Creating your brand from scratch and building it from the ground up, truthfully, is a long and arduous task, but you have to have the perseverance to go through with it. You are your own brand, and if you allow your brand to flourish properly, with clarity, so will you. Terri Levine is joined by Alex Sanfilippo, a community leader, as well as the host of the podcast, Creating a Brand. Together, Terri and Alex go through the prerequisites and fundamentals of laying down your brand’s foundation. Whether you’re still finding clarity or you’re beginning to set down the first bricks, your process of creating your brand will hugely benefit from this empowering discussion.
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The Creation Of A Brand With Alex Sanfilippo
I have a great guest here with me. Alex Sanfilippo is the host of Creating A Brand, and that is a Top 20 Entrepreneurship Podcast. What Alex does is he interviews successful leaders and experts on topics that matter to entrepreneurs and that also matters to you as a Heartrepreneur. People who want to grow faster, not only personally, also professionally while saving time, money and the process, and who doesn’t want that. I want to talk to Alex quite a bit about creating a brand. Together, we’re going to help you accelerate your success. Alex, thank you for joining me.
Terri, thank you so much. I’m excited to be here with you. I’ve been looking forward to this.
I’m excited because many people talk about brands and yet when small business owners think of brands, they think they need to be Coca-Cola or Pepsi. They don’t have the budgets and means to do that. First of all, why is creating a brand even important to a smaller entrepreneur?
Because it’s what people are going to follow ultimately. To give the end of this, each of us, we are our own brand at the end of the day. As an entrepreneur, you are the brand. That’s what people are buying into. We have this idea that we need to be like Coca-Cola or one of these other big brands. I was using Nike as an example. We look at those things and say, “I’m not a brand until I look as polished as they do or have the marketing strategy that they do.” The problem with that is they started from nothing. They were a person that people liked at one point. There was somebody that was adding value, solving a problem for people. They didn’t start off as some massive brand, the way that they look right now. Many of us discredit that journey of what that looks like. It’s sad to see because some of you will never launch what they want to do because they sit back and say, “I’m not a real brand. I don’t look like that.” Each of us are that brand and that’s what we have to be focused on.
I need you to make one differentiation because I see the confusion with logo and brand.
A logo is branding, I suppose. It’s what you could call it but it’s not actually the brand itself. Example, if Coca-Cola changed the way their logo looked, it might confuse a lot of us but it doesn’t taste any different. It’s still the same product. That’s the actual branding behind what the brand has. Anything that you do like any logos you have, any designs, it’s not ultimately the brand itself. That’s the branding that goes into it. I’m glad you brought that up because people assume that I’m a branding expert. I’m not the best designer in the world. I sub all of that out. I’m great at helping people develop a brand for themselves.
I’m so glad because people ask me all the time, “Where do I start creating a brand? Should I start with a logo?” I’m like, “No. How do you create a logo when you don’t even know what your brand is?” Let’s say someone is newer in business. How important is it to launch with branding and understanding your brand versus launching and then saying, “Now I figure out what brand I am?”
You have to be intentional. That’s the first thing that you have to do. Being intentional doesn’t mean that you have the polished logo, branding and great slogan to go with it and all that. That isn’t needed at the beginning. What’s needed in the beginning is you having a single focus, knowing exactly the direction that you’re going in, where you want to take your company, what unique problem you solve and how you solve it. Knowing those things well is far more important. Going back to this, people get caught up and this was me at one point. I’ll share transparently my story. I thought that I had to have the perfect logo before I could start. I would spend weeks working with designers because I’m not a great designer. I was trying to figure out, “What does this logo need to look like? How can I do this to make sure that it’s going to launch well?”
Before you know it, someone has already filled that gap. If there is a need to be filled, someone’s going to fill it. Your job is to quickly identify it and move into that space. For me, I missed many opportunities when I used to think that it had to be perfect. I’m a recovering perfectionist, I always say. I thought I had to be more perfect than I am now. My latest company, Creating A Brand, I didn’t have a logo when I launched it. I used text and put, “Creating A Brand,” and that was it. I now know that the most important thing you can do is start solving the problem for the world instead of being so polished and clean before I do that. Does that make sense to you?
