“Get Personal.” With Fotis Georgiadis & Shannon Lavenia

Survey your customers to discover where you are missing the mark. We did a campaign with one of our software-as-a-service clients and asked the very simple question: “how can we serve you better.” The result was astounding. More than 80% of customers responded that they wanted more tutorials on how to use the software in innovative […]

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Survey your customers to discover where you are missing the mark. We did a campaign with one of our software-as-a-service clients and asked the very simple question: “how can we serve you better.” The result was astounding. More than 80% of customers responded that they wanted more tutorials on how to use the software in innovative ways. They wanted “ideas” that would help them in their business and to make the most of the software. This data was so important because an order had just come down from management to the marketing department to increase sales promos. We changed that to webinars that demonstrate services and incorporated their sales messages into the webinars. They saw a dramatic increase. Ask your customers what they want. It sounds simple, but it’s very effective.

As part of our series about “Brand Makeovers” I had the pleasure to interview Shannon Lavenia.

Shannon is a high-energy, fun, and dynamic speaker, coach, and entrepreneur who transformed her life from bored, broke high school teacher to online business and branding expert. Her story is one of overcoming adversity to live an incredible life, having survived and thrived through being an orphan and beating Stage 3 breast cancer. She is the founder of Brand Builder Design Studios, the voice of the Booming Business Podcast, and creator of the Brand Builder Course Collective. Shannon is family-focused, operating her business with the philosophy of family fun first while still creating incredible results and serving her audience with results-driving expertise. Shannon uses her energy, experience, and expertise to create obsession-worthy brands for her clients and coaches her students in the creation of fun-fueled, passion-fulfilling, wildly profitable businesses. She’s an expert at business expansion/life balance and demonstrates how to implement systems and easy, results-producing marketing strategies that get her clients the results they’ve yearned for while enjoying life to the fullest. You can learn more about Shannon and access her free training and resources at

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit more. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Thank you for asking. In 2015, I was at a point where I was looking to streamline my business and pretty much re-invent myself. I had spent 13 years in the direct selling industry and had just experienced another company shut down. Over the years, I had been asked by literally thousands of people how to generate leads online for their businesses. I incorporated my love of teaching with my knowledge of online marketing and launched a course called Brand Builder. From there, I started Brand Builder Design Studios to meet the need for done-for-you branding and marketing services. It’s taken off and has been more successful than I had originally anticipated.

Can you share a story about the funniest marketing or branding mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

OMG! Originally, I did my branding myself. I loved bright colors and so did my branding in these splashy, bright colors that I thought were really cool. My niche, however, was entrepreneurs looking to scale from the $100,000 mark to the seven-figure mark. Instead, what I began to get were a lot of requests for marketing tarot card businesses. I was also getting a lot of requests for “free” coaching. Some clients wanted to exchange “future predicting” services for branding. I realized that my marketing was way off kilter and speaking to the wrong audience. I got really into surveying and began to study what colors my ideal audience resonated with and rebranded myself. My business instantly began attracting the correct clientele. We use these survey processes in our business now for all of our clients.

Are you able to identify a “tipping point” in your career when you started to see success? Did you start doing anything different? Is there a takeaway or lesson that others can learn from that?

My tipping point came relatively early on in business. By my second year in business we were knocking on the 7-figure sales mark. For me, that tipping point was caused by learning and applying. I came to the table knowing that I had no experience or real knowledge in sales or marketing, so I bought courses, books and attended events. I was a consummate student and was always putting myself in the environment of people more successful than myself. By doing this, I gleaned a lot of useful data that I applied in my business. I’m also always analyzing the data. I look for what is working and what isn’t working. I do more of what does work and less of what doesn’t. That’s been my ticket to success.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

Yes! We have a few projects in the works that will give people access to our exact marketing pipelines and processes. This will make the learning curve much smoother for people because they won’t have to learn as much to get results and generate leads. We are also in the midst of a relaunch of our Booming Business Podcast. I’m very excited about the line-up of A list guests we have coming to our audience.

What advice would you give to other marketers to thrive and avoid burnout?

This is an excellent question. I wrote a very popular e-book entitled “How to Balance Your Life and Boom your Business.” Personally, I believe it all boils down to making smart choices with how we spend our time and planning our time. Some people call it time management, but I don’t think managing time is the reality of it. I know it’s a combination of smart planning and making wise choices throughout the day. If a person is constantly pulled in a gazillion different directions, they get burned out. If they waste time scrolling through Facebook when they can be doing other productive things, that creates stress. So, having a daily battle plan that tackles the actual project steps that will produce positive outcomes, and aligning that with time for family and for personal self-care, plus a sprinkling of “no” to things that are unimportant, and you’ve got a formula for positive accomplishment and less stress. This is why I’m an advocate of project and profit planning. Once one knows the steps to achieving the profits they want to drive in, they can then allocate time daily to completing those projects.

