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Sasha Laghonh on Crafting a Unique Identity in Crowded Markets

Sasha Laghonh on Crafting a Unique Identity in Crowded Markets

Founder of Sasha Talks

Could you tell us about your business and its brand identity?

Sasha Talks serves as an educational platform that extends business consulting services among a few niche areas which include performance management, business development and self-development. Part of its identity has always encouraged people to bring an open mind and heart to experience the difference. What's the difference? It varies per business client. The work focuses on the human condition. Give yourself an opportunity to view life and business from an alternative perspective. Learn about it, you don't have to like it or embrace it. Applying discretion is encouraged before implementing anything new into one's path. Whether you're a business or an individual, give yourself a chance to learn and grow.

How has your unique brand identity contributed to the success and recognition of your business in the market?

I organically became known as 'Sasha of'. Once I started creating and sharing content online and offline, it was an easy way for people to reference me. Even my business cards read, 'Sasha of'. The original brand identity started with my headshot, name alongside my website and the sound of my voice. It remains pretty much the same today which reflects the humble beginnings of the platform. When you start out with a bootstrap budget and sensitive circumstances, the constraints in life challenge you to think outside the box. Sasha Talks was born at a time when I had nothing to lose but to gain from giving myself a chance. The fear to fail didn't exist because I had already recovered from an external business proposition that had gone sideways. The wisdom acquired was to fail fast then move on. Since I had prior entrepreneurial experiences, I was able to apply those lessons by infusing them into nurturing this new seed.  

Can you share the journey of how you developed and refined your brand over time?

Initially I challenged myself to engage in commercial spaces where I could connect with people seeking assistance with their real-time needs. Offering paid phone and email services alongside my speaking tours contributed to building interest from global audiences. The brand developed a more potent personality when I started integrating my professional business, academic and publishing expertise from my career path. The platform became a haven for me because I wasn't expected to segregate my skill sets when engaging in business.

Branding in crowded markets can be challenging. What obstacles did you face in establishing a strong brand, and how did you overcome them?

I actually didn't think about branding and competition much because the platform was presented as an imprint of my personal DNA and professional insights. The focus shifted towards remaining relevant by ensuring I'm communicating with my audiences online and offline at a sensible cadence. Communication was key to initiate and maintain connections among spaces where people were transacting to attend my paid speaker engagements, classes and custom consulting services. It was time to learn how to strike a sensible balance between being available for the right clients that are aligned to produce results.

Timing also played a part because people have real-time needs. Addressing their requests past a certain time window yields a no return for both the brand and the prospective client. Thus the wait list was implemented over time. Also an option to expedite specific consulting services became available for a supplemental fee.

Fortunately I didn't get the bug to serve all the people in the market. Sometimes when new brands enter a market space, they feel the need to be everywhere 365/24/7 to serve everyone. It's not the best application of one's time, energy and resources.

Don't forget your mission and your 'why' when working on branding. Keep yourself from imitating other brands because your brand must remain unique in its DNA. It's easy to get derailed by distractions in the market in today's age. Either too many people obsess about the wrong things in branding, or they surrender to an approach they aren't passionate about. It doesn't have to be this or the other.

Branding should be fun if you grant yourself mental and emotional space to explore creative ideas. Keep desperation at bay. Focus and build your brand in baby steps, you'll thank yourself for it.

How do you ensure that every customer interaction reflects your brand identity, and why is this consistency important?

My introductions and sign-offs remain the same to this day. I communicate it verbally online/offline, in writing and through any exchange of interactions. There are certain annual traditions that I exercise among my long time clients when there's bandwidth to celebrate their presence -- and there's no catch! :) I am not one to take my clients, organizations to individuals, for granted because we all have a choice to engage one another or not.

Also as the brand identity ascends to new stratospheres, it tends to attract prospective clients representing new needs. I choose to remain true to the brand that I will turn down business if it falls outside of my values, expertise or when I'm certain the client is not committed to their cause.

It's important that prospective clients are granted an opportunity to rise up to where your brand resides. If you lower your standards for one client, you're already setting yourself up for a mess that will eventually result in the tarnishing of your brand and your sanity.

It's okay to be the bad guy up front rather than later when you've already invested your resources in the wrong client.

Do your best to be consistent in your mission and branding values. If you slip, it's okay. You live and learn but come back wiser.

In practical terms, how do you measure the impact and success of your branding efforts?

I rely moderately on metrics and more on the quality of clients that seek my services. It lets me know how they discovered me as well those conversations are much direct to the point. They're ready to conduct business instead of monopolizing time with discussions that lack relevancy to the nature of the platform, their needs or my work. It's clear to witness the distinction among different audiences for how they discover Sasha Talks.

Can you share an example of a branding misstep, what you learned from it, and how it influenced your approach going forward?

Sasha of Sashatalks is pretty succinct that I can't think of any specific mishaps. I've had members from foreign countries contact to check if I were a man or a woman which caught me off guard. Then I realized these respective people had heard about me but had not heard my voice, or visited the website which shares my headshot. This was a long time ago before the site evolved into an informational resource. I didn't do anything about it because life happens --- people process and digest information at different rates. I wasn't going to overcompensate by making it clearer of who I am.

What key pieces of advice would you give to new businesses trying to establish a strong brand in a competitive market?

Remain true to yourself. Take your time and experiment with what works but don't break bank. Spending all your money on branding will not guarantee results. Apply the time to think about the identity and values you want to convey to the market. Imagine a teenager morphing into an adult over time. The lessons and experiences will enrich this person's identity. The attributes may morph over time yet the heart of the message should remain true to what you offer. That's how I view branding.


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