Stephen Houragahn: Driving Bottom Line Results With Branding that Works

Stephen Houragahn: Driving Bottom Line Results With Branding that Works

If there’s one thing that’s the most important in today’s world – it’s how you put yourself in front of everybody. How do you show up in today’s world with your business – is what matters the most. What does it have to do with money?

In today’s episode, Adam sits down with a freelance designer turned brand strategist + Founder & CEO of the Brand Master Academy – Stephen Houragahn.

More About Stephen:

Stephen shares proprietary systems, experience and knowledge in branding, business, and marketing with tens of thousands of followers and students via The Brand Master Academy Programs, The Academy YouTube channel and The Brand Master Podcast + Brand Strategy Community.

Key Takeaways:

  • Stephen gives insights into his background and business.
  • What is the most common misconception in the world of branding?
  • Stephen explains what a brand strategy is not.
  • Stephen shares his theory on why brand strategy is so misunderstood.
  • Stephen explains what brand strategy actually is.
  • Why is it important to have a brand strategy in place? Why are businesses and professionals, despite reaching out to brand professionals, face a hard time growing their brand? Where does the gap lie?
  • Stephen & Adam talk about April Dunford’s book related to brand positioning.
  • Stephen shares his thought on brand positioning.
  • How much time does Stephen put into developing a brand strategy? How long is Stephen’s end-to-end process?
  • How important is it to have a brand guide, especially if you work with freelancers and agencies?
  • How harmful brand misalignment and inconsistencies can be?
  • Being consistent vs not – How can inconsistency tamper with the trust?
  • Should you put your money in branding if you’re an early stage startup with limited budget?
  • Building your brand strategy is just like building a foundation for your house.
  • How should freelancers or creators take into consideration a strategic branding approach while creating assets or building content for a brand? How important it is – and how it can help them increase their rates?


Branding can make or break your business. Without a brand strategy in place, you’re driving a car with your blindfolds on. And if you are a freelancer or in-house creator, if you seriously want to deliver results, you need to approach your work strategically – will also help you increase your rates.

As simple as that!

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Episode Transcript (unedited, will likely have typos):

Adam G. Force  0:00 

How do social entrepreneurs and small businesses create an authentic brand people love so they can get the edge they need to stand out, create Predictable Revenue and compete against the big guys. That’s what we’re here to discuss. I’m Adam forest, the founder of change creator and this is the authentic brand mastery podcast.

What’s up everybody, welcome back to the authentic brand mastery podcast. This is brought to you by change creator, and I’m your host on force, hope everybody has been well, you know, we’ve been really focused on the working with these ecommerce brands that we’ve been supporting and helping grow their businesses. It’s been quite a journey. So we’ll be dropping more episodes as we, as we go here, for the podcast, there are a lot of good things to talk about. And today we’re going to be talking about branding. So well, that’s, that’s a topic that’s near and dear to me. And it’s such an important part of how we build up our brands to earn trust, and you know, all that fun stuff that helps drive sales at the end of the day. And that’s our focus here is sales, because, you know, we can’t make a difference in the world, we can’t do any of those fun things that we all love to talk about having impact and, you know, all that stuff if we’re not making money. So, you know, as a change creator, you know, we work in for example, with you know, organic skincare brands that are non toxic, or someone who has children’s book that want to change the way you know, people are kids are learning the alphabet and the values they adopt. So, you know, but we can’t spread those positive products if we aren’t understanding how to sell properly. And so we’ve kind of been opening people’s eyes to how to actually make these things more profitable. You know, I had somebody that did a million dollars in sales, and you know, they weren’t profitable. So, you know, we’re working with them. And we’ve shown them the numbers that, you know, they’re there, their comments really were, I can’t believe I never saw the forest for the trees, right. So, you know, that’s part of the process is learning and understanding how to make it work. It’s not just about being passionate and working hard, it’s about actually having an expertise in selling, right. Selling is a key part of your business. So we focus on it anyway. That’s what it means to be a change quitter, right, we want to make a difference, but we got to know how to sell. So we’re gonna be talking about brand name, because that contributes to your bottom line and how you show up in the world and how you position your product and you know, understanding who you’re selling to. And that changes over time. So it’s a living breathing process. Alright, so let’s get into this conversation with Steven, our gun. I hope I pronounced that right. Sorry, Steven. So really cool, dude, he runs brand mastery Academy, he was a designer that got into brand strategy. And now he’s the CEO and founder of brand master Academy. He also has a podcast, and that’s called Brand mastery podcast. So he basically has all these systems he’s created and experience in business working with people and himself, and his own businesses and stuff like that, in the branding and marketing. And he’s helped 10s of 1000s of students now, right through his his programs. So he has a lot of experience a scenes what works and seeing what doesn’t, and that was a big pivot for him. So we’re gonna talk about that pivot and why it was so important in his business, to really help people achieve the results that they’re looking for. When you want your marketing to work, you better believe that you better understand exactly what the result is people want and how to deliver it. If you can’t get that you’re gonna have a hard time, right? So we’re gonna get into this and get into branding and what really makes it tick. Okay, show me the heat. No, you go. Hey, what’s up, Steven, welcome to today’s show, man, how you doing?