It not only makes sense, I hope the readers are breathing that in. I say this to my client family members all the time and this is key advice. I appreciate what Alex said. It is about knowing the result you deliver, the outcome you deliver and then from that, you can become a brand. You’ve got to first hone in one focus, one goal, what does it work great at, what is the outcome we can deliver? You said something I preach day and night. We’re very aligned.
It’s true though. I’ve met people, I go to a lot of conferences and I spoke at one. My voice is a little bit deeper right now than it normally is. I think I sound cool, but I’m recovering. I went over there and people were always showing me, “Look at this great website design.” My first question I asked them, “What problem are you solving?” “We’re working on a few different things we’re going to help people with.” They did the opposite. They went the branding route first before creating the brand and finding out what their unique value was for somebody. It looks fantastic, but it doesn’t do anything yet. One, even if you’re great at yourself, don’t waste the time. Two, if you’re not good at it, don’t waste the money. It’s better to start saying, “How can I solve your problem where I am with what I have?”
I’m curious, what led you to get into creating a brand? How did you get down this path?
It’s because I made many mistakes along the way. I did the opposite for such a long time. I decided that one day I’ll help people take that first or next step in business. I find that many of us get stuck because we look at these bigger brands and we’re like, “Maybe that’s the goal for us.” We say, “I want to be that next big company.” When you look at them where they are now, you’re looking at some of their year 20, year 30, even year 50 and 100 and saying, “I want to be like that.” You can’t credit the journey that it takes to get there. A great tool that I love to use, I don’t know if you’ve heard of this, but it’s called Wayback Machine. You go to WaybackMachine.com and it will show you an old version of a website. I use that as a presentation because I was talking to people that are wanting to further develop their brands. I showed them Forbes, Nike and eBay back when they first started. It was the same year that I started doing web development because I did web development many years ago.At the end of the day, we are our own brands. Click To Tweet
I start when I was ten because it’s fascinating to me. I pulled those three websites because I was making better websites to them as a twelve-year-old than they were making back then. They got their product out there. They have a unique service to offer and to help people with. For me, it goes back to how can I help people make that first or next step with what matters instead of getting caught up in the noise that so many of us get caught up in. It is easy. I’m not saying that what I’m sharing right now is simple. It’s hard to get in the mindset of, “You need to add value and help people.” It’s easier to say, “I need to look like I can help somebody first.” Many of us get caught up in that.
I’m glad you talk to me about that because I believe the most successful businesses I’ve worked with over these past decades are the ones that look at what is the problem that we solve, and everything they do focuses on that. To be honest with you, some of the ones I’ve worked with, they don’t even have a logo. I’ll say to people, “How important is the logo?” I’ll go back to Coca-Cola or Nike. We’re not going to show a swoosh and people are going to go, “That’s Nike.” That’s not right. We don’t even have those kinds of marketing budgets. Truly we don’t need them. We need to solve a problem. I love that we’re talking about this.
I love this topic. This is fun.
I’ll ask you a totally different question. I know where you’re coming from. I’ve been in this industry for many years when I first started. The name of my company was Comprehensive Coaching. I was primarily doing all kinds of coaching. I went and started a coach training school. It’s a branch of Comprehensive Coaching called Comprehensive Coaching U. We switched the brand and we became The Coaching Institute and we greatly expanded that brand. However, back a few years ago, I decided to switch my whole company brand to Heartrepreneur. What’s the best process for making changes like this along a 26-year career? I want to find out what I’ve done right and what I’ve done wrong that will help other people.
I’m sure that you have far more experience in this than I do. I have not been in business that long. That’s fantastic that you’ve been able to re-pivot and do different things to be able to further your brand. The first thing I noticed is whenever you make a big change like that, you will see an immediate dip in business or you’ll see engagement drop a little bit. That scares most people. They want to immediately go back and like, “I made a terrible mistake.” That’s not necessarily true. The other thing that happens is you’ll have people reach out to you and be like, “I can’t believe you did this. I love the old name. Why would you change that?” People don’t like change unless you give them a reason to like it.
