#12. How Tracey Wallace Went from Journalist to Content Lead to Founder

We caught up with Tracey Wallace a few months ago while she was still the Editor-in-Chief at BigCommerce.

Today, Tracey’s gone on to serve as strategist and writer at 2PM (To Polymaths) and found eco-friendly pillow company, Doris Sleep.

Here’s how Tracey transitioned from journalism to content at startups, before going out and starting her own enterprise.

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FYI: At the time this podcast was recorded, Tracey  was still serving as Editor-in-Chief at BigCommerce. Now, she has fully transitioned to her new role at 2pm.

Tracey : (00:00)

Hello. Hey, what’s going on? Not much. Let me see why my video isn’t working. Hold on. Hi.

Brad: (00:08)

Oh Hey. What’s going on?

Tracey : (00:10)

Oh, and not much. Just hanging out here on a Tuesday afternoon. What’s going on with you?

Brad: (00:16)

Uh, the same, the same just dealing with tech problem after tech problem.

Tracey : (00:20)

Oh my goodness. No, we will, if we need to reschedule this, we can always do that as well.

Brad: (00:24)

Okay. I think we’re, we should be good. I just like restarted everything. But yeah, I had like, you know, when you think you’re being smart and you do like back to back calls with all these people. That’s never smart, like try to be so efficient and you know, uh, no except something happens and then all of them run 15.

Tracey : (00:40)

I feel like I always like make those days for myself like on a day that I have no meetings and I put it out for like a week or two weeks and then literally on the morning of that day I am like, why? Why did I, why was I so mean to myself and like why did I try this?

Brad: (00:57)

Yeah. And then I do the same thing. I’d probably read, I learned from my lesson for like two weeks and then I try it again. Yeah. And then, uh, at the end of the day I’m like, I just need to like drink a really strong drink right now.

Tracey : (01:16)

And for you too, it’s just like your head, like you’re thinking about so many different things over the course of the day. Like it should I feel you. So if technology breaks down, do not worry. You can say, Tracey , I will never do this again. Can we push this back?

Brad: (01:35)

Okay. I appreciate it. Thank you. I’ll just hang up.

Tracey : (01:41)

I love that also, I mean, honestly a good start and an ending to a podcast.

Brad: (01:49)

Yeah, for sure. Uh, well it’s nice to meet you. I don’t think we’ve ever talked like personally

Tracey : (01:54)

No, I don’t think we have, which is surprising because I feel like I’ve talked to you a lot. Just normally

Brad: (02:01)

I feel like we run in the same circles too. Like I talked to Adam yesterday and he’s like, oh yeah, he’s like our editor in chief would like any of this content. And I was like, oh Tracy, I like, I’m talking to her tomorrow.

Tracey : (02:16)

I love Adam. Adam is truly like under the radar killing it at big commerce. Yeah.

Brad: (02:22)

That’s really cool. I was jealous though because I heard last week he was in Vegas.

Tracey : (02:26)

for Affiliate Conference, aka all the affiliates out there like spending the money, they win by people clicking on their websites

Brad: (02:37)

It’s like monopoly money. It just means nothing.

Tracey : (02:38)

Yeah, exactly.

Brad: (02:41)

Yeah, for sure. Yeah. I’ve even like, uh, I’ve known Casey for a while and I worked with Kevin for a little bit.

Tracey: (02:50)

Yeah. The worst. He is doing great stuff, but it’s, it’s also the worst.

Brad: (02:55)

Yeah. How’s, how’s, have they replaced them or how’s that gone?

Tracey: (02:58)

No. So, um, no, he left right around the time, probably like two weeks after we got a new CMO. He was planning on leaving before that happened anyways. I wasn’t that like CMO by any means. Um, and that CMO with him leaving decided to hire a VP of small business because we’ve already always like a small business. Marketing, we’ve always kind of had a VP of like enterprise marketing. Um, and both segments are really important to us. So she hired VP, small business marketing and they’re building that team out similar to how our enterprise marketing teams built out with like a campaign manager. And then digital and content and comms are like a  Shared Services Model, aka big commerce has turned into a big company. It is insane. I come from a startup background and I am, I like, it’s just, it’s something else. It’s amazing. I totally get it because it’s the way that it needs to happen in order to be, um, uh, I don’t know, in order to grow and like keep things moving.

Tracey : (04:09)

But my mind’s like the bigger, what I’ve learned is that the bigger company gets the more specialized, the employees that work there get. And I have become very like very specialized. Sure. But when I first came in, and even, especially under Casey, I was doing like content marketing, Seo, digital marketing, campaign marketing, like all of it. And I miss that. Like that’s the way my brain works, right? It’s like doing every little piece of that. And now we have teams that do every piece of probably makes it a lot more effective. But so for sure I, we were lucky. I was thinking, I was thinking it’s almost like different skill sets in order. 

Tracey : (05:11)

Oh it is 100% and I, when I’m hiring content people at least historically, um, I tried not to hire people who have come from those larger orgs because, because used to, we required people to have more than just content and editing skills. Right. They also need CRO skills. They also need SEO skills. They also needed whatever else. Right now truly all the team needs is content like writing and editing skills and I’m just Dang like we’ve changed so much and like six months. But it’s also because things are growing and doing well. So you can’t like be that mad about I, I guess it is better than if  it’s all like shrinking. Right? And you’re like damn, don’t get a pay raise. You’re, yeah, you’re right. You’re right. People here are getting like pay raises and doing less work. Right. There’s all the drawbacks. We are, we’re about to hire a small business content marketing manager. So yeah,

Brad: (05:59)

I’m down. I’m down for getting more money and doing lots of work.

Tracey : (06:02)

Yeah. Yeah. It’s nice. It’s nice. Especially you, I mean, you’re doing this podcast and a million other things. What’s the day? What’s a day in the life of you?

Brad: (06:11)

Uh, so it’s kind of weird. So I get up, I got up early, so I have to do stuff early. I can’t do stuff late. Um, so I got up and go to the gym early. I just actually ran a marathon and a December, so it was like me getting up at five o’clock and running for two hours and then, uh, and then coming back and I have young kids.

Tracey : (06:33)

Yeah. Oh my God. 