Stephen Houragahn  3:57 

I’m good. I’m good. How are you doing?

Adam G. Force  4:00 

I’m doing excellent. Things have been going well over here. So yeah, I am excited to chat with you. It looks like he got a wealth of knowledge and one of my favorite spaces or categories, if you will, which is branding. Let’s get real on branding today. What do you think?

Stephen Houragahn  4:19 

Let’s do it. Let’s do it. Let’s, let’s Let’s clear out all the BS

Adam G. Force  4:23 

is clear out all the BS. That’s right. There’s a lot of that. First, like, let people know what you’re about, like, where are you coming from as far as like what’s going on in your world? And how do you how do you have any right to be talking about branding? Yeah, well, I’ll

Stephen Houragahn  4:39 

break a pretty long story down into into a distilled version, what my background is actually business and finance economics. And, you know, after the GFC is when my career was just starting to kind of take flight. The market completely changed and it was an opportunity for me to do something Different because as much as it was a glamorous kind of career, it’s not something that I really enjoyed doing on a day to day basis. And something that I did enjoy doing was was creative stuff. So so things in and around Photoshop and creating things. So I took my hand to design, I went back to school, I studied and, and I got into the world of branding from a visual perspective. And after a few years on the agency scene, I was able to offer those services to people one on one, you know, I had people coming to me saying, Hey, can you do this for me, and that kind of Springboard me into the freelance world and, you know, and, you know, it started off pretty well, I was getting referrals, and, and then I started to notice a bit of a shift in the market and, you know, the prices that I had been charging, you know, I started getting a bit of a push back, and, you know, referrals that seem to come my way quite easily started to dry up. And, and, you know, I noticed more and more people saying to me, you know, I can go and get this done cheaper online, you had the lights of oDesk and Come on, and so the market completely changed. And that’s when I asked myself, you know, you know, I need to give these people a compelling reason to choose me over the others, what is that reason gonna be and that opened up the world into differentiation strategy. And from there, I was just, it just opened up this this massive world in a brand strategy, which I knew very little about. And the over the following years, I dove right into that along with marketing strategy, digital marketing strategy, as well. And it made me realize how many people go into the market and believe that a brand is your visuals. And, you know, you get your self a logo on the website, and away you go. And, you know, I saw this problem the time and again, so in creating in searching for answers for my own business on my own brand, I found this, this this product, and this this thing that my clients needed and and that’s what threw me into the world of brand strategy, I created brand strategy frameworks. And you know, that started to to gain wings, I started to write a lot of content about it. And I had a lot of eyes and questions around what brand strategy was and, and that, that gateway to brand mastery Academy where I now teach frameworks and systems for branding professionals, professional brand builders, how to build strategy for their clients to provide a better service and increase the revenue increase the rates that they’re charging, and kind of get away from that. oversaturated market.

Adam G. Force  7:45 

Yeah, that’s interesting, interesting journey there. Well, I guess I’m curious, just on your perspective, now, I mean, so you’re working with people, you’re actually working and training people to support their clients with more brand strategy intelligence. Let’s, let’s get clear, though, for everybody listening. What exactly the gap is, because we talked about how we believe the visuals or the branding and stuff, this is a common like, you know, common misperception misconception, right. And we see it all the time. And I, because brand strategy actually covers a lot of stuff. So maybe we should just give people a little clarity then what it is not. Right. So let’s start there.