I’ve done this before. I’ve said to people to raise their hands if they don’t like change. Everyone in the room will raise their hands. I’ll say, “Who would like it if I would add an extra $50 to your check every single day?” All of them raised their hand. I’m like, “That’s a change. You like positive change. You don’t like change that is unknown and scary.” The thing is when you make those changes, the best thing that people can do is to announce it, “We have something exciting coming up and we’re happy about it. We’ve gotten a lot of feedback on it.” I announce it coming up so people don’t get caught in the dark like, “What happened?”
That’s if you have a service like person-to-person business where you’re helping somebody individually. I find that’s a good way to do it but also don’t be afraid of some negative feedback because you’re always going to get negative feedback no matter what. You’ll probably get negative feedback from having me here from someone, “I don’t like Alex’s voice. I don’t like the way he looks,” something like that. It happens when you have an audience but also the dip that happens is organic, that’s natural. People are going to disappear. I also don’t recommend making ten changes back to back because every time you lose a little bit of the audience, but they do come back. It always seems to bounce back. I’d love to hear that happened for you by chance when you changed everything, did it grow after that? After you get the dip, did it grow afterwards?
When I changed and we went from Comprehensive Coaching and Comprehensive Coaching U and we went to The Coaching Institute, first, we had a huge dip. We had a lot of pushback from students and graduates. All of the sudden, we not only grew but we grew exponentially. To fast forward, I was at that company for many years when I decided what I was passionate about was the Heartrepreneur cause then I said, “I have to change the name.” What I’m doing now for an outcome has changed. I have to change the name and the branding has to follow. We saw a dramatic increase instantaneously, which shocked me. It told me that what I had been doing for years, Alex, I was doing this Heartrepreneur thing without a name. Finally, I had a name. People were like, “I get it even more.”
I don’t mean to turn this interview on you, I’m sorry for asking questions here, but were you nervous to make that change? How did that feel internally? I’m wondering for my own knowledge here.
This is good because us talking back and forth will help other people. I was nervous when I even changed the name of Comprehensive Coaching and we went to The Coaching Institute, I thought The Coaching Institute was the better name. I had no idea it was going to happen. I’m like, “I’m taking a perfectly great business and I’m going to blow it up. Am I making a big mistake?” I then took this very established business and I was known in the industry in that business and all of a sudden, I came out with Heartrepreneur. I was more than scared. I thought I’m going to lose my entire audience. I had an email list of 55,000. I already had a big social media presence, so I was scared. What advice would you give to an entrepreneur who’s tuned in or a Heartrepreneur who’s saying, “I also feel like I want to shift my brand and I’m scared?”
First of all, that story is inspirational for me because I’ve had times when I’ve considered changes but it makes me scared to do them. It is nerve-wracking a little bit. I like that you practice what you preach, you followed your heart. You knew that ultimately that’s what you needed to do for your audience. There’s nothing better than that. It’s sitting down and making that decision. If you were making a change to make a change, I don’t necessarily agree with that. You need to think about the ‘why’ behind the ‘what.’ “Why am I going to make this change? What is the benefit of it?” I like the name better. It’s catchier. If you don’t have traction, this is totally different traction already. Making a change can be scary like you’re saying, but you did it because you trusted your heart saying, “I know this is where I’m supposed to be.” The fact that you saw an immediate increase from it, that’s incredible. You overcame that fear, you went forward and you did what you were supposed to do.