Brad: (06:35)

Like making breakfast and doing all that kind of stuff and then start writing early. So I’m writing a lot less these days. But if I do write, I’m writing early, like six or 7:00 AM to maybe 11. Cause after that clients start coming in and emails start flowing in. So meetings, uh, I tried to wrap stuff up by like fourish, four or five. But you know, not always.

Tracey : (06:59)

Yeah, just kind of depends. First of all, you make me feel like such a pansy. I like stopped working out like six months ago cause I was like planning a wedding and there was a bunch of work changes happening and I do a bunch of side stuff. I was like launching that Doris stuff. Um, and I also, I love sleep. Like can’t overemphasize how much I love to sleep and I can sleep anywhere at anytime. I could drink a Red Bull and I can go sleep. Like love. It is such a treat, like the way that dogs get really excited about their favorite treat. I am that excited about the idea of sleeping at all times. Um, so I typically go to bed around like 10:30 or so. And then I usually set my alarm for 6:00 AM, but when I get really stressed, I like to sleep instead until seven. As a result, I  haven’t been working out cause that was like my time to do it. And so anyways, I don’t have young kids. So like that’s another thing that I’m not having to deal with. And I still like still feel overwhelmed and like there’s not enough time in the day.

Brad: (08:06)

No, it’s, uh, it’s crazy. I’m trying to, as stupid as that sounds, I’m trying to, I’m trying to like, stop doing stuff thats not as important.

Tracey : (08:15)

Yeah. That does not sound stupid. 

Brad: (08:24)

Congrats on the wedding. Yeah, that’s nuts. I feel like after the wedding it’s like, it stops and then you’re like, oh my gosh, I am exhausted.

Tracey : (08:29)

Yeah. Yeah. For like the next six months, it sounds like almost what you’re describing is like waking up early. I don’t know if I could ever wake up early and like, just immediately like go work out. Um, there’s a lot of reasons for that. One, like sleepiness, tiredness, but also I really hate the cold. And so like, I just like running and like middle afternoon when it’s a warm mist it could possibly be, which is saying something. Yeah, exactly. Exactly. I grew up like on the coast of Texas, so I’m like, as hot and humid as you can give it to me, that is what I’m going to go do it. Um, but I do, I like waking up early and beginning to work and or write between like six and 7:00 AM and then ideally being done by like 11:00 AM. And if I had my ideal day would be that and then go run and like work out and get lunch and all of that jazz for like two, three hours, come back, answer emails and then be done with the day.

Brad: (09:27)

Yeah, we hire writers. We are like totally going, we’re just jumping into it. That’s fine. So we hire writers and one thing we do differently, like we tell them like you’re only gonna, write. Like we’re not, you’re not gonna I don’t let clients talk to them. Like you don’t have to answer emails. You don’t have to be on Slack. Like prioritize your day so that you’re outlining your researching in the afternoon and then right in the morning. But you shouldn’t be a writer shouldn’t be working more than 35 hours. It’s not, it’s a different skill set. You’re not going to,

Tracey : (09:57)

It’s a different skillset. Writers also need to be, at least in my experience, they need to be reading industry news. And or books a lot in order to like, I dunno, it just like there’s something about it that just feeds your ability on  how to word things, how to phrase things, how to see larger trends that you can like pull in to something that ultimately make something really good. Um, editors need to be doing that as well. But an editor can only create so much of an outline. Yeah. Before, before you need the writer to take it to the next level.

Brad: (10:29)

Totally. Let’s talk about editing for a minute cause I, we work with um, this, this space is different. Like your background, you worked at like actual publications, like  actual writing, uh, in this space. A lot of times you see like writers, like content writers just get promoted to like be an editor or they hire editing teams cause we’re trying to sell content but they don’t actually edit. They just like rewrite stuff like themselves. So they don’t, it’s, so how do you, how do you become like a good writer or a good editor? Excuse me. Because especially when you’re coming from a writer, I feel like it’s almost competing skillsets. Like one thrives on creativity. Editing needs to be like super consistent across the board so people know what the expectations are. Like how do you have you like grow into that or how do, I don’t know, how do you obtain those skills?

Tracey : (11:13)

Yeah, so back in the days that I was working at Mashable, there’s this fantastic woman there named uh, Lauren Indvik, um, I hope I’m pronouncing that correctly. Um, who was our like business news editor, fashion news kind of editor. And I reached out to her and I was like, let’s please go get coffee. Like anything, like, just like pay attention and talk to me for 30 minutes if you would. Um, and so we went and got coffee. Uh, and I asked her pretty much that question. I was like, you’re amazing. Like, like one of the best writers, um, that I, I had read ever loved her work. Um, she had edited of my pieces, fantastic editor. And I was just like, why? Like, why are you focusing on, on writing? Like, don’t, don’t you want to become an editor? What’s your next  career step?

Tracey: (12:04)

And she was like, no, like I’m really heads down on writing right now. And so I asked why. Um, and she was like, because in order to be a really good editor, you first have to be a really good writer and you have to understand how to take the feedback that an editor gives you and actually incorporate that effectively into the writing so that it becomes the piece that it needs to become. And if you as a writer cannot do that, you are not cut out to be an editor. Um, and I thought that was really interesting. It’s more interesting now because she’s like the editor in chief of Conde Nast international and is like killing it. I’m like, she’s freaking fantastic. She’s covering the retail space globally. Like a lot of the like influencers and consultants and experts that I talked to look up to her as one of the best in the industry.

Tracey : (12:51)

And I’m like, that girl, the way she got there was by learning how to write and then learning how to take that feedback really, really well and then becoming an editor past that. So after Mashable, she was editor in chief over at Fashionista and then now she’s over at Conde Nast international and I was just like, man, she, first of all, she had a vision. Definitely. Um, but yeah, so I, I don’t know if that answered that question very, very well other than you’re absolutely right. A lot of people in the content marketing space, um, first of all, content marketing and journalism are two very different things. Um, in the content marketing space where you have technology companies hiring people like me. So I used to be a journalist, worked with people like the amazing learning. Um, and uh, they don’t necessarily have the media structure within them in order to cultivate really great writers or really great editors.