Stephen Houragahn  8:33 

Okay, well, well, brand strategy. First of all, it’s not a logo, that’s easy thing. It’s not your logo, it’s not your website, and it’s also not your marketing strategy. So, um, you know, I’ve got a theory about why brand strategy is so misunderstood. It feels to me that it’s been in this blind spot for many, many years. You go back 40 years ago, and marketing traditionally was, you know, you would go to university, and they would teach marketing as this little tiny, they would teach branding as this little tiny subset of marketing. Okay, and that’s still happening today, in a lot of spaces, brand strategy is still a branding as tall as this subset of marketing. And then when, of course, the digital transformation, you had individuals with skillsets getting out there and selling their services. And you know, you had designers going into the market, selling their their logos and their visual identities, but they were packaging as branding and brand branding services. Yeah. So you had these entrepreneurs who are also new to the scene, taking advantage of the digital transformation saying, hey, I need branding. And you just had this perfect storm, where branding and what branding actually is really sat in this blind spot and and you know, That’s where the education gap is, because marketing didn’t do a good job of that early on. And then the Freelancers coming out into the world selling their visual identity services, as branding didn’t do a good job. So entrepreneurs have been kind of left in the dark as to what branding really is, and where they need to start in order to build the brand. So that’s where the blind spot is. And that’s where the education gap is.

Adam G. Force  10:22 

Yeah, I mean, there’s definitely a gap in education, because it’s this, this surface level of what people see. And that’s what I’m hearing from you. It’s like, you got these are designers and stuff, and they’re packaging up. What is sexy, right? It’s the sexy part in there, and now associating this as branding 100%. So

Stephen Houragahn  10:43 

just just to touch on that there as as what you said, the surface level. And that’s an analogy that I use quite often. You know, the tip of the iceberg is your logo, it’s your website, it’s the visuals, it’s what people see. But underneath, all of that is where the brand actually is. And underneath, all of that is exactly who your audience is. And not just what market you’re serving. It’s what segment of that market. Are you serving? And who are these people? What did their lives look like? And what challenges are they going through? What emotions are they going through, because when you know, this sort of stuff, that’s when you can really tap into exactly what they want, and how you can give them what they want, in a unique way compared to your competitors. And that’s where the beauty of strategy lies.

Adam G. Force  11:30 

Yeah. And that’s it. I mean, you know, before we kind of started recording our chat, we were kicking a couple of things around, and I see it all the time, where people, you know, they build websites, and they do all this stuff with their products. And, and they don’t have a brand strategy, which It blows my mind, you know, because it informs everything that we do.

Stephen Houragahn  11:55 

But it’s not, it’s not their fault, it is not their fault, because they have not been guided in a way that they don’t know, right, they don’t know, they don’t know. And they go to the they go to professionals hoping that they’re going to get the right advice. They go to a branding professional, a lot of the times it’s a designer who are trained in the tactical work of designing logos and websites, and they’re left disappointed, because at the end of it, they have a logo, they have a website, but they don’t know what’s next, their brand doesn’t have a voice. Their brand is no different to any other brand in the market, they do not have a differentiation strategy, they do not have a positioning strategy, they don’t have a personality or attributes to communicate with. And they don’t have any kind of verbal identity. And all of these things are the real tool of a brand to influence the consumer to influence the mind of the audience as to why they should choose your brand over all of those competitors. Because at the end of the day, your your logo and your website’s not going to do that.

Adam G. Force  12:59 

Yeah, I mean, that’s exactly it. And I think the positioning, you know, the more I’ve gone through brand strategy discussions with people and like, there’s a lot that’s important when you’re building a company. And when it comes to selling, I have found that that positioning is just such a powerful part of the process. And most people, they have no idea, a positioning exercise. And I came across I did an interview with someone. Have you heard of April Dunford, at this point? Yep,

Stephen Houragahn  13:27 

I have heard of the name, I wouldn’t be able to tell you exactly where I’ve heard of,

Adam G. Force  13:32 

she wrote a book. And she all she does is positioning with companies. And I’m always reading and stuff. And I listened to her book. And it’s interesting because she really kind of expanded this approach of how to think about positioning and what really works. And she’s kind of like goes after the classic formula that people use, you know. And it just opened my eyes to another way of thinking about positioning. And I used to start with certain things first, and now I start, depending on what the client’s needs are, I’ll start with positioning first because it lends itself to then the perfect customer and all these other things. So yeah, like it soon as I see it, evolving in some ways, as well. So I guess I was just curious, you know, view. I don’t know what your positioning strategies are, and all that kind of stuff. But it was just interesting to see it evolve. There’s evolution in the branch

