Branding, A 360 Experience
with Megan Vaughn, Brand Strategist ProlificBanana
Megan Vaughan, Brand Strategist, calls branding a full experience of the 5 senses. What do you want to be known for? Not known for? Megan goes into the important pieces of building your brand for the long haul.
Notes from the Show
When you're starting a new business, you're often excited and jump in with fancy logos, a complex website, and a zippy tagline. But did you do the work and get clear on your brand? What do you want to be known for? How do you want people to feel? How do you want to be perceived?
Megan Vaughan is a Brand Strategist and founder of ProlificBanana, a brand consulting for consultants and other service-based businesses. Megan describes the Brand as a layered, 360 experience involving all 5 senses, that should stay consistent customer to customer.
Levels of Branding
Establish Your Brand - make connections, learn to sell, and talk about what you have to offer.
Refine Your Brand - pivot, evaluate your services, and decide what you want to let go of.
Elevate Your Brand - leverage your assets, leverage the business and brand you've built, and scale.
Even though trends are always changing, your brand is for the long haul. What can be focused on changing is marketing. Megan talks about the difference between marketing and branding, marketing is the tool to support your brand. However, if you're seeing sales problems chances are it's a foundational problem related to your Brand. Poor quality leads, not doing the work you want, stale and muddled messages, or a major business pivot are signs it could be time to consider a rebrand.
Megan also talks about platforms… Do you need a website? Short answer, not really. You can portray your brand, generate leads, and make impactful connections with a really solid LinkedIn page. However, everyone can benefit from a nice one-page website to serve as a hub. We also discuss business names. Does it matter? And she urges businesses to get rid of the Gmail: take your business seriously and get a professional, branded email.
You can find out more about Megan Vaughan and her branding by finding her on LinkedIn and checking out Prolific Banana online.
What is Branding?
The evolution of building and refining your brand.
Signs and symptoms of needing a rebrand.
Why sales problems are likely a foundational brand problem
How should you focus branding efforts at the beginning of a business.
The difference between branding and marketing.
Mentioned in this Episode:
Transcribed by AI Susan Tatum 0:38
Hi, everyone, welcome back to stop the noise. Today I'm talking with Megan Vaughn, who is a brand strategist brand consultant at prolific banana, which is a really cool thing for business. And we're going to talk about branding for consultants and other service based business this morning. So welcome, Megan. Glad, glad to have you here.
Megan Vaughn 0:55
Susan, thanks for having me on. I'm glad to be here chatting with you guys.
Susan Tatum 0:59
So, branding is a, you know, there's a whole lot of branding consultants out there now. And they kind of get lost in my head. The the, the differentiation between them. So I think I think it would be fair to say that some branding consultants have a problem with, with branding, differentiation for their own businesses. You're not one of those I ran, when I ran across you, I realized that there's there's something very different in the way that you look at branding, not just from a strategic point of view, but also from how do you implement this so that I'm really looking forward to hearing your thoughts now? about branding? And why don't we start off with you talking about what what are the main areas that branding incorporates?
Megan Vaughn 1:46
Yeah, so really brand is how other people experience your business. It's, it's even beyond your reputation, it's layered experiences that people have a view. So it's everything from how you show up in your marketing, your advertising, to how you sound on your voicemail, or how your visuals look, or if they were to walk it as a customer to walk into your store how do they feel? What music do they hear? What are they smelling? It's an all encompassing, 360 sort of thing, where it's just those layered experiences that are reinforced throughout all touchpoints. And every time and it should be something consistent and that they can expect. So, you know, if I were to tell a friend about a certain place, and they go to that store, it should be like, as I said,
Susan Tatum 2:32
right? So what so that that's encompassing, then words and all of your senses, really, I mean, what you just described? So but how do you how do you get to what your what your brand support consultant let's say and let's talk about we'll talk about, say solo consultants, where they kind of are their brand. How do you? How do you establish what that is?
Megan Vaughn 2:58
I think really digging into how do you want other people to feel when they interact with you and your business? And how do you want to be perceived? What do you want to be known for? You know, I always ask my clients, if you were to walk out on stage right now, and someone had to give you, you know, a couple sentences, what would they say about you? What is the what is the thing that you really want to be known for? And so always try and reinforce that thing?