Tracey: (13:52)

Not to say that they can’t, there are amazing people within the organizations. Um, but I know myself, for instance, when I first got hired into a technology company, my title was Content Marketing Manager and I wrote and I edited absolutely everything that needed to be written and were at, that was how it works. Uh, today, that’s still how it works. My title is editor in chief and I don’t write as much anymore, but I do still write, I edit a lot. Um, I provide a lot of guidance on things as well, but a lot of it is editing. And I wish I could say that my editing was highlighting something and saying, it needs to be changed to this, but it isn’t. I just go in and change it and somebody else behind me goes in and changes it again and it finally gets to the point that it needs to be, um, or I guess to the spot that it needs to be added into like an executive approves it, I suppose.

Tracey : (14:41)

Um, but I think that the reason so many content marketers aren’t fantastic editors and, and, and by that I mean, I’m sure they’re fantastic at like editing something to sound great but aren’t fantastic editors in that one of the traditional roles of an editor was to provide the feedback to the writer. Like an editor was a higher position than a writer was. And as a result, they taught writers how to write better. Um, and I think you, you don’t see that happening as much on the content marketing side though. I’m sure there’s tons of people who do it. Um, because it isn’t fundamentally a media role there is like

Tracey : (15:21)

it might be more recently now that you know, content marketing has become ever more popular that technology companies have begun to hire writers and editors. That’s new. That’s two separate roles – those were the same thing at technology companies. Those were the same things at big commerce until very recently and not even until very recently we have different writers and editors, which is one role content marketer for um, different, uh, business units. But they write and they edit. Now they don’t edit their own work that will go either to myself or to like a peer, but they both write and edit. I don’t know. Does that answer?

Brad: (16:04)

No, it does. I throw myself in this boat too like I hate editing. I try not to edit things. Even my own company, like I, I try to like get someone else to do it. Cause I, I also, I don’t know as a writer I feel like I’m a half in a way cause I like I never studied journalism. I never did the writing thing. I just always read and write. I read a lot and write a lot. And then I worked, I actually worked in the space for, you know, a decade. I actually know what I’m talking or hopefully. Um, but uh, one of my frustrations with working with a lot of editors, and again this isn’t like other big, large companies because they’re like, there’s a lot of inconsistency in everything from style, the tone, the voice to whatever and some, and there’s no, it’s not, it’s not objective like a lot of other things. Very subjective. So just because something is like, I don’t know, just cause I use simple sentences doesn’t mean it’s bad. You know what I mean? It’s like there was this guy  Hemingway who also use simple sentences and that seemed to work out pretty well for him. So, I guess that’s the, that’s the tricky thing is that as this is becoming more formalized, so like the wild west too, a little to certain degree, but, um, I think it’s interesting as becoming more formalized how internal teams are evolving like that.

Tracey: (17:12)

Well, yeah, it’s interesting internal teams are evolving. It’s also interesting in that the freelancer, uh, editor relationship or freelancer content marketer relationship is more and more important. Um, I work with a group of freelancers that I really, really like. Um, maybe like two in particular that I know. No, that’s three in particular that I know if I handed an assignment off to them, I would get back exactly what I wanted. One of them actually would give me way more than I wanted. Um, but, but all in the same tone, it’s never bad to have like more content. Um, and then I have like maybe 10 others that I’m like, okay, this is going to get really, really close. Right. Um, I’ve built those up over the past four or five years. Right. Like, those people haven’t just written for me once they’ve written for me multiple times.

Tracey : (18:05)

Um, vast majority of it and I mean, and for freelancers, I speak to freelancers a lot as well. What you just mentioned earlier where a lot of content marketing editors will just go in and just change content and like that’s the content that they run with and like still give it to the freelance, give the freelancer credit, all of that jazz rather than going in and editing it. I think a lot of the freelancers that I work with or that I prefer to work with go in, read the content how I want it, like how it actually got published and they build that feedback into the next pieces that they give me. Um, that has been incredibly invaluable. A lot of times when they ask questions about it, um, they’ll like, a lot of times they will ask questions about it over email and that’s kind of how the editing process goes there.

Tracey: (18:52)

One of the other things we use here is that we do all of our, uh, content edits in Google docs. So they’ll see me in there pulling other people in, asking other people questions. Um, because when you’re, when you’re working for a company, unlike when you’re working for a media company, I guess when you’re working for a technology company or company that isn’t media, the end of the day, the content marketing isn’t meant to sell your product, but it has a purpose beyond education. Right? Um, so a lot of times I’ll be pulling in my product marketers to make sure something is worded correctly or that’s the way we’d like it positioned. We have to remove some links and or some data if it’s pulling from competitors’ sites and added in for other people or hey, do we have something that we could go find? Um, whereas in journalism and media, you’re just backchecking, like you’re just making sure that all the facts are accurate, right?

Tracey : (19:44)

You’re, you’re not having to make sure that the positioning is effective or that this one partner you use for this thing isn’t going to get mad if you didn’t use it. You use that, these people instead of this other thing. So there’s just a lot more that goes into it that, um, it’s probably why a lot of that content gets changed internally because it’s just like internal house knowledge and I don’t want my freelancers to get bored as heck working with me having a think about that stuff. I’m like, no, like I need you to get this piece of content 80% of the way there so that then I can put in the 20% that I need to in order to get it delivered. Right.

Brad: (20:20)

Yeah. I think that’s a good way of putting it because we’ve seen issues on all sides of that where, uh, working with big companies, enterprise companies, and they have like a certain partner they want to highlight and it’s like, well, we don’t know your partners. Like, like, how does anyone outside the company know how to navigate that? You know, it’s, it’s like almost impossible or, or like the way to position this feature or whatever. It’s, it’s um, it’s, um, it’s like a balancing act. I feel like of giving the writer more information, more concrete guidance on certain things, but that also expecting a certain amount of gray area where you kind of have to step in as the person on the brand side and you know, figure it out or get it across.