Stephen Houragahn  14:29 

100% There’s evolution. in the branding world. As I said before, branding used to be this subset of marketing today. Branding has evolved into this entity that sits on top of the business strategy. It sits on top of the marketing strategy, it influences all of that. Now, when we get down into the weeds, of course, when you’re when you’re helping clients to build their brands, a lot goes into defining the puzzle Shouldn’t have the brand, you know, what position are we going to take in the market because you can’t go out there and just be another, you know, another player in the market, because you’re not giving your audience any reason to choose you over your, over your competitors. Now, a lot goes into that conversation. But we can simplify that we can really, really simplify it and strip it back and ask the question, if one of your customers was to ask you, why they should choose you, over your competitors, what would be a very, very simple sentence that you would give them to tell them to give them that reason to choose you now, I know from experience from dealing with with entrepreneurs, that nine times out of 10, it’s probably 9.9, they do not have a compelling reason, or any reason at all, that they will choose you and look at the end of the day, if you’re competing on price, then you’re not building a brand. You’re you’re you’re in the commodity, you’re in the commodity business. So if you’re not competing on price, where exactly are you competing? You know, are you the most efficient options in the market? Are you the most simplistic? Are you the most supportive? You know, do you provide a completely unique experience to deliver a similar or a better outcome to your competitors, because it’s not always about better, you know, better is not always the solution different, is sometimes better than better, because you give them the outcome that they want, but you do it in a way that’s unique to you, and is different from all of those competitors. And in doing that you’re giving your audience a compelling reason to choose you over them.

Adam G. Force  16:50 

Yeah, I think now that that that’s exactly it. I mean, anybody listening? I mean, this is, this is crazy. And I love the point of you don’t always have to be better, but you have to be different. You know, and, and that is key. So I like to always ask the question, you know, what, what companies are people going to use? If you didn’t exist, right? Like, what’s, what’s the alternative? And then what really makes you stand out from those guys, and you start really kind of drilling down into those things. So I’m curious on what how long your process is, and then we’ll get into just maybe some of the, like, more practical insights to help people with some of their their processes. But how long is like, how much time are you putting into developing a brand strategy in incompletion? Like, is it a, it’s a day or a two day thing?

Stephen Houragahn  17:42 

No, no, it would be well, lucky, you have to allow for many moving parts. And depending on the size of the team that you’re working with, if you’re working with a one person entrepreneur, and you can block out a week of, of your month to get that done. And you can also liaise with your customer to do the same to be able to workshop with you, then, you know, you can you could put those hours in the way the way my process works is typically it would take around about four to six weeks. And that would include workshops with the clients, and then taking that information that they’ve given you or that you’ve extracted from that workshop, and developing that ad into a strategy to then go on and work on the deliverable. So the strategy would then feed the other work that you would typically do for some people, it’s copywriting. For other people. It’s logo, it’s its website. So sort of, they’re often some deliverables on the back of the strategy. A lot of branding professionals now are looking towards strategy as a way to give their clients a better level of service, yet they still stay in the deliverables game. And they still offer that tactical work, you do have other strategists who are turning in words, looking at strategy, breaking that as a separate service, and just focusing on the strategy allowing them the client to go off and do their marketing, or work with a designer of their choosing if they want. But the real value of branding is in that strategy. And that’s where clients are prepared to pay a premium if you’re able to help close that education gap because once they understand the value of what you’re doing for them, then they see the value in that so part of the game is closing that education gap to give them and show them the value of doing that strategic worse work first and foremost before going and spending 1000s of dollars on logos and websites.