Going back to the question here. If I was going to talk to somebody saying, “Alex, I need to make a change.” We’d evaluate everything first. I’d say, “Let’s look at why you feel like you need that change. Is there an actual reason for it?” Also, we’ll look at the history. If you’re changing your name every year or something like that, you’re not getting any real traction, you need to revisit the idea. This goes back to brand versus branding. Your name is technically branding to a certain extent until it’s known. I think that many people might want to change it to see, “Maybe we’ll get traction.” Sometimes you need to go back to the original idea. What was the idea? What was the reason behind it?Whenever you're thinking of making a change, always think about the why behind the what. Click To Tweet
When you go back and revisit that, it might bring some things to your mind that you didn’t think of before. Instead of changing the name, you should change the product, change of service, change your approach of bringing it to people. People need to check themselves. I’m very analytical. I’m into the thinking, looking at data and things like that, but some of the things cannot happen anywhere other than the heart. It has to come from your heart. The business and your heart are very connected. It has to be. If you’re wanting to solve somebody’s problem, you’re not wanting money. You have to be willing to check yourself internally. If it’s time for some change, you have to be willing to overcome that fear and go for it regardless of what’s going to happen.
I’m glad you mentioned that. It is important. We want to use the analytics, statistics and we want to have knowledge. I believe, as a Heartrepreneur, clearly the blending of intuition and heart. If you’re coming from, “I’m focused on creating an experience and an outcome for my audience,” then you’ll know the right direction. The podcast, by the way, what you want to listen to with Alex is Creating A Brand, especially as an entrepreneur and a Heartrepreneur, you’ll enjoy the interviews he does. He got all kinds of interesting experts and all the topics truly are things that are going it’s only a matter of you and your business. They’re also going to make a difference in your life. It’s Creating A Brand. Is there a website they can also go to?
I’m not really creative, so I went CreatingABrand.com. It’s simple. People were like, “Why should you be creating a brand?” I’m like, “Because that’s what it’s about.” I didn’t come up with a clever name or anything like that. Terri, you have much more of an interesting mind. I’ll say mine is Type-A, 1, 2, 3.
I like websites like that for a couple of businesses and it’s important the readers know. Number one, it tells you the result. What is Creating A Brand? Number two, it’s easy to remember. Let’s face it, Heartrepreneur, people have all kinds of trouble remembering the spelling. That’s a great tip that you gave people.
Don’t tell your name is short at all. I love it. As soon as I saw it, I was like, “That sounds cool.” I’ve not heard anyone doing it. I get it. It might be hard to spell but don’t ask me to spell it right now, but I appreciate that. Thank you.
What is the biggest mistake that perhaps you’ve seen that people are doing or that is trending in terms of people creating a brand? What’s the one thing that’s over and over again?
I’ve got a handful. To keep on track of what we’re talking about here and to keep these conversations moving along, I’ll stick with finding the problem to solve is the heart for a lot of people. I find that entrepreneurs these days, especially ones that are leading from the heart, have multiple passions. We have a lot of things that we can help people with and that we have a desire to explore further. Because of that, what we’re doing is broad so we can help people with their personal development and time management. We also help them grow a business, a blog and also I’m great with pets.
When we start, it has to start with one thing. It can’t be all over the place and be 10, 20 different things. You need to find the one problem that you uniquely solve and make the thing that you do the best and you can add more to it. Here’s what I’ve learned is when you help somebody with one thing, they’re going to come back and ask, “What else can this person do for me?” They want to know more about how you can help them. If you put on your website, your branding, everything that you’re doing, one thing that you solve, they’ll come back for the rest. Even big companies are doing this on their website. When you go to their market and you can look at a company that only sell one service on their website.
If you look at it and scroll through slowly, you’ll notice like, “They’re all about this but I know that you do X, Y and Z as well.” The thing is they’ve understood the power of intentionally solving that one problem that somebody has. A lot of newer entrepreneurs, especially the ones I’m talking to, when I’m helping them make that first or next step in their business, they’re saying, “I’ve got these ten ideas. How do I get all ten of them out there right now?” I say, “Narrow it down to the one that’s closest to your heart, the one that’s most important to you right now that you know that you’re the only person that could help somebody solve this the way that you can and then go after that.” That’s a long answer for you, Terri, but that’s the one thing I’d bring up to people.
We’re aligned with what I say all day long to my client, family members and people that I speak to at conferences. Know the one thing and focus on that. I do many things, as you said, we’re passionate and a little bit of ADHD.
It’s somewhere in there but not diagnosed.