Tracey : (20:58)

So, yeah. So what I’ve gotten really good at, um, and this is through a lot of trial and error with asking people for things that is impossible for them to deliver on bless any of their hearts for even trying. Um, now I’ve gotten to the point where when I assign content out, even so, like my most trusted of freelancers, I’m building an outline out for them. And in each individual section I’m pulling in the links in the content and the information that I want them to completely read through to educate themselves on it. Ultimately what I want this topic to be about and that I want them to be referencing. Right. Um, I give them a list. I have like a document of about 150

Tracey : (21:35)

big commerce customers because I ask for examples a lot. Like if you’re writing on email marketing, I’m expecting to see email marketing examples and on the big commerce blog we only show big commerce customers, so they better be big commerce customers. Right? How do you make that easy for somebody? There’s an insane amount of stores are there. So I’d give them a list of like 150-200 stores that they can go through and pull examples from all of those folks. Right. And I make sure they’re pretty stores and they’re nice stores and that I like them or whatever. Um, so that helps to make it easier. Uh, oh. Also if it’s going to be like the white paper piece often include an example of something, not necessarily on the same topic, but like I, you know, I’m going to want it to be formatted like this. Um, that tends to be helpful. So any, anything that I’d want if I were them rather than just saying, hey, like go out and build me like a white paper that’s like 5,000 words on all the best, you know, email marketing trends of 2019 go. Oh okay this is a shot in the dark. You have like a 50/50 chance of that making of that like being accepted. Like what a waste of everyone’s time.

Brad: (22:46)

Yeah, for sure. I love your database idea. We actually did this one time. So as a recommendation I would give this like uh, we went through, we took, we did like a site search, so we did, in this case, like big commerce.com forward slash categories slash whatever we looked at like case studies with a VA go through and pull down and basically export all the domains, like three big examples of use.We put that in the database of like approved or what we think of is approved partners. Um, and then told people like go sign up for their email list. Like go just stalk of these companies when you’re working with this brand or whatever. Because like you said, if you don’t have that then you’re, you’re literally shooting in the dark.

Tracey : (23:25)

No, you are. There’s um, I mean we have a few tools that I really like to use to help. So um, mail charts, have you heard mail charts? Got It. Okay. You should go sign up for it immediately. You get, so essentially mail charts has it. If I could go back in time, I become like a software developer engineer because like these people are just sitting on a gold mine of a company that like automates itself. They’ve just like  they built out a bot that goes and signs up for all retailers, email lists and then they capture all that data, take pictures of all of it and put it in the backend. So you go through and say, I want to follow you, get you get to follow three brands for free and it will show you their welcome email, their transactional emails, how often they send emails. All of it’s just because they’ve signed up for all of this stuff. They have examples of the emails. You can pull those out like it’s amazing. It’s 100 bucks a month if you like, want to buy the subscription to it. Uh, and every so often, especially when we’re doing an email marketing piece, we pay the hundred bucks that month and then unsubscribe for the next month just so we can get in there and like find brands.

Brad: (24:33)

Yeah, that’s amazing. I just pulled it up when we were talking, it’s like this is so incredibly time-consuming. But the other bigger aspect of it is, one of my big pet peeves is when you see these articles that are just like, oh, uh, you should do, you know, marketing because I’m smart and like we should just listen to me or whatever

Tracey : (24:50)

Yeah, there’s no examples. It’s like include a welcome email template and then give people a discount and then send people another email with interesting news. And it’s like, what are you talking about? Just show me. Otherwise, I’m going to think you have no, like it’s, it’s something that I really tried to, one that we’ve done on our blog and then as we bring like writers and editors on, um, it’s one of the big things that I really reinforced, which is nobody has a reason to believe us. Like all the only reason anybody would trust the advice you were giving them is if, and this is my journalism background, is if you have examples, as many examples as you can possibly have. Um, now three is a pretty good baseline one even if, and like, you know, and kind of like bucketed examples. Um, but you need to have an example ideally from the brand people recognize and, or like ideally on something that looks really pretty like don’t just like show them an example of like somebody doing this.

Tracey : (25:51)

Like show them like one of the best examples you can find duh, cause nobody wants to do strategy if it’s not like good looking and nice and then two: go and talk to other people about it. So we reach out to um, like influencers and experts. I think this is how you and I even know each other, which is, you know, we reach out to folks and ask for quotes and feedback on the topics that we’re going to be covering over the next month or over the next quarter. So what’s your number one tip for Facebook marketing? What’s something you wish people knew about headless commerce, whatever it might be. Um, and then we make sure that the best of those quotes get added into that article. One, it’s fantastic for SEO because it makes it longer if those people will help you distribute it, all of that jazz. But two, it’s great for the reader because now you’re helping to reinforce the tip that you just recommended they do. Here’s an example. Oh, here’s somebody like a much smarter than us who also says you should do this. So just like helps to reinforce all of those biases people have naturally. I mean, I certainly have them, which was like, why should I trust you? Who else is doing this? Who else does it? That’s what I should do. It

Brad: (27:00)

totally. I think it’s so very important too. And I mean, we’re having writers try to build out lines and a new way where you’d tell me like what the section is about why it’s important. But then under that I want to see a mix of data points. So I want to see a case study. I want to see us, a real example. I want to see maybe a quote or a stat. And the problem is if you can’t find those things, then it means your argument as weak.

Tracey : (27:24)

Right? Right, exactly. And it’s totally fine if your argument is weak, you need to, you need to present it as such. Right. It needs to, instead of being some type of how to article or why you should do this article and maybe what you’re talking about is a rising trend where there’s not a lot of, there’s not a lot of data around it yet. Right. Maybe you’re uncovering something that only a couple of people are doing and there’s, you know, a particular vested point of interest. Um, those pieces matter a lot too. Um, they just aren’t the like maybe high SEO pieces though. If you can hop on the trend early enough and target that cue or then you can win there. You just have to be patient.

Brad: (28:07)

Yeah, definitely. So how do you do it for? One of the things I really like about so Big Commerce and now as a brand probably doesn’t have to do this. Like you probably don’t have to go into this level of detail and other things but you do because I think like you, you know, you’re doing and you’re awesome and like you guys are all super smart but especially when it comes to like the super big in-depth reports, guides, all the things you put together. How do you, like how do you manage and scale all that? Do you have like your freelance network that you lean on for like the ongoing kind of one off or you know, weekly stuff versus like in house you’re taking on like the bigger, more ambitious stuff. How do you use your split up time and resources?