Susan Tatum 3:23
I think that's a that's a good, that's a good point. That's one of the things that I asked my clients when we're talking about creating presence on LinkedIn for for prospecting is like, what do you want to be known for? And also, what are you against? It always gets - what are you not? So um, you work with clients and and in all different points in their businesses? And I think it would be interesting to get into, like, what are the what are the stages of a consulting firm? As you go from, you're just starting out? When does branding really become important? Or how should we think about branding in the beginning? And then what happens after that?
Megan Vaughn 4:07
Yeah, so there's definitely like levels of branding. And, of course, in an ideal world, you are starting from like, in a very linear fashion. But to be honest, that never happens. We just kind of jump in our businesses, and we get going, we get some sales, and then it sort of grows without us and we try to catch up. And so you know, an ideal world, you would just start from the beginning, but really, in the first stages of business. It's really about making connections with people and learning how to sell and learning how to talk about what you do. So it's really about, you know, going back to well, what do you want to be known for? So what kind of services are you offering? You know, even if you don't have an actual offer, I mean, you should have an expertise of some sort. Most of my clients are people either from corporate or maybe a nine to five of some sort. They have a skill set that they could sell. So I would say in the first stage of business, it's really about learning to articulate what it is that You are selling what you're doing. And then as your business grows, you work with more clients, then it's starting, you're starting to do that refinement or pivoting where you're really deciding what, where you want to spend your time, are you doing things that, you know, you don't want to be known for? Like, you know, I used to do some things with graphic design or marketing, and I just didn't really want to be known for that I didn't, I always like rolling my eyes when someone come to me for that. And so that was one of the first things I let go, I no longer wanted to be known with for that thing. So that middle stage is really where you're like refining, elevating, pivoting, just letting things go. And then you know, beyond that is really, you've built this expertise, you've built a reputation, and now is letting your brand work for you let it do the heavy lifting, leverage your assets lat leverage the awareness you've been building, so that you can start that scaling process.
Susan Tatum 5:44
Okay, so let's say in the first, on a year, I'm just gonna, I'm just gonna put a time on it. But that's for the listeners it's not necessarily, you know, a year it's but in the beginning, what I hear you saying, and I certainly agree with this is, it's most important to have conversations with the market with with clients that you may have had with people that you worked with your own existing network. And people you don't know so that you can't? Well, is it fair to say that when consultants start a business, they kind of have an idea about the service they're going to provide? Or they think they're going to provide or the problem that they're going to solve?
Megan Vaughn 6:24
Yeah, I mean, I, I don't typically encourage people to start a business unless they have a skill set that they can own, or some sort of experience. Even if you know, you're a corporate, you mean you have skills that you've developed and honed in. So you can definitely sell that. You know, someone just wakes up one morning and says, I should be an entrepreneur, I mean, but there's nothing really to sell, then I would say they need to maybe think about it, and work on, you know, figuring out what it is they want to do. So yeah, definitely
Susan Tatum 6:52
keep your job and have a side gig that tests that sort of stuff. Well, so what would you say? So I talk to a lot of consultants, and I hear over and over again about the changes that were made from what they thought they were going to be doing, and who they thought they were going to be serving, and what they actually ended up doing. So in the beginning, what would you need in terms of because you talked about, you know, branding is it your website, it's your presence on social media, that sort of thing? What would be the like the minimum that someone would invest in some kind of whatever you would call branding at that point? What what what, what do they need?
Megan Vaughn 7:35
So in the very beginning, it's really clarity around what it is, Are you are you selling and doing what can you offer somebody? And so at the very least, like having an idea of that service that you're providing, and some sort of offer, or if it's something that you're going to just create, you know, on a sales call with them fine. But you really, I mean, if you're reaching out to people to talk to them, you have to have something to talk about it. Otherwise, it's sort of like aimless. So you have to have a thing that you are selling, you have to really understand and be able articulate that and understand the type of result that you can get with the work that you do.
Susan Tatum 8:11
So would you agree or like don't put words in your mouth. I think that it would be possible to start a consulting business, just using LinkedIn if you're doing business to business and just having your profile on LinkedIn.