Adam G. Force  19:39 

That’s 100% it and I like the idea of like you may have deliverables like we do the website sales funnels for E commerce and stuff like that, but we can’t do those things if we don’t understand the brand strategy so we don’t do you know, like the depth like you’re doing full tilt like several weeks of like in depth work with teams. Um, and we probably do more select, like pieces, right that we need to accomplish our goals. But I love the fact that you’re helping people ground the tactical work in real strategy, because

Stephen Houragahn  20:13 

it’s a very good way of putting it because at the end of the day, if you jump straight into tactics, then you know, what are they based on, because we can all jump onto Facebook ads, we can all jump onto Instagram ads or Google ads. But if you don’t have, first and foremost a reason to give your audience to choose your brand in the first place, a way of delivering your message, a certain tone of voice, a certain personality and a certain type of offer, then, you know, that tactical work doesn’t have that foundation, it doesn’t have that grounding. And that’s where strategy comes in, it gives that that solid foundation so that you can refer back and go, Oh, this is what we decided we wanted to build as a brand. This is who we’re trying to serve, this is why they’re going to choose us. And the decisions that we’re making aligned with the brand, are we on brand, because if you don’t have a compass to tell you whether or not you’re on brand, then the tactical work that you’re doing is going to be more expensive, because the likes of Facebook ads, your your your cost per lead, your cost per click, they’re all going to be higher, because you’re not dialed into who you’re targeting, and the way that you’re targeting them, and the reasons that you’re giving them to choose you.

Adam G. Force  21:34 

100% Yeah, I mean, I think that there’s just so much to be said for that. And I think the being consistent at every touchpoint, digitally, right, you have so many different areas of real estate that your brand shows up. And if you don’t have the brand strategy, and you’re working with agency A or B or freelancer C and D, and you don’t have some way of giving them your strategy, so they can stay consistent, you’re gonna be different all over face different tone, different style, you know what I mean? Like,

Stephen Houragahn  22:09 

exactly, so so so social media managers, for example, they will, you know, they’ll put posts out there to represent the brand. And then you might have content writers on the other side, they’re creating articles to represent the brand. Now, if there’s no central point, or no brand guide, to guide the work on the verbal identity and the and the attributes that the brand is leading with, then your your content over here and your social media posts over here, they’re not going to be aligned. And you know, the today, there are so many different touchpoints that you can have. And if your audiences coming back to your brand, and they’re, they’re getting different experiences from one platform to the next, that doesn’t build trust. Now a lot of this happens on a subconscious level. But if they’re able to, if your voice is unique, and if you’re if you’re doing something different, and they see that in your on your social posts, and then the same voice translates over into your content over here, and then over on to your, your, your reels on on Instagram. And they all have that, you know that that subtle personality that they’re getting at every single level, and they like that they’re drawn to that, then they’re going to keep coming back for more, they’re gonna start trusting you. But if you’re having, you know, posts over here that have a completely different tone of voice and a personality to the posts over there, your brand is misaligned. And you’re not going to earn that trust. Yeah.

Adam G. Force  23:39 

100% Yeah, and that trust is something that does take time to earn. And if you have those inconsistencies, it’s I mean, we all know it, we all experience it, you know, like the red flags go up. Right? That’s part of it.

Stephen Houragahn  23:53 

That’s it. That’s absolutely right. If all it takes is one red flag out, um, you know, yourself, if you go to buy something, and you know, you’re digesting somebody’s content, you’re looking for reasons, you’re looking for reasons to wrong. And it’s it’s only when you when you come back and you and I continue to deliver that level of consistency that you’re after in the way that that’s compelling to you. And unlock personality is a big thing. We’re all different. We all have different friends, we all listen to different music, we all wear different clothes, we’re all attracted to different attributes. So there’s room for everybody in this game. And you know, if you’re consistently putting out messages that speak to a certain type of person, and and you know, you’re consistent with that, then you’re drawing them in and you’re building that trust. If on the other hand, you drop the ball and you say something that that’s, that’s not consistent with everything that you’ve been doing. You go on to break that trust, and once you break the trust, it’s very, very difficult to earn that back.

Adam G. Force  24:56 

Yeah, yeah. 100% So I guess what would be some of the things that, you know, there’s a lot of people out there, they don’t have these brand strategies. I guess what would be your advice in because a lot of startups, they’re not going to spend a fortune, too. I, I guess I see two different worlds, right. So you have the world view from a young entrepreneur, maybe not young, but just an early stage entrepreneur. They’re like, geez, do I spend 1000s of dollars to get my brand strategy done? And because they, I think there’s a gap in knowledge, like you said, that they have to understand why that’s so important for them to feel like it’s a good investment, right? The thing is, what people struggle with is, it’s not something that’s like, well, you’re gonna get sales out of the gate. You know what I mean? It’s not something that gets immediate results financially. So they’re like, Oh, my God, well, the first thing I need to do is get sales, which don’t get me wrong. I agree. If you don’t have money, you got no business. So there’s a little dance there of validating getting sales or figuring this stuff out? Or where do you put your money? So I’m curious if you come across this with some of the earlier stage people?