Tracey : (28:45)

Oh Man. So there’s so many ways to answer this. So one first and foremost, up until about nine months ago, the way we were doing that was I was writing all of that. Um, that was, that was like the plain and simple answered all of it. Um, now the way we do it is, um, we, so for a really, really long time, the commerce partners for commercials, I can network with like 3000 partners, agency partners, technology partners, ed partners, like just friends like we know. So there’s so many people, um, that have tools and technologies who are smart, who are building really cool things that I’m wanting to be featured on our blog. And for a really long time, our answer to them was no. Um, because we were trying to build credibility and ranking on our blog, we needed to really, really lock it down and be very specific and very strategic about what we were building, which ultimately meant, sadly for me.

Tracey : (29:44)

Um, but also it’s bittersweet. Like it was hard, but it’s turned out well. Um, that, that I was writing the vast majority of that content. Now when that was happening, we were publishing maybe once to twice a week. Um, and it would kind of vary a little bit. Uh, these days we’re publishing about three times a week though I think we’re about to go back down to two for lots of reasons. But, um, what we’ve changed is, uh, our SEO manager who is fantastic and it’s so smart, um, essentially said, look, I bet if I built out an outline, like an optimized outline for every article that we could hand that off to partners and get them to get us 70-80% of the way there in terms of the content that we want. Right. And if partners can’t do it, if that’s not something that they’re up for, because keep in mind also use, we would accept some partner publications in the past, but we were very prescriptive in terms of it needs to be at least 5,000 words.

Tracey : (30:48)

It needs to include eight examples that like literally making it incredibly difficult for them to ever say yes. Also, which was kind of the purpose. And some of them did say yes and wrote really great pieces. Um, and some of them were like, screw you, get out of here, you know, which is, which is a fair response. Um, now we hand off, um, an outline for them, which our a SEO guy and an agency that, that we lean on as well um, has built out specific to an individual keyword which has the headline, all of the different, you know, subheads that we need, the number of examples, so on and so forth. Um, which really makes it incredibly easy for them to write to. Now they need to fill in all of the information, which they should be able to based on their expertise, but they don’t have to think about, you know, where should I pull this in?

Tracey : (31:37)

Or how should I be this story? Like, no, we’ve done that for you. We show that we want it like this. And if they ended up handing us something back that doesn’t follow the outline, which still happens, um, the answer is no. Like we gave them an outline and we needed to hit that. That truly has made it much easier for our partners, um, to go in and write. And so now we’ve upped the amount of content, um, the, the amount of publishing dates that we have. So from that one to two to three, um, and it’s because we have a bunch of partners who are producing a lot of really great content for us based on those outlines. Um, beyond that though, the way we were doing it before and now as we update a lot of content, um, we have been publishing con, I mean I’ve been at Big Commerce for years.

Tracey : (32:23)

Um, before that Big Commerce published a bunch of content as well, but any content, um, that ranks really well or that ranks maybe on, you know, page two or page three, we’re going to go in and we’re going to update that content to get it to where it needs to be and republish it. A lot of that work is happening internally. We do sometimes hand it off to partners to do it. Um, but a lot of that will happen internally and we’ll update it. You hit the right note tags on it, get the right examples in it, um, in order to move that up. Um, those are often the ones that have the influence or quotes within them again for that distribution side of it. Uh, and then we have a backlinking strategy of course as well that, that, we’ll get in place and we work with a lot of our partners to help them understand why the backlinking strategy is really important. And then to also let them know that we’re happy to backlink to you guys too. I mean, we get people emailing us often being like, hey, saw this post was ranking really well, would really love you. Give us an anchor link on like these specific words. And it’s like, all right. I mean, sure. Like, like all of us have to do that. That’s how you grow your site. People helping people is underrated.

Tracey : (33:29)

 I’ll, I’ll actually say that I’ve, I’ve talked about this a few times with a bunch of other folks. Um, I, so the content marketing work that we’ve done over here at Big Commerce, so when I first joined Big Commerce, we were getting maybe 30,000 page views on the blog and now we get about half a million sessions a month on the blog. That’s right. So over a million page views, we have grown exponentially and really we started growing exponentially maybe three years ago, but really it was about two and a half years ago. And a few things changed. One, we prepped, we tried our hand at the skyscraper technique and were as miserable is like anybody ever is when they do that. Um, though it works, it’s a very effective technique, but you will be miserable. Um, it’s like, you know, working out for me.

Tracey : (34:24)

Um, but so we tried our hand with that, which was, which was good and, and started working and then, you know, kind of honed it into our own process. Um, but to myself as well as my, my SEO counterpart at the time, um, started going out and getting coffee with people almost every single day, he was in San Francisco. I was in Austin anytime we were traveling and in the towns that we were in, we were going and meeting up with people. We were calling people, having hangouts, we were asking people, one, what are you doing that’s different? What’s frustrating for you? Let’s hang out. Right? Like let’s like, let’s make this a better, happier, easier process for all of us. Um, and that, that network that we built I think has truly been the main game changer mostly because all that does is when you email somebody, they open it and that’s the first thing that you need to happen in order to get content distributed.

Tracey : (35:22)

In order to get those influencer quotes, like, yes, we had to prove to people that we were good at what we were doing. We were making good content, we would make them look really great. But truly the best way to get people to open your email and like help you is by legitimately being friends with them and helping them when they need help as well. So I don’t want to discredit that part at all because that I think truly was the secret sauce. We had a new boss that came in about two and a half years ago, um, who sat me and him down and said, look, every single week I want you out there grabbing coffee with somebody that you didn’t think would say yes to you to going and getting coffee. And I, I want that to happen. And then Nigel and I just started doing it like every day and here we are now. It was the best piece of career advice I could have ever possibly gotten, which was do not be afraid to reach out to people and just say like, Hey, love what you’re doing. I’m going to be in this area around this time. Would you have 30 minutes to get coffee? Most people say yes.

Brad: (36:24)

Yeah, it’s just too bad that night he was such an asshole. I’m just kidding. I just talked to him like two weeks ago. No, but it is weird. I feel like sometimes you have to break through that awkwardness where people think it’s like, no, just be real with people. Like the best, the best work relationships I’ve had it’s because we talk about stuff that’s not even related to work because we talking about like places we traveled, their family, whatever. Just

Tracey : (36:58)

Exactly. That’s the thing now and I do think that’s something important for people to learn as well. It’s like the way to break through that awkwardness where people think you have an ulterior motive is to not have one. Truly just like go get coffee with people. Like this is not a, I scratch your back, you scratch mine. I’m getting coffee with you to see if like we can hang out. Like to your brain on like what kind of cool things are working for you or what are your like work life issues or like I don’t know, like are you getting married soon or are you like whatever. Like you’re just talking about life cause they’re really, another really great piece of career advice that I got, which is comes back to me constantly is a lot of the most successful people that you encounter are legitimate friends with their business partners.