Megan Vaughn 8:26
Yeah. Yeah. So like when I talk about being able to articulate that like, don't worry about the website, don't worry about pretty graphics, like work on your, your LinkedIn headline, let's say, because that's what people are going to search for. Just clearly like spit it out. Like what are what is it that you're doing? Like? Are you a ghostwriter? Are you are you an SEO specialist? Like what are you doing? Just so someone can get an idea because it's a layer, it's layered experiences, your your headline can't tell the whole story of who you are and what you're about. But it can introduce you so that someone's like, Oh, that's interesting tell me more, then you could say use your bio to really develop that deeper understanding who you are what you're about if you have an offer, you can put it there who knows you can use it however you want. But use these elements to help layer experiences and layer the information so that you are taking people on a journey. I think a big mistake people make is that they think they're there I help statement or their elevator pitch or whatever is gonna just like tell everybody, everything about their business. And that's just their tools are tools to entice people to pique interest to keep you talking and to build the relationship further. And so use them That's such.
Susan Tatum 9:30
That's a really good point. It's what you're really, you're really ultimately moving towards having conversations with people. and it's also, I think, if you, if you do take a route of focusing on LinkedIn, or whatever the the appropriate social media is, before you invest a lot of money on a website, you can run some experiments to see what's what's resonating with your, your target audience. And maybe it's not even the right target audience that happens all the time that I see, too. Alright, so so you get started, and you're having conversations. And let's say, let's say we started with a LinkedIn profile, would the next step then be moving towards a website. I guess what my question really is, Megan is at what point does like more of a formal, let's think about the brand kind of exercise come in.
Megan Vaughn 10:25
I guess when you start having things worth being memorable, and worth talking about, when you have offers when you you know, a website is an amplifier, it's a tool. And so it's, it's also there to help position you. And so it's really only useful if you get traffic to it. And so that kind of calls into question, you know, do you have an audience? Do you have people are you bringing people to your site, whether through ads, SEO, organically, if you don't have that sort of audience, or that sort of traction, then a website really isn't doing a whole lot for you. But then there is the whole other argument of owning your audience. So you know, having an email list, having you know, so a website is really great for, you know, having your content just in case something were to happen. I like to think of a website as a hub. And it's sort of just the home that you really want to bring everyone to. And so, you know, I think everyone could benefit from at least like a one page website. Your main, your main thing, I think a website can be a really great way to help position you and just legitimize you legitimate. I can't say the word make you
Susan Tatum 11:35
Megan Vaughn 11:36
Yeah, you know, I, there's this weird thing too, about perception, right? If I look on Google, and I can't find you, then I think, in some part of my mind, you're gonna steal my money. And so there are a few, as much as we don't want to judge people on bad visuals or not being on Google or something. That's just how we as people work, people will judge you, it's a split second thing. That's where visual branding comes into play, you're trying to get people's trust or trying to, you know, just have an introduction of who you are, and grab their attention. And so you know, having a little, at least a one page website that shows up on Google is just like, one layer of credibility that helps build for you,
Susan Tatum 12:07
makes you it makes you more real.
Megan Vaughn 12:09
You know, people are like I'm, you know, I can help you make money and blah, blah, blah, but then like, they don't have a website, and they're only on LinkedIn. And it's just, there's just like, credibility, and there's sort of missing.
Susan Tatum 12:20
And that the other thing that gets me is that they're using a Gmail email address.
Megan Vaughn 12:25
I did a poll on LinkedIn, actually, like, a year and a half ago. And overwhelmingly, people were like, yeah, it looks super unprofessional. Doesn't I don't like trust you if you don't have a professional branded email. But then there, of course, are people who are like, well, I don't care. I will work with whoever and like, as nice as that sounds. And as much as I want to be that person. The truth is that in the two seconds, or the one second that I see that, it just does not look as professional, and I'm probably gonna gravitate towards the person with the branded email, because to me, that sound feels like they're taking their business more seriously. And it's a real thing. It's not a hobby.
Susan Tatum 12:56
Yeah, yeah. So that's another question in my head is Do you think that if for naming a company does a consulting firm need like a name that indicates what they do? Or does the person make it their own name.
