ve worked with over 400 small business owners, and just kept hearing the same things over and over and over again. So I put all of their questions into a book called The End of technophobia. And I really just, it’s, I don’t know, Kenny, if you remember, the old dummies guides, you know, dummies guide to SEO, or dummies guides, or whatever. So I really wanted to design my book similar to that. So lots of screenshots, lots of, you know, okay, sit in front of your computer, or sit in front of the phone and do this. 


Now, it should look like it does on the page. If it doesn’t go back, you know, start again. And it seems at first a little counterintuitive to write a book about technology. You know, when there’s so many digital options, I could have done webinars, I could have done, you know, whatever. And I’ve done a lot of that stuff. But my folks are overwhelmed by tech, they need something that they can sit down, take their time, just go to the section that’s relevant to them in the moment. So maybe they want to know a little bit about SEO, they’ve heard about it, but they don’t really know what that means. 


They can go to the section of the book and it’s really back to basics very kind of foundational level. Here’s what it means. Here’s why you need it in your business. And here’s what you need to know to go in now. Have a conversation with an SEO expert and not feel like Like, you have no idea what they’re talking about. 


So it’s really for me upskilling, that portion of the market that are just overwhelmed, bringing them from overwhelmed to the point where they can have a conversation with people, negotiate with contractors to get the work done, and get the best work done for their business that they can and also know, you know, then what they don’t need to do, because let’s face it, we don’t need to be on every platform, we don’t need to be doing everything, we just need to be doing the things that are right for our clients. 


So it’s about bringing them up to speed with what they need for their business, to then future proof their own business. So they’re going to be here in another 12 months, five years time. So, you know, let’s face it, technology is not going to stop moving. So they need to be prepared to take the head out of the sand now and do some upskilling or they’re not going to be here and another, you know, 1218 months,


Kenny Soto  15:59  

I asked this next question, knowing fully well that I am a culprit of doing this myself, which is why I want to ask you how can people who aren’t millennials and Gen Zers prepare themselves for their 50s and maybe even their 60s if they’re still working, so that they’re continually upskilling and preparing for the future where technology’s changing at an exponential rate. And they don’t end up having technophobia themselves when virtually virtual reality, augmented reality, and any new platforms come into play that we can’t foresee?


Tracy Sheen  16:46  

Yeah, absolutely. Look, it’s a real thing, isn’t it? I mean, even, you know, I can remember being in my late teens, early 20s. And, you know, listening to Triple J, which is in Australia, probably the most alternate kind of radio station that was around and thinking, you know, I’m never gonna be that person that stops keeping up to date with the latest music and things. 


And then something happens. And you, you know, I very comfortably live most of my life, listening to 80s. And I’m very, very happy. So I don’t know, time has this way of just kind of making you feel a little bit redundant. But I think the best way in terms of tech, it depends on whether we’re talking about, you know, a career focus or an overall focus. If I say overall, just allocate 30 minutes a week to reading a few articles, set up some Google alerts about stuff that you’re interested in.


 If they are AR is your thing, then, you know, set up Google Alerts around those and just have a skim of what’s going on. And you know, occasionally deep dive in jumping on some webinars, and stay abreast of all of the current kind of stuff follows some of the bigger corporations that you think are doing cool things like I love the stuff that Lego is doing now with, with AR and you know, setting up their virtual hub in the middle of Times Square, you know, 18 months ago, Nike is doing some cool stuff. 


So just follow some of the bigger corporations, because you know, what they’re doing now is going to be featuring for small businesses in another six months, 12 months, 18 months.


Kenny Soto  18:29  

I’m personally interested in writing a book, I don’t know if I’ll write one this year, or maybe even next year, but hopefully in the future as a a great accomplishment in my career. I do want to write at least one book. So my next question is, what are the unique challenges that can occur when you’re trying to market one?


Tracy Sheen  18:53  

When you’re trying to market a book? Yeah. Again, it’s it’s marketing your book is actually a little bit different to marketing your business. So for me, that was that was a whole new thing that I had to learn, because it’s dealing with bookstores and publishers, and, you know, Amazon and booktopia, and Book Depository and places that Barnes and Noble and, you know, places that you never normally would have to deal with and figure out how they work and what that looks like and how you operate within that sphere. 


So I definitely in preparation, I wish I would have followed a few of, you know, the authors that I aspire to. So I think if you want to be a good writer, or a good author of business books, you need to follow people that are already doing that, and seeing how they’re marketing and seeing what they’re doing. As much as in I don’t like that, or you know, geez, I think they could have done that differently. 


Or, Hey, I never would have thought of that. That’s really cool. But it’s about having a solid strategy just you know, similar to marketing your business. So, you know, getting on podcasts and being able to talk about your topic developing products off the back of the book. So when someone says to you, Hey, Kenny, the books great, what now you can say, well, you know, that’s that’s excellent. 


I’ve got masterclasses on the three sections of the book, I’ve got a retreat coming up, you know, I do online programs. So it’s, it’s developing the ecosystem around the book. So you’ve got the book almost becomes a business in itself that you can then market with confidence, because you’ve got a whole ecosystem that you’re building around it.