Tracey : (37:51)

Like, like they get dinners together, they go to each other’s weddings, like they actually hang out, like they’d call each other on the weekend. Sure. Something about work might come up, but it’s also about not work at all like that, that part of it. And that, that part’s hard for me because I come from like small town east Texas, um, where it’s hard to make connections. Like I didn’t grow up with those connections. Um, and I get, I got, I don’t even know the right word. Um, but like that, that side of it has been a really hard pill for me to swallow because I grew up thinking as I think a lot of people in small towns do. Um, that if you just work really hard, you’ll make it and you’ll, you’ll make it to a place like you’ll, you’ll make it to a level. But the next level is, is, is networking and it’s who, you know, and it’s hanging out with those people and it’s building the relationships with the people that you would have never, um, thought would give you the time of day. Um, and that’s such important advice. And for anybody, for anybody out there and it’s like, I like, that’s absolutely insane. Like, oh man I was you for most of my life.

Brad: (39:10)

No, I think it’s important because we’re, you’re talking about content and it’s like, well today, how do you promote something like you’re paying for it. If you’re, you’re tapping your companies network if it has one or you’re opening doors with people, you know, and so like it’s really, it’s fairly limited. You know what I mean? Like it’s not, you read all these like dumb tactical posts about like how to hack whatever and it’s like that’s all bullshit. Like the only way you’re actually going to grow something to the, to the degree that you’re talking about in three years or whatever is, is by like knowing people and getting kind of backdoor access to a lot of things.

Tracey : (39:45)

Yeah. Yeah. It’s about knowing people and having them help you and you helping them, whether that’s with something work-related and with content or work-related with a different team or department or something personal. Like, I, I got married a little over a month ago now and I got so many like cards and random registry gifts and flowers from just the people I’ve been working, not even people at Big Commerce did too. Um, but like not even people like internal, right. A bunch of external people. And that’s just like, that’s just the network that you build. Those are people who trust that you can get something done, that you’ll deliver something on time and that when you stay, you’ll do something, you’ll do it. But that also, it doesn’t always have to be about business. Life shouldn’t be all about business. Oh man, what a world. 

Brad: (40:35)

You mean you’re not  passionate about talking about your commerce all day?

Tracey: (40:39)

No, not all day. I do, I do really love ecommerce though. What’s fun though about ecommerce is that while I like love ecommerce in terms of I love trends, I love seeing, um, the ideas that people have trying to get things into market. Um, and just the ways that consumers can, can shop. Like I, I like, I like things changing. I’m not somebody who’s afraid of change by any means. Um, but I don’t really shop online. Um, I prefer like I went to Dillard’s over the holidays. Dillard’s a great place to shop. I’d recommend it to anybody. Everything was on clearance. No one was there. Lines completely empty. They had dumb dumbs up at the counters. I’m a sucker for that. Uh, it was great. I had a really great time. I think everyone should go.

Brad: (41:31)

I didn’t even know Dillard’s is still around. 

Tracey : (41:34)

It is still around. I will also say that I am bullish on the idea that malls are making a comeback and may give you a lot of examples. We don’t talk about it here. Everyone can go look it up. Just look up neighborhood goods. Um, they have another company, they’re based in Dallas. They have another competitor up in New York, I think just one right now. But there might be a couple more. I think malls are coming back and I am so excited because they are going to be so great. And on top of that, like I said, I love going to Dillard’s. I like malls.

Brad: (42:07)

I think it’s important though, but it’s, it’s changing in a sense of like, like I love Nordstrom number one because I could go and just get my coffee, but number two, it’s because on Christmas Eve I could buy something online and go pick it up and they’ll wrap it for me. Like that to me is the difference is how malls are evolving or changing. Whereas like you walk into a Macy’s and there’s like fucking shit everywhere, like falling on you cause the, all the, the aisles are like this and it’s all like dirty and you walk in the bathroom, HIV needles on the bathroom floor. If you need a commodity or whatever, you’re just going to put it on Amazon prime and not think about it. Whereas if you’re buying something important or whatever, it’s an experience. That’s what you’re going for.

Tracey : (42:54)

I think malls are about to radically transform. One- malls already existing that have the square footage should have already begun doing this though. I know probably most of them haven’t. Um, so you have those malls and then I think you’re going to have like newer malls, like the neighborhood goods model, which is, which like I said, is based up in Dallas. Um, which is like a smaller square footage thing that they’re pulling in brands like hims and hers and Flamingos and Chubbies and Allbirds things that you can typically only get online, but they’re bringing it offline and then they’re adding in. I’m like, you know, weekly or nightly community events where they’re bringing in entrepreneurs to talk about starting businesses or whatever other interesting things might be there. Um, and then they’re bringing in, you know, food trucks and they have alcohol there. And I’m like, oh my goodness. Like imagine a mall reinvented for the age of Instagram where you have all of the brands online that you can’t buy in store typically, where there’s, you know, cool, cute little bars and your town’s coolest little food trucks. And there’s like an outdoor movie theater when you’re like able to eat and shop and lay on all of this stuff. Like I’m just saying, malls are about to come back and I can’t wait. I’m so excited.

Brad: (44:11)

Are you that creep, like taking a nap on the, on the mattress at the mall

Tracey : (44:15)

 No, no I’m not, I don’t think I’ve ever laid on any of those, but I, I, I’m just really, I’m excited about malls. I think they’re coming back as much as I love e commerce. I’ll, I’ll actually caviat that. I Like e-commerce lot. I love retail.

Tracey: (44:32)

I really, really love retail. I love the idea of people creating goods and try and trying to sell those goods and like taking that consumer feedback and creating an experience with a product or with the buying experience, whatever it might be in a way that enhances somebody’s life. I mean, I am a firm believer that all of us would vote with our dollar bills in terms of what we want to succeed. Um, and, and it’s cool to see brands and retailers try out cool new things and build out cool new products. It’s how we live in the world that we do today is that innovation. And that’s just really cool and exciting to live every day and to research every day. 