Stephen Houragahn  26:08 

Yeah, absolutely. And look, I totally get it, I totally anybody who has started their their business, you know, they’re starting on a limited budget, nobody started starts up a business with unlimited funds, very, very few companies start that way. So you have to be very, very careful with where you put your money. And, for the most part, a lot of a lot of people believe that they first and foremost need a presence, because without a presence, nobody knows that they exist. And of course, when they get their logo on their website, suddenly they exist. But an analogy that I like to use and something that I felt, you know, way back when when, you know, I was I was ready with with my website, I was I was a young freelancers, you know, starting yet, and I put together my logo on my website, and I had this feeling like I was I was I was launching live. And I was I was, you know, it was like, I was standing in the middle of Times Square, and I was I was announcing to the world I was here. But in reality, I was setting up a little lemonade stand in the desert where nobody knew it existed. So this idea of having a presence with a logo and a website, it doesn’t give you the presence that you think it does. Now I do get, you know, why should I spend this money on a strategy, if it’s not going to give me early results, and there’s a lot of different ways that you can test the market with growth hacking, and kind of just getting stuck in there to with tactics on LinkedIn, and just have a very, very basic landing page to collect emails and just just kind of test the market that way without spending 1000s and 1000s of dollars on a website, on a website and a logo, to just prove that, you know, there is a market for your product, right. And my advice would be if you’re in that stage, and you do have that, that early traction, and those early signs that, hey, look, what I’ve got is something that’s that the market will, will like, I’ve gotten some, you know, some traction to show that the market will like this, continue to do what you’re doing, and put some of that money in the bank and do things right the first way, because if you skip over the most important parts, then you’re going to, it’s going to cost you money in the end. And an analogy that I like to use is that you’ve got a lot of entrepreneurs, they, you know, they rush out into the market, and they, they can see the other side, and they see this this, you know, this, this business that’s producing all this money and changing their lifestyle. And they want to just run towards that. And they try to take the quickest route to get there. But what they don’t see is they don’t see this chasm, and they don’t see this, this whitewater river beneath them. And they tried to run there without building that bridge without taking the time to figure it all out. Well, how do I get from A to B, they just, they pick the quickest, quickest road, and nine times out of 10. They get into that Whitewater, and they get washed away instead of doing things correctly, the first time analyzing the situation, looking at where they want to get and making decisions in a calculated way. And that’s what strategy is all about. If you if you rush to market, if you you know if you take the few dollars that you have and and you know, do the sixth step before the first step. You’re just you’re going to be left disappointed, you’re going to end up wasting money. And you’re going to be back at the start and you have no idea how many clients I have dealt with where they said I wish I hadn’t done things right. The first time around, I would have saved 1000s of dollars. And I would have saved months or years of time and they’re back at the beginning knowing that they need to look at who their audience is first and define the position that they want to take in the mark Good, and the way they’re going to communicate that position to the market. So, of course, I get it. But if you cut corners, then you’re gonna pay for it in the long run

Adam G. Force  30:10 

pay for it. Yeah, it’s like buying a cheap product, like you go to the clothing store and you buy something cheap, and you pass on the expensive quality one, and you just ended up buying both. The other one? Again,

Stephen Houragahn  30:24 

that’s it. That’s it. And, you know, it’s, it’s just the basics if you cut corners if you try to do things, you know, I’m not saying there’s no room for bootstrapping, you can bootstrap, of course, but you either pay, you either pay with time, or you pay with money. Yeah, if you’ve got the time, then invest in your own education. If you don’t have the money to pay a brand strategist, then go out there, there is so much information out there. Now, when I started out in brand strategy, it was very thin on the ground. You know, and with brand mastery Academy, that’s what I created, I created something that I wish had have been there on the brand mastery Academy YouTube channel. Now there’s something like 200, I don’t know, maybe 300 videos, just on brand strategy. So I mean, you could you could not just on that channel, but there are many other channels out there. And you could just binge if you have the time, then invest in yourself invest in what you need to know, before skipping over the important information, and spending money on things that you’re it will you’ll just end up back at square one.