Kenny Soto  20:41  

Two more questions. What are some of the core skills and these could be hard or soft skills that you have leveraged throughout your career?


Tracy Sheen  20:53  

The biggest one, Kenny networks, you know, there’s an old saying your network is your net worth. And that’s never been truer, you know, we have no excuses now, not to be connected globally. And I would say connect up, connect down and connect sideways. 


So for me, that means, you know, if we’re talking your audience, you said to me was kind of, you know, millennials and Gen Z’s and stuff, connect up. So connect into the likes of me Gen X’s baby boomers that are in the prime of our C suite, or business owning careers and looking to transition out, you know, the baby boomers that are holding the really big roles now and are transitioning out, they’re typically looking to leave a legacy and they’re more inclined to, you know, offer some mentorship or offer some guidance for those that are still on their way up in their career. So definitely connect up into the older generations connect down. 


So you know, who’s coming behind you what, who’s doing cool stuff that you can connect into now, because you, you’re going to be learning from the people that come behind you. And then by connect sideways, I mean, look at who’s doing what you’re doing, but in different countries or in different states. So often in Australia, we feel quite isolated, because we’re, you know, on the other side of the planet to most of the cool stuff going on. 


So I made sure that I built a strong network in the states in the UK and Europe and things like that, because what’s going on for us in the states now will typically hit Australia in another 12 months.


Kenny Soto  22:36  

Last question, and this one is hypothetical. If you had access to a time machine, I can go back 10 years into the past, knowing everything you know, now, how would you accelerate the speed of your career? 


Tracy Sheen  22:55  

I don’t know that I could have accelerated the speed because I, you know, being involved in technology, technology took the pace that it took. So I would say instead of trying to speed up your career, I would say lean into your career. I knew from the time that I was five or six, because I grew up with parents who were self employed. So I knew, you know, as I was starting school, that one day, I was going to be self employed. 


So when I was going through my corporate career, I was never afraid to jump ship. So I knew as long as I could sell and market, I would always have business once I got my own business. So I was never afraid to once I felt like I’d learned the core competencies from say my time in radio. 


So once I’d learned, you know, how to write, copy, and how to post an on air. On Air production, I learned, you know, did a lot of study and was was mentored a lot around interview techniques and things like that. Once I felt like I had that, and there was nothing more that I could learn in radio. 


I jumped ship and went to TV and did the same thing again, how do I write copy for TV? How do I place ads for TV? What’s the difference between media placement and copy placement for radio versus TV? So I learned the nuances between those and then I was prepared to jump again went into events Alright, well what is knowing what I know about radio and TV? How does that link into events? What what do I need to think about hosting an event building an event running an event from a media point of view but also from an in person point of view. 


So once I learned that I was prepared to move on so if you if you know that you’re attracted to a particular niche within the digital marketing space or within the broader marketing space, don’t be afraid to chase down You know, you’ve got to back yourself at the end of the day, you’re an employee number.


 And you’re always going to, you know, if you’re working for bigger corporation, you’re always going to be a number on this spreadsheet. If at any point you’re looking to go solo, then you know, don’t be afraid to reach out to people and go, Hey, can I have 30 minutes of your time? I’m really keen on learning a little bit more about this or I’m keen to investigate this area, I see that you’ve you’ve done it, could you give me 30 minutes of your time and, and just start to reach out and have conversations developing networks early on. 


But don’t rush it like weighing in and have fun because really, if you’re in the digital marketing space, or the tech space, you can’t speed it up, the things are going to happen the way that they’re going to happen. And it was a I think it was a German philosopher might have you ever been Voltaire and Steve Jobs used to quote him to say that life doesn’t make sense. When you’re moving forward.


 It’s only when you look at it in review, that the pieces start to come together. So another way of saying that is Buckminster Fuller calls that the critical path that you have to go through those certain things and you reach a point like I’m just in the middle of launching my first online membership. 


And it’s only now that I’m having conversations with state government and local government and things working to bring in groups of small business owners into my community that I can say, Hmm, if I hadn’t have done you know, the podcast when I had done it if I hadn’t have been an advisor for the federal government when I had if I hadn’t have done those various things, I wouldn’t have had the skill set that I have now to be having those conversations with those people to be bringing this new product to life so ride the wave lean in and hang on and have fun


Kenny Soto  26:55  

amazing Tracy if anyone wanted to say hello to you online where can they go?


Tracy Sheen  27:01  

Yeah look I would have been Tracy Sheen the digital guide that I’d be reasonably easy to find. I’m on LinkedIn you’ll find me at you know just just look up Tracy Sheen individual guide or Tracy sheen. I think I’m Tracy sheen CPM. CPM stands for Certified practicing marketer. I’m on Facebook at Tracy, Sheen, the digital guide, and my websites that digital Because I’m based in Australia. 


But yeah, absolutely reach out. LinkedIn is probably the easiest way considering you speak to corporates just drop me a line and mentioned that you caught the episode on Kenny show so I know why you’re reaching out and always happy to help out if I can.


Kenny Soto  27:40  

Perfect. Thank you for your time today, Tracy and thank you to you the listener for listening to another episode of Kenny Soto as Digital Marketing podcast. And as always, I hope you have a great week. Bye.


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