Brad (45:12) : It is. And this is the perfect segway, so I’m so glad you brought it up. But I went from like when, when you’re a writer and when you’re, when you’re doing this stuff and you have to be a chameleon to a certain degree where you like play an expert on TV and you have to like act like you know everything versus now tell us about Doris Sleep a little bit.

Tracey : (45:29)

Yeah. Well, so let, let me talk about that first thing first, which is, um, I have, so I’ve, I’ve spoken quite a bit. Um, thanks to Big Commerce and the writing and the research that I’ve done on how to start a business or how to grow a business or how to do whatever it is that you might want to do. Um, and I always do try to caveat those conversations with, I’m just a researcher. I have not done this. I have only talked to the brands that have, right. So, so I interviewed a ton of big commerce customers, large and small, often. Um, and so I’m like a curator. I aggregate their advice. And so I’ve always tried to make that really clear, which I find audiences really like. Um, but yes, now I own my own company. Um, so much Doris sleep, which is a bed pillow company, um, it’s only been up for less than a month.

Tracey : (46:19)

That’ll be a month on the 19th. Um, and it’s, it’s doing well. I’ll be honest, one, it’s harder than any of my articles will tell you in most of my articles already tell you. It’s hard. It’s harder than that. Um, mostly it’s hard because it’s hard to find the time, right? I mean, I have a full time job. I, I do some freelance stuff as well. Um, so it’s hard to find the time to really do a content marketing strategy and all the things that I want to do though I will get there. But I will say officially sales in January have exceeded sales in December. So we are on the up and up. We’re ordering a new batch of inventory, which is really great. Um, but yeah, it’s exciting. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. My, my grandfather, uh, started, um, a cotton and pillow manufacturing company back in the 1950s.

Tracey: (47:07)

Um, it’s, I, I’ve grown up in a family business. My first job was out there pushing cotton through one of the cotton cleaners. Um, and I, I got, I turned 30 in 2018 and I got this a picture, my mom brought this picture off to San Francisco where I was at the time, uh, of me and my grandfather. It was a picture that like neither one of us had ever seen before is from the 90s. Um, I’m hugging him. He has his hat on that says like, it looks like a red Trump hat, but it says like best grandpa ever.

Tracey : (47:38)

Anyway, I mean, my family is from southeast Texas, but uh, so it’s, uh, it said best grandpa ever. And uh, my mom and I had, had never seen it, which is weird because we moved into my grandparent’s home after he passed. My grandma grandmother passed in 98 custom 99. We moved into their home then. So like we’ve lived amongst all their stuff, right? Like we’ve cataloged it, like done. Everything in this picture just kind of came out of nowhere. Um, and it was just like, uh, I don’t know, like a reminder from him on an important moment or close to a birthday of an important moment, um, about, I dunno this, this business that I really wanted to start, I’d been talking about it with all my friends for way too long. None of them were surprised. They’re like, dear God, thank you. Other than that, um, a lot of it too comes from back to that network I put 

Tracey : (48:25)

I did big commerce’s, you know, like first ever online ecommerce conference this past summer. Um, and a lot of the folks that I talked to who are like, you know, venture investors and entrepreneurs and experts in this industry far more than I am. Um, and all of them afterwards were like, Tracy, like, we love Big Commerce. We love the work you’re doing there. But like outside of that, how, like, how can I help you? Like, what, what can I do? And I didn’t have an answer. What a terrible position to be in when you have somebody like that being like, how can I help you? And I’m like, like, so it wasn’t that, that was another big impetus, which was get this thing up so that when people ask that question, you’ve have something to say. Um, so yeah, and then I ended up launching it on December 19th, which was accidental. That was a date actually pushed back like a month and then days and you know, as launches go. Um, but December 19th was actually the, uh, is it is the 20th anniversary of my grandfather passing complete accident. Um, and so that felt oddly like another little, I don’t know, just reminder that like, this is what you’re supposed to be doing. Like you like, you know, approval from beyond the grave if you will.

Brad: (49:42)

Yeah, that’s really cool. Especially like starting a new business. It’s like, I dunno, it’s like going uphill, you know, it’s like you’re fighting against inertia constantly. So even to get the simplest things done. And it’s one of those things until you experience it. So I’m going with, this is like money and stuff. It’s like not enough, like, yeah, yeah, the money’s fine in time. The money’s worth it. But like in the early days, it’s not worth it. Especially if you, especially if you’re doing something like you’re already successful at big commerce, you don’t need to do this extra.

Tracey : (50:11)

It’s hard. It really is hard to get motivated and it’s not, it’s not even like just hard to get motivated for it. Um, I find there’s a lot of vulnerability in it. Like for some reason I am a lot more willing to do like really badass, great work for Big Commerce or my clients or whoever it is when it comes to myself. Like I don’t know that maybe a little over the top. Like why? That’s so insane. And it’s, it’s because your like, only your name is on it. Even though my name is on all the other stuff, for some reason there’s, there’s something to that. Um, and that’s, that’s something I need to stop struggling with and get better at. But I think it’s a good lesson in, um, I don’t know. Humility in general.

Brad: (50:56)

 It’s weird. I think I heard once, someone somewhere said like all of your main business problems are like personal problems in disguise. So it’s weird how it manifests in that in that sense.

Tracey : (51:08)

Yeah, I like that. I like that. I do, I like that a lot.

Brad: (51:13)

Manufacturing. Like walk me through cause the seems calmer.  E-commerce sounds awesome. Uh, I, it’s gotta be such a logistical headache. Like are you manufacturing are drop shipping and then I know you’re selling like I think you’re selling to businesses but also possibly direct. Like how, how have you figured all that stuff out?

Tracey : (51:31)

So Doris sells direct to consumer or sells to consumers. You can buy in bulk, but if you choose to buy in bulk, I’m going to shoot a message up to my brother over, uh, at our B2B company and he will be able to get you set up. So essentially what I’m doing is I’m buying from my grandparents company, we have a pillow manufacturing company, um, and I, I buy from them and then I send those over to ship. Bob. which is a multi warehouse, a solution. And the in the u s uh, I sent to their Dallas warehouses, um, and, and everything gets picked, packed and shipped from there.

Brad: (52:12)

Awesome. And so does your site, your site runs on Shopify then?