Adam G. Force  31:32 

Yeah, I mean, 100%, you go in circles. And that’s what happens people like they skim through these strategic types of steps, and then they try to execute execute the fun stuff. And then they realize it’s not working. Or maybe I need to go back and look at that again, you know, a little bit more, and I keep going round and round around. Yeah,

Stephen Houragahn  31:50 

and that’s exactly right. It is the fun stuff. And it’s like, it’s like you decide to build your house. And you get all excited about you know, the interior decoration, you know, the sofa that you get to have, you know, the cinema room that you want to build, and you start picking it, you know, paint the drapes, and, you know, you skip the important details of the foundation of the house. And, you know, there’s, there’s, there’s no way that you’re going to be able to have the house that you want, if you don’t put that time in. And now with a house, you’re restricted by physics, you know, you can’t build a house unless you you, you get your foundation in place. And that’s it. That’s it. Now with a business, you’re not restricted by that, and you can you can cut corners, because you’re not bound by those same principles. And that’s why so many people lose so much money when it comes to business, rather than, you know, building a house themselves.

Adam G. Force  32:51 

100% Yeah, I was gonna say earlier, it’s like trying to build the Empire State Building without a blueprint or foundation. I mean, you need a blueprint. It’s like, you don’t want to play darts without a dartboard. It’s really as simple. Those analogies make it so easy. It’s just like, you got to know where you’re going, what you’re doing, and everyone else around you needs to know to, you know,

Stephen Houragahn  33:13 

yeah, that’s it. For for professionals, the likes of social media managers, that they do want to take more strategic approach copywriters, graphic designers, then the education that they learn their job, then is to give the give that to their clients. And if they do that well enough, then their trust goes up with that client, because they’re going into the market knowing that they don’t know that branding, they they know that, that there is a logo involved. They know that there’s a website involved. But they all have relationships with brands in their own lives. They have a relationship with Nike, they have a relationship with Apple, so they inherently know that there’s more to branding than just the visuals. And if you’re able to help close that education gap, they will they will they inherently get it already, but they’ll be able to, you know, to have that understanding. And then once they have the understanding, that’s when they see the value and that’s when they’re prepared to pay more for the services that you offer.

Adam G. Force  34:17 

100% makes sense to me, man, I love it. I think that I love the angle that how you’re positioning yourself, you know, to provide the tools that different professionals need to make the tactical delivery of their products more effective. Because at the end, I mean, we’re trying to get clients results and just whipping up a website or sales copy without understanding this stuff. I mean, it’s just round around you go kind of wasteful, right. So yeah, that’s it. And I wanted to know just a little bit more. So this the stuff that you put together It seems like it could be for anybody who is going to be working with clients like I, I’m curious if there are certain things like if you’re a copywriter, the website developer or whatever, it’s all relevant to them like, but would they be going and trying to go through these full processes that you outline? or would there be select things that would be relevant to them just trying to connect the dots for people?

Stephen Houragahn  35:25 

Yeah. So the way I like to look at it is that brand is in the center, all of this tactical work that everybody is doing, they’re doing it to communicate the brand. Now, for the most part, for the most part, you know, these, these individual cogs that are sitting on the outside, which could be website design, it could be logo design, it could be copywriting, it could be any type of game, it could be direct response, marketing, it could be sales funnels, right, these are all communicating the brand, right? So so anybody who is in that line of business, if they’re able to do that more effectively, by turning inwards, and actually look at what they’re trying to communicate, which is the brand and they’re able to put systems in place to help their client develop that at an earlier stage. So that the tactical work that they’re doing is more effective, then it’s a win win for everybody. Because if these tacticians, you know, are getting clients coming to them, without having done the foundational work, then they’re not providing those tacticians with the tools that they would be better served having to do their tactical work. So why not turn inwards and actually help your clients to bridge that gap before you actually produce that work. And if you understand how to do that, and this isn’t rocket science, by the way, if you understand how to do that, and you’re able to splinter that as a separate service, so that you have them coming into your world. And not only are you are you giving them a higher level of value, you’re giving them clarity, you’re giving them clarity, ah, this is who my brand is, this is what my brand represents. This is the way my brand talks is the way my brand dresses, this is the verbal identity of my brand. When when when you have that moment with clients and your written this, this often happens in a workshop. And they suddenly get it they’re like, Ah, I know who my brand is, now I know who my brand is, then they have this level of confidence where they’re like, like, I get it now. So all of this tactical work, it starts to make more sense. And when they go out into the market and and try to manage their brands for themselves. They they have better tools to be able to do that. So, so yeah, whether whether it is a copywriter who is turning inward and looking and asking those questions. And, and really, Adam, all of this starts with asking questions, just very, very simple questions to get the ball rolling. So who is your audience? You know, you know, what segment of the market? Are you targeting? Why them? Why are you targeting them? What business? Do you have targeting targeting them? Why would they choose you? You can open up that that question? And if you then have the frameworks to take the answers to those questions, and build a strategy and a brand around that, then you know, the value you’re providing to your clients is is is tenfold because they have that clarity, and they have that belief in their brand as well.