I have client family members hire me for that one outcome and then as we develop our relationship and we get to know each other better, they say to me, “Do you also? Can you help with?” “Yes.” I open up the other areas. This is some of the best advice. I believe many entrepreneurs are all over the place and people don’t hire them. They don’t come to their business as the business of choice because they don’t see the one unique thing that business can do, the one problem we solve. That’s great advice.
Clarity wins every time is what I always say. I get that we all have multiple passions and we have a deep desire to help people. That’s where I come from. When I was confused early on, when you do all these different things for people, it’s because I cared. I wasn’t trying to make money and trying to grow my business necessarily, I really wanted to help people. I knew that I could multiple ways, but when you’re everything to everybody, you’re nothing to anybody. For me, I had to say, “I’ve got to get crystal clear on the one thing that I know that can help people with.” Terri, you’re saying the rest of it is a byproduct. It will come naturally, but you have to be willing to say, “Here’s what I do and the rest will come organically, naturally later and trust the process that happens along the way.”
There is trust in that because sometimes people will say, “What if people don’t come for this and they don’t know that I do this and this?” I say, “If it is the one thing that’s in your heart and soul, you know you can deliver results and outcomes on. You’re even willing to guarantee those results and outcomes because you know my company where I am good at that. This is what we do,” then people will come for that. You don’t have to be concerned about all those other things. You think of Coca-Cola. They didn’t start out with all of these product lines, Dasani water and Sprite and all these million flavors of Coke and Diet Coke. They were Coca-Cola. They got known for one thing that they were good at. Some of their diversification hasn’t necessarily worked so well. However, because they have the one product and the one outcome they’re branded under, can you relate that together?
You’re talking about how we can have the one product, one service and the branding. It’s important in all of your messaging. Going back to clarity, it’s got to be crystal clear for people to understand. Anything that you’re doing, it doesn’t have to be perfect. I had a number two thing. Terri, you were asking for two things. The second thing I’d say is to start now, launch with what you have with where you are and not worry about perfection first. As a recovering perfectionist, I always want to get that out there, so it’s that little plug there for everybody. It’s got to be like, “Here is the clearest way I can say this,” and go out and start solving real people’s problems. Don’t blast it on social media. Start with local. Start with where you are. Go to meetup groups, get on the phone with people. Do little one-on-one calls. See if you can start helping somebody and organically grow that business. It can scale later.
Once you have some testimonials and things like that, you can start growing it online again. Everything has to be focusing on one thing. If you help somebody with that main focus that you have, then you help them with something else as well. If there’s some of that other thing, don’t publicize that. Keep that to yourself and internally, “That’s cool. It makes me feel great. I’m happy to be helping someone on multiple levels,” but keep it focused on that main thing. Going back to your branding, keep it there everywhere on your website. Keep the testimonials about that and go out and start solving a problem for one person and one person at a time. Build that momentum. For me, something I always remind myself is, “Alex, your job is to help save one person get out of the trouble they’re in now, not everybody.”
Even when I speak, I still tell myself that. That’s how I overcame the fear of speaking. I said, “Alex, I know there’s one thing that can help people with. I can help people take that next step in business. I’m going to have one person that’s going to do that today and I’m happy.” When you have that idea of, “I’m not going after the world, I’m going after one person to change their life and make it better with the problem that I can solve for them,” and you have everything in tune. Synchronize with that one focus and that helps you a lot across the board. I went on a little rant there. I don’t know if that answered your question.Whatever you're doing, it doesn't have to be perfect, but it has to be clear. Click To Tweet
Let me make a couple of points. That was fantastic. That wasn’t a rant. That was great.
It’s passion speaking. That’s what it is.
The first thing I’ll piggyback on, when I started this business many years ago, that is all I did. People ask me all the time, “How did you get 30 clients in 30 days?” I said, “Literally by helping one person a day for 30 days.” I never asked anyone to hire me. Every single day, I said, “I’m going to go help someone.” Each day, I was helping someone get one result. The one thing I was good at, one result. Over the period of 30 days, I have 30 clients. My focus has never changed. I do a lot of Facebook Lives and a lot of videos and every single time, before I do it, I go, “Someone that I’m going to be speaking to in this video needs the advice that I’m going to give.” I look into the camera and I am speaking to that someone. I know there’s one person who’s going to go, “That’s what I needed.” Other people are going to say, “That’s nothing. That’s a waste of time. I already knew that. I don’t care.”