Tracey: (52:16)

No, I’m big commerce. You weirdo commerce, you wierdo. Um,  Articly were the folks who helped me build it out. Um, it’s a, it’s a really beautiful, nice site though. I do need to get things like Hotjar and some other stuff on there because um, my conversion rate isn’t where I want it to be quite yet. Um, it’s not, it’s not bad, but you know, I like to believe in that. If you can just improve things like a bunch of different things by 2%, you know, just like tiny little raises on everything that everything’s kind of like snowball into something bigger. So right now my conversion rate is my, is my focus.

Brad: (52:54)

Is it, is it challenging venting of something simple like promotion because you do things at the scale of big commerce and it’s very different than like at the ground level where it’s like instead of writing a blog post for five hours that’s just got on the phone and call a hundred people, you’re going to be like, is it a weird like challenge and figuring out how do I have all these skills, but how do I actually apply them in the right way to,

Tracey : (53:17)

yeah. Yeah. So, so really the first skill that I’ve been applying. So the answer to that. So I guess the first skill that I’ve really been applying is, um, I did everything in my power to make sure that the site was built for um, content and SEO purposes. I want my product pages to be driving the vast majority of organic traffic to the page, to the site. Um, because I need to remove that homepage click. I’m already asking people to click a lot in order to actually check out. Let’s remove one of those. Um, I don’t have any category pages and that is designed that way on purpose. Um, the design company really wanted to build them out or were very confused about it and I was like, I will not pay you.

Tracey : (54:00)

Um, and it’s, it’s because, yeah, I only have a few products and I’m trying to drive everything there. I’ve been very intentional also about, um, exactly what those URLs were with those names were, and then building out all of the content that needs to go within that and writing that out effectively. And then now that it’s launched, getting backlinks to all of those sites. Um, so I think right now my thin pillow site is already on like page two of Google and I launched like a month ago. So I have a little bit more work to do, but it is getting close. I’m getting additional content will help and I do need to write blogs and um, it’s, send you know things out to folks like you and get answers and stuff back and feature people on it. Um, but right now I’m still trying to think through what I really want that content strategy to look like. Um, which honestly, when you’re at a company size, like Doris is the content strategy is get content up. Yeah. Like get it, get it going, figure out strategy later. Um, and I, and I need to do that, but a lot of times I get home and I’m newlywed and I’m like, let’s have wine.

Tracey : (55:05)

I’m balancing a few things there.

Brad: (55:07)

Yeah, for sure. That’s amazing how I would, I would talking about this forever, but I don’t know. Dude, how’s your time right now?

Tracey : (55:13)

Um, well I have a minute right now and I’m like kicked out of this room in that minute, so not great. Sadly.

Brad: (55:21)

Uh, if people want to find out more about Doris, where should they go?

Tracey: (55:25)

Um, well you can follow us on Instagram or Facebook, but of course you can just go to the website, www. dorissleep.com Doris is the name of my grandmothers. My grandfather started the, uh, manufacturing business that supplies the pillows and Doris is her name. Um, yeah. And then you can find me on Twitter. I’m @tracewall. Um, I answer people on Twitter. Twitter’s probably my primary way of communicating with people that in the vast majority are there like swath of slack groups I’m in. Um, but mostly Twitter. So, um, it’s a good spot.

Brad: (56:01)

Unless you have like less than a thousand followers then don’t bother reaching out because Tracey 

Tracey : (56:04)

No, yeah, no, totally reach out. 

Brad: (56:09)

Okay. Uh, no, thank you. This has been awesome. Like I said, I think it’s the first time we’ve actually like talked in detail in person before, but uh, it’s been awesome talking to you and super enjoyable.

Tracey: (56:18)

Yeah. We need to do this more often.

Brad: (56:20)

We should, we should have maybe a person I was thinking about. I would love to do that more like go to places and then do this and yeah,

Tracey: (56:25)

Come to Austin, you and Nigel together. I’ll get, I’ll get him to commit to a date and I’ll message you and we’ll just do a whole Austin thing. Casey will even be here. We’ll get the whole group.

Brad: (56:36)

Yeah. Well, we gotta fly Nigel in from like God knows where something

Tracey : (56:39)

We’re not flying him in. That man is doing well. He can fly himself out.

Brad: (56:43)

Perfect. Thank you again. I really appreciate it. Thanks. Bye. Thank you.

Highlights

9:59 Tracey  on the invaluable benefit that reading industry news imparts to writers. 

just like there’s something about it [reading industry news] that just feeds your ability on  how to word things, how to phrase things, how to see larger trends that you can like pull in to something that ultimately make something really good. Um, editors need to be doing that as well.

12:09  The secret to being a  terrific editor 

because in order to be a really good editor, you first have to be a really good writer and you have to understand how to take the feedback that an editor gives you and actually incorporate that effectively into the writing so that it becomes the piece that it needs to become. And if you as a writer cannot do that, you are not cut out to be an editor.

15:21 The changing landscape of writing and editing.

 content marketing has become ever more popular that technology companies have begun to hire writers and editors. That’s new. That’s two separate roles – those were the same thing at technology companies. Those were the same things at big commerce until very recently and not even until very recently we have different writers and editors,

25:15  Your work needs this in order to be credible and earn trust from the audience. 

it’s one of the big things that I really reinforced, which is nobody has a reason to believe us. Like all the only reason anybody would trust the advice you were giving them is if, and this is my journalism background, is if you have examples, as many examples as you can possibly have. 

31:05 How Tracey  has been able to up the amount of quality content her company publishes and streamline the creation process for freelancers.  Now we hand off, um, an outline for them, which our a SEO guy and an agency that, that we lean on as well, has built out specific to an individual keyword which has the headline, all of the different, you know, subheads that we need, the number of examples, so on and so forth. Um, which really makes it incredibly easy for them to write to. 

35:53 The simple game changer that took a company to the next level.

 He said look, every single week I want you out there grabbing coffee with somebody that you didn’t think would say yes to you to going and getting coffee. And I, I want that to happen. And then Nigel and I just started doing it like every day and here we are now. It was the best piece of career advice I could have ever possibly gotten, which was do not be afraid to reach out to people and just say like, Hey, love what you’re doing. I’m going to be in this area around this time. Would you have 30 minutes to get coffee? Most people say yes.