Megan Vaughn 13:12
that is really up to them as part of the strategy in combination with other things. Sometimes, depending on the industry you're in, you don't want to have a name. That's super weird, because that may become more of a hurdle for you and an obstacle. Like, for me, having a weird name works really well, because it's memorable, it gets a conversation going. But if I were in a really serious, you know, heavily regulated industry, it would probably not be very good for me to have a name that really stood out like that. I you know, so that's where do you want to work with the the theme then the current trend, so that it's easier for people to just be like, oh, yeah, that makes sense. Or do you wanna spend time and energy trying to educate people and overcoming that hurdle that it could possibly present? So that's just part of the strategy of it can make you stand out, you know, and that's you just have to weigh the pros and cons and what works best for your goals. The industry you're in and the people you're targeting.
Susan Tatum 14:06
And what you want to do with your business, too, I think if you, if you put too much, if it's built around your name, and then you want to sell it, sell the business, that becomes much more difficult. I mean, I guess you could use the service brand, the service.
Megan Vaughn 14:20
yeah, that's what you know. And honestly, that's just one of those things in the perfect ideal world, you would be picking your brand name after you've already done quite a bit of brand strategy. But most people don't do that. Most people just jump into business, they choose a name, they go ahead and get their DBA or LLC, and then, you know, then eventually, they may end up having to rebrand and you know, it's just a lot more work down the line when you do it. But the reality is that most people choose their name and logo before they do anything else.
Susan Tatum 14:46
Yeah. Interesting. So you, you talked about rebranding, or you mentioned that what, where? Where do you see consultants, professional service providers? Where does the rebranding come in? At what stage?
Megan Vaughn 14:59
Yeah, so I would say rebranding is really necessary when you are making a pivot, that just doesn't make sense to if you have a whole different audience, if your entire service suite has changed, and it's not really serving the people that you want to work with, or are currently in your your target market, it's usually when there's like a big change in the positioning. And so, you know, sometimes it's it's kind of straddles the line a little bit where you just have to weigh the pros and cons of like, do you want to keep the same brand and we just elevate and make it more sophisticated? Or is it a complete pivot, and it just makes more sense just to like, new name, new logo and new everything and just like, redo it that way. Once again, it really just boils down to, you know, isn't in alignment with your bigger vision and goals you had is a completely different, what, like, what is changing, and the more changes are, the more likely you are going to end up having to rebrand.
Susan Tatum 15:53
That makes sense. What are they? What are the signs or symptoms that we might see that is kind of an indication that the branding is off?
Megan Vaughn 16:00
Oh, gosh, yeah. So it usually shows up in messaging, and positioning where, you know, maybe the quality of your leads aren't as great as you want them to be, the type of work you're doing isn't really where you wanted, maybe it's just difficulty in clients, or even like engagement, maybe your social posts aren't doing as well as they once had. You know, it's not always branding, it could just be the platform. So you do have to take other considerations, you know, into mind when you're making these insights. But generally, it's it's when things also kind of just feel stale, especially if you're outgrowing your brand. And even if like the branding is like, okay, it's like, or the messaging is okay. It's like you're not happy with it. And you're just feeling kind of like, it's not really what I want to talk about, or he started going all over the place. And it's just, I've noticed that with a lot of my clients, they start adding things to their business. And then their messaging, which once was really clear starts becoming more muddled, because we're trying to balance like, I have multiple ideal clients for my multiple offers. I have a podcast. And like, I don't know how to talk about all these different things. And it's just I'm confused. I have four different logos going on, like what do I do?
Susan Tatum 17:11
And right, right, so you're adding complexity to your business? would be another thing that would cause your brand name to go awry. Seems like, Okay. And so the symptoms I mean, so what I hear you saying is that, for branding, or lack of branding, at the when you need branding can lead to a multitude of marketing and sales based problems.