Adam G. Force  38:44 

Yeah, I have found that if you can offer these conversations upfront one, so you have what you need to perform your job, right, and then two, it does help the client because most of them don’t have this stuff. So if you can get through some of these key things, there’s eye opening moments, and then they also why I also think you could charge more because you’re building this into your process. Right. So if you’re talking about adding brand strategy conversations and bringing that to the table, that’s something that can up here. Yeah,

Stephen Houragahn  39:15 

I mean, I mean, just to give you an example, one of my students was was was just doing the logo and website design services. And he had a ceiling at around about $4,000. He he he went through the program and and he got the the frameworks and the systems with his next client. And you know, he has a big bonus to do this. But his next client key, he quoted him $60,000 And the client took it up. When he ran them. He ran them through the process and they produce the best work that they have ever produced because it was fed by the strategy that work went on To win awards, on on, on, the website awards, a few different platforms that they want awards on. But the work that they produce was was so good because it was born from the strategy and, and who the actual, who the actual business and brand was trying to appeal to, they found that out through the Strategy Workshop. And it meant that they didn’t just try to appeal to everybody anymore, they were appealing to a very, very specific segment of the market. So now going from 4000 to 60,000. In your first client, that’s obviously, you know, pretty extreme. But just to be able to add that value, it just gives you an idea of how much more valuable it is to the client, than trying to sell them the tactical work.

Adam G. Force  40:50 

Yep, I’m with you on that. Awesome, man. I mean, I think there’s I hope people listening are really kind of letting it sink in just the value of the strategy, the strategic pieces of the puzzle. And let’s make sure you get a chance to shout out where if they want to learn more and see the kinds of things that you’re offering? Where do they Where do they find you, Steven?

Stephen Houragahn  41:14 

Well, brand, mastery. is the website. You can also search brand mastery Academy on YouTube, if you want to dive into a ton of videos. But we have a blueprint as well. And I’ll I’ll be able to provide you a link to the blueprint, but the blueprint will give you the foundational elements of strategy, and the pieces of the puzzle that you need to consider which which includes the likes of your your, your audience, your competitive analysis, your your messaging strategy, your storytelling strategy. These are fundamental pieces that every strategy should consider when building a brand. So if you want to, if you want to get your hands on that, it’s called the pro brand strategy blueprint. I’ll shoot across that link. And and they can they can pick that up as well.

Adam G. Force  42:02 

Cool, man. Awesome. All right. Well, I listen, I really appreciate your time. I love the work that you’re doing. And just kind of, you know, coming on here and chatting about it. I hope everybody listening got a lot of value out of that such a important part of just especially long term success, right? So even I mean, you can probably get some early wins and stuff, but it won’t be as sustainable as if you have this setup the right way.

Stephen Houragahn  42:24 

Yeah, yeah, absolutely. It doesn’t, it doesn’t take long, you could just jump onto your Facebook feed and scroll down a few posts and you’re gonna see something for you know, some kind of some kind of marketing hack that, you know, which if you have your brand strategy, then you’re in a position to take advantage of that more. But a lot of people get sucked into all of that tactical stuff. But get your foundations right and, you know, you’ll be well placed to take advantage of any marketing campaign after that

Adam G. Force  42:56 

point. 2% Awesome. Thanks again, appreciate your time. Appreciate it. Thanks for tuning into the authentic brand mastery podcast. Don’t forget to stop by change For more information, fresh articles, content and our services if you’re looking to build a brand that people love, and please stop by iTunes, leave us a five star review. We appreciate your support

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