Ok, let’s now jump to the core part of our interview. In a nutshell, how would you define the difference between brand marketing (branding) and product marketing (advertising)? Can you explain?

The purpose of brand marketing is to make one known. If you think of the well-known, often spoken about formula of “Know — Like — Trust”, brand marketing is the fundamental methods of getting known, getting liked and building trust. Product marketing is done with the purpose of having someone buy. A great example for the distinction between brand marketing and product marketing can be seen with Ford’s advertising plan. Ford Field is in Detroit and is the home of the Detroit Lions. However, people aren’t buying Fords because their name is on the stadium. It does build recognition, maybe endears Detroit Lions fans to Ford and increases trust. Having their name on stadium also makes a statement about the size of the company.

What has someone drive a Ford out of the showroom are the advertisements, incentives, past experiences, reviews, and skill of the sales person. The incentives and ads drive the potential customers into the dealership where they are then sold by the salesperson. The ads and incentives are product marketing. However, if the consumer doesn’t know, like and trust the brand Ford first, they will be a lot less likely to respond to the product advertising and walk into the showroom.

The two methods are vitally intertwined and important. Product advertising is less effective is the consumer doesn’t have some familiarity with the brand. Branding alone won’t drive in sales. It’s why companies pay athletes millions to endorse their products; it increases know-like-trust. That combined with the direct product marketing is a guaranteed win-win to roll products off the shelves.

Can you explain to our readers why it is important to invest resources and energy into building a brand, in addition to the general marketing and advertising efforts?

Having a brand increases a person’s trust for the company and their willingness to purchase the products. The best known always wins. That’s why product endorsements are so powerful when you are utilizing influencers. It’s a great way to get exposure of a brand to a large audience which increases their familiarity with it. It also increases trust because a trusted authority has endorsed the brand. Once that is accomplished, it’s important to keep the product in front of the audience and that is done with targeted ads placed correctly in the areas where these consumer are likely to be viewing.

Aligned with that is reputation management. I’ve seen companies invest in paid advertising and influencer marketing but neglect their online reputation when it comes to reviews. That leads to a waste of resources. The company might then believe the influencer didn’t do their job but in reality, it’s the bad reviews that countered their efforts.

Let’s now talk about rebranding. What are a few reasons why a company would consider rebranding?

First, let’s talk about what rebranding is, because it’s commonly only associated with changing colors and a new logo. A brand is far more than the colors and the logo. A brand includes the communication, both visually and verbally from the company to the consumer. Rebranding can be very strategic in several situations and can be disastrous in others, (ex. Netflix/Quikster). The first thing someone should do when considering a rebrand is survey their brand amongst their current demographic. If the logo and brand name are largely recognizable and draw a favorable opinion, there shouldn’t be a change. Surveying can identify what consumers like, don’t like, want and expect. Meeting the wants and expectations is the basis of brand growth. However, if their brand is no longer recognizable or draws a negative opinion, it would be important to rebrand and launch this with a powerful marketing campaign. Rebranding would be more about the messaging and slight transformations in the look and feel, if needed.

Brands that have successfully rebranded and transformed into new markets without changing their look are Target, McDonalds, and Burberry. These brands were able to change the public opinions of their businesses and brands without making dramatic changes to their look or feel. Burberry crafted gorgeous new products and campaigns featuring hip celebrities to recreate their luxury brand and break into new markets.

Be wary of brand advisors who want to change a logo, colors or a site just “because”. Any changes should be backed by actual consumer research. Another reason for rebranding could be that the type of clientele that are attracted to the brand aren’t ideal for growth. That could mean the messaging, colors, logo, etc. are appealing to the wrong audience. That would advise a change, but again, doing research to find out what would appeal to the ideal audience before launch is essentially important.

Are there downsides of rebranding? Are there companies that you would advise against doing a “Brand Makeover”? Why?

Yes, there can be downsides of rebranding and there are countless stories of this from major companies like BP Oil and Pepsi. First it can be expensive depending on who’s doing the brand strategy and the size of the company rebranding. If it’s a large corporation it could amount to millions just to make the changes in logo, messaging, etc. It’s a gamble. Tropicana once rebranded their orange juice containers and their sales dropped 20%. This all boils down to making decisions based on assumption and opinion instead of data. In these cases, it’s hard to believe they used test groups to evaluate if they even needed a change and if people would positively respond to the change. Change for the sake of change can be devastating.