Megan Vaughn 17:33
Yeah, I mean, that's the kicker is that oftentimes branding problems or diagnosis, sales problems, or marketing problems, or SEO problems, or, you know, whatever, it's because it's a foundational thing. And those things start to take a hit when something's off with your positioning and your messaging. So by the time you notice it, and like, Oh, my sales are really down or all my call, the leads are just like, not there or what I'm getting a lot of objections, whatever. You know, yeah, it's a sales problem. But it stems from a foundational problem, which is that your positioning and messaging are off and you're not clearly articulating what needs to be articulated. Like there's there's a misalignment somewhere in there. Even with like visuals, you know, like, oh, it's outdated, it's kind of old. Well, that's because, you know, maybe the brands evolving, but the visuals aren't aren't catching up with it. You know, they're just kind of saying, yeah, they're from like, 2010. So, you know, you know, differences between like rebranding and like refreshes to reverse just like, Okay, we just need to spruce it up a bit. That's fine, right. Like when you start having problems with like, It was hitting the bottom line when you're just not meeting your goals where you want or the quality of your of your leads, or culture even just things are not things, something seems to be going wrong, there's like a, you just you could feel when a misalignments happening, it just doesn't feel right. That's like when that foundational, it's foundational, and it impacts all the other parts of your business.
Susan Tatum 18:56
So one of the things that I learned decades ago when when I was in marketing, was that we have a tendency to want to change things too quickly. Like we get tired of the way the website works. And we think that everybody else is bored with it. But everybody else hasn't seen the website or the ads, or we stopped doing things that are working too quickly. Now this goes back a seriously long time ago, and I haven't been in marketing in a while do you find now that things tend to change more quickly? And you do need to be making changes to what you're doing just because of the the way our thought processes work now? And we're used to variety?
Megan Vaughn 19:37
No. No, because brands
Susan Tatum 19:40
short answer is.
Megan Vaughn 19:41
Branding is for the long haul. Branding is the Northstar. Branding is the entire the why and the purpose of the business, how you achieve the that is like your marketing, right? Like your marketing strategy is more likely to change a little bit more quickly. But even then you want to give something like three to four months at least. But as far as like the direction of your business, and the purpose of your business like that should not be changing unless something huge has happened. And if someone is rebranding every year, or whatever, they didn't do the necessary work to begin with. And so they're not really even rebranding, they're just still trying to figure it out. Which you know, happens to us all at times. But no, you should not be rebranding every six months or every year and changing your visuals and your colors. And if you're doing that, it means that you haven't done the foundational work that's necessary, because that's like your foundation, it should, should last you 10 20 years like it's your Northstar it needs. So like when we're talking about purpose and vision and all of that, it has to be expansive enough to really encompass like, what it is that your business is here to do. And it has to be broad enough that you can evolve and change and grow with you. If it's super specific, like Yeah, of course, you're gonna accomplish that goal. And then then what you're gonna have to figure out a new purpose or something. So that's where you have to really think big with your business, like, what are you here to do? What's his big problem that you want to solve? And it doesn't really matter, like, what offer you have, as long as it's in alignment with solving that big purpose, that big challenge that you you are here to solve?
Susan Tatum 21:10
Right, right. So the the other stage that we talked about, you and I when we talked before was was when consultants reach a point where they've they've, they've got a lot of they've got good business coming in. They've they're they're making some good money, but now they want to expand their reach, I guess I would say they want to be bringing, they want to take advantage of what they've built. So what does that stage look like?
Megan Vaughn 21:36
So that's really about elevating and refining. And so it's really honing in on once again, like what you want to be known for and your expertise. And really just marrying your skill sets your your, the results you've helped get clients get, and like where you want to go with your business. And it's really just elevating that and maybe solving bigger problems, going after a slightly more elevated client, maybe they're, you know, been in business longer, or, you know, a lot of clients I want to work with, you know, they're just ready to like, go up to that next stage of business. And they do want to raise their rates, they want to work with more established businesses, you know, so they're just kind of letting go of things that they don't really need to be doing anymore. They're not interested in doing they don't wanna be known for. So it's just that one step further. It's just, it's always about the elevation of the positioning and being able to really clearly articulate that big result and having a big brand promise and a big program promise.
Susan Tatum 22:33
So they're reaching a point where they they don't have to put as much effort into the, I'll say, outreach for getting clients.
Megan Vaughn 22:42
Susan Tatum 22:43
Because because they can't, the attraction part of it is is ready to begin working. And it takes a lot longer to get to that point than any of us like to believe that it does.