Every day, just like you, I wake up and say, “I’m going to help one person solve a problem doing what I’m good at.” That was such key advice, not a rant. That was beautiful. Thank you for that. Let me remind the readers, I want you to tune in to Alex’s podcast, Creating A Brand. It is aligned. As you can tell, he is truly a Heartrepreneur. He’s quite brilliant and someone that you probably need in your business and your lives. You can find more at CreatingABrand.com. Alex, what’s the last word of wisdom that you want people to walk away with? You have given us so much value. It’s such an honor to be with you.
It’s something I’ve been saying a lot lately that is important. We look at these brands, we look at everything on the internet, which is weird. We have access to the entire world now. You used to only see what was in your library or what was right in front of you. This goes back some years obviously but I remember learning about things in a library. Now, you log online and you can see the greatest of the greatest right in front of you. I think that many of us would get discouraged by that when we’re looking at it. It doesn’t mean to be discouraging, but it can be for a lot of us. We look at and we’re like, “I’m not that and I don’t know if I could ever be that honestly.” I know that I’ve felt that way many times in my life. I had to come to this realization that each of us are created beings and we are made to create.
I’ve been telling a lot of people this that we have greatness and creativity within ourselves. You, the readers, have greatness and creativity within yourself. Don’t compare yourself to other people’s journey. Don’t compare yourself to other people at all. There’s something that only you can do in this world and if you’re letting it hold you back because you don’t think you can do as well as somebody else, then you are skipping the opportunity to help somebody uniquely that only you can help. Somebody’s life is not going to be better because they didn’t get the chance to work with you. Remember that you have greatness and creativity within yourself. The world needs what you’re creating and what you’re willing to offer. That’s the last piece of advice I’d leave you with and your readers, Terri.
That is wonderful advice. I’m asking our readers to take that to heart. Thank you so much, Alex. It has been a delight to be with you.
It has been fun.
I feel so aligned. I’m glad that we’ve made this connection. Thank you so much for creating a brand, CreatingABrand.com, the Creating A Brand Podcast and all that you do for us.
No problem. Terri, by the way, I’ve got to say this quick side note here, you’re a fantastic interviewer. Being on both sides of the mic, I have to say that I understand how difficult it is to be a host of a podcast. You do a phenomenal job in your audience. Stick with Terri, she’s going places. I’m a listener myself. I’ve left you a review and all that. I love listening to what you’re doing. Thank you for the value that you add to people’s lives as well.
Thank you so much. That comes from doing what I love and doing what is fun. I want to say thank you for reading. I wanted to give you two quick invitations. I would extend this to Alex as well. First of all, you can join our Facebook Community. This is truly a community of Heartrepreneurs, business owners just like Alex, you, myself who are here to help each other every single day. We wake up in the morning and say, “How can we create value?” That’s on Facebook. It’s a group called Heartrepreneurs with Terri Levine. I invite you to join, be a member, learn and contribute value. Secondly, we put together a brand-new educational webinar. That webinar will help you overcome your biggest financial issues in business. It’s not a pitch, it’s not selling, it’s not like your typical webinar. You can find that at TLWebinar.com. I invite you to join that as a free gift. Thank you for reading. Thank you for being here. Make sure that you connect with Alex at CreatingABrand.com. Thanks, everybody.
- Creating A Brand
- Heartrepreneurs with Terri Levine – Facebook group
About Alex Sanfilippo
Alex Sanfilippo is the host of Creating a Brand, a top 20 entrepreneurship podcast where he interviews successful leaders and experts on topics that matter to entrepreneurs who want to grow faster both personally and professionally while saving time and money in the process. Visit CreatingaBrand.com to join the Creating a Brand Community and to accelerate your success!
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