Ok, here is the main question of our discussion. Can you share 5 strategies that a company can do to upgrade and re-energize their brand and image”? Please tell us a story or an example for each.

Focusing on upgrading and re-energizing a brand is so important and the correct direction to put attention. It doesn’t mean rebranding. It may mean remessaging or targeting a new niche. Here are my five recommendations to re-energize a brand.

  1. Survey your customers to discover where you are missing the mark. We did a campaign with one of our software-as-a-service clients and asked the very simple question: “how can we serve you better.” The result was astounding. More than 80% of customers responded that they wanted more tutorials on how to use the software in innovative ways. They wanted “ideas” that would help them in their business and to make the most of the software. This data was so important because an order had just come down from management to the marketing department to increase sales promos. We changed that to webinars that demonstrate services and incorporated their sales messages into the webinars. They saw a dramatic increase. Ask your customers what they want. It sounds simple, but it’s very effective.
  2. Share successes. Take time to interview your customers and feature them to your audience. This is one of the easiest ways for a small business to gain brand recognition and trust. Do an interview, post and boost that post to an online audience of ideal customers. Personal successes with your products are so important. People find common ground with real people who are seeing real results with what you offer.
  3. Deliver Exceptional Service. One of the first things we do when working with clients is go through their internal flow lines. We almost always identify a breakdown point that is limiting their growth and sales and a lot of times it has to do with how they deliver their service. It can be anything from cheap packaging to wait times for customer service reps. We once helped a small business that had launched skincare products rewrite their instructions and create online tutorials. The result: Their return rate and customer service calls plummeted. If you look and listen, you can find what customers want that they will deem exceptional.

Another example I can give is the onboarding process we have at Brand Builder Design Studios. We honed this process over the years based on client feedback. It’s so smooth and simplified, our customers love it. It’s enabled us to charge a premium price, get paid for our services up-front, and serve a higher level client.

  1. Get Personal. The online surveys only provide a small amount of usable data and it has to be quantifiable. The qualitative data is even more valuable. It’s the language someone uses to describe your product, what it does, why they like it, what they’d like more of that is the “secret” to exceptional branding and marketing. Get on the phone with customers. Call them, thank them, ask them what they want, need, how you can help. You’ll identify trends that can up-level your brand instantly.
  2. Use Influencers, Reviews and Referrals. These things all work amazingly well. There’s simply no excuse to have bad reviews online and they kill sales. People trust reviews. Yes, you can sit around and blame the cranky, but the truth is, you should have been prepared for them in the first place. Be cause for the opinion base of your business online by being prepared and delivering exceptional products and services. Use referral marketing that is incentivized to grow your brand. ButcherBox and CauseBox do this very well, offering incentives for referrals.

In your opinion, what is an example of a company that has done a fantastic job doing a “Brand Makeover”. What specifically impresses you? What can one do to replicate that?

In my opinion, Burberry did an exceptional job. When I was growing up in the 80s, Burberry was a gangbangers clothing of choice. That was the age of spandex and neon and Burberry was frumpy and old. When I was in my 30’s it became much more popular to a higher end clientele. I attribute this to restyled products that were promoted by popular celebrities in higher end advertisements.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I would love to create a platform where people can share their stories in a way that moves and touches others. I believe that everyone has a story that can impact and influence others in a positive and creative way. I’ve often stopped to talk to random people, including homeless people, and I have heard the most incredible stories and gained so many valuable life lessons. The life lessons from people who have lived extraordinary lives are laden with practicable wisdom.

The other, and totally unrelated, has to do with a movement I want to initiate entitled “Don’t buy pink.” I will be launching it in September before Breast Cancer Awareness Month. What few people realize is that when they buy pink, very little or none of those dollars spent goes towards curing Breast Cancer or helping women going through treatments. People have the most beautiful intention to help, but their money isn’t making the impact it should be making. I want to put a network together of amazing organizations that support Breast Cancer Patients with things they need and also fund Breast Cancer research at universities that people can donate to instead. I’m in the process of establishing the 501c3 non-profit to do this.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

My grandfather used to say, “Work with your brain, not with your back.” He helped me realize that ideas can be the most profitable and powerful things we’ve got. It’s what we do with those ideas, bringing them to fruition that matters and makes a difference. It helped me think bigger about what I could accomplish and that my ideas and thoughts mattered. I became the first person in my family to graduate college and go on to have my own business.

How can our readers follow you online?


Thank you so much for these excellent insights! We wish you continued success in your work.

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