Megan Vaughn 22:53
Yeah, I mean, it comes to certain point where you just can't have a million coffee chats. And the outreach is just taking too much time. So either you hire a sales team to do that for you, which is you know, fine, but once again, you have to have a very clear brand to be able to hire people to sell for you. I mean, it's hard for me, there's some really great salespeople out there that could probably figure it out. But for the most part, like you are the leader, you have to, you have to onboard these people to represent you. And if you are really unclear, it's in your head, but doesn't mean you know how to tell other people how to be you and how to act as you that's what like a brand strategy guide will, will help you do. But yeah, I mean, at that stage, you want to be able to attract people. So you have your reputation, you have referrals, you have the people that you do outreach, but you also want your content to really work for you, you want people to come to you and raise the demand for your service. So you can fulfill your programs or raise your rates or whatever it is that you're wanting to do, you are creating. Just another way for people, you want to attract people and let your brand do the heavy lifting. So that maybe you don't have to use sales calls when you just do it through the VMs. Or you just have a sales page, you know, it's so much easier when you have an established brand that can do that, that heavy lifting for you.
Susan Tatum 24:02
Right, which you've got as put the time into building that brand up to where it can do that. And so then do the the tactics change a bit at that point to where like you've mentioned, public speak doing more public speaking, is it more does it becomes more of a one to many kind of thing, and you're looking for places to get more exposure?
Megan Vaughn 24:24
I mean, yeah, I can. And that's kind of where you start getting into marketing, you know, is like what activities are going to help you amplify your brand. And so for some people that might be doing more podcasts, other people might be writing a book, or speaking on stages. So it really just boils down to what's that person feel comfortable with as well, and what makes the most sense for their business. If they are blind, you know, you have to think about this, you're trying to target a specific group of people. And those people are almost always at speaking events than Yeah, I think being a speaker is probably going to be one of the best things that that person can do. But it's just about Yeah, adding more of those brand awareness activities into your your marketing, and it's for the long haul, it's going to, you know, you might not get a result right away, but six months from now, you know, it may result in some clients or a year from now, it may lead to a big opportunity, which then you know, it's a domino effect. So you have to have these layered brand awareness activities that you were doing.
Susan Tatum 25:15
Well, so when this, I want to repeat for the listeners of the what's coming through what what I'm hearing you say is that marking is extremely important. And I completely agree with that. It takes a while to build it up. And early on, the focus is better not I'm not saying don't do marketing, but I'm saying don't rely on marketing early on to build your, your, your inbound client stream, it's just not going to happen that quickly. So get out and talk to people.
Megan Vaughn 25:50
Yeah, I mean, start to understanding that there's a difference too between branding and marketing, they are not one in the same in your marketing absolutely will not work if you do not have that foundational stuff figured out. Because you're just going to work a lot harder, your marketing is gonna be very expensive. So there are two sides of the same coin. So you need to make sure that you are using them in tandem, marketing as a tool to support your brand to support the vision and the purpose you have. It's to help you reach your goals.
Susan Tatum 26:18
And to your point you made a little while ago, if you keep changing your branding every year, you're going to confuse the hell out of your prospects. Nobody's going to know what it is that they're supposed to come to you for. Well, Megan, this has been really interesting. And I still have more questions for you. But we run out of time here. I appreciate your your sharing all your expertise here. And for the folks that want to follow up with you. What's the best way to get in touch?
Megan Vaughn 26:42
Yeah, you can find me on LinkedIn. That's where I spend most of my time even though I have ventured onto TikTok, but yeah, there you can find me.
Susan Tatum 26:51
And it's Megan Vaughn, right?
Megan Vaughn 26:54
Susan Tatum 26:57
Megan Vaughn 26:58
Yeah, I think Megan was taken. So it's just MEG
Susan Tatum 26:58
Okay. All right.
Megan Vaughn 27:01
Just look up my name. Yeah. Megan Vaughn and I should pop up
Susan Tatum 27:03
or Prolific Banana. Just remember that and go find. That will work too. Well, thank you so much, Megan. Have a great rest of your day.
Megan Vaughn 27:10
Thank you. You too.