Three Branding Mistakes To Avoid with Megan Wagner

business optimization loyb podcast marketing strategies Oct 19, 2021

Have you been jumping from one trend to another attempting to stand out in your marketing?

Or have you been doing the same thing that worked in the beginning only to see your results dwindling over time?

Today on the podcast, we have Megan Wagner of Heart-Based Branding Academy to chat about how to put your heart into successful marketing.

You will be able to take these tips and apply them to your business with confidence to reach new audiences, stay in integrity and continue to enjoy your business long term.

There are 31 million entrepreneurs just in the US, congratulations for being one of them. In a 2020 survey from Small Business Trends, only 43% of entrepreneurs stated they were happy. Part of this unhappiness comes from seeing what everyone else is doing and what is working for others and jumping on those same things.

When looking at your branding it is so important to look at how it expresses itself. A brand does not explicitly say buy me, instead, it says, “This is what I am, this is why I exist if you agree, and if you like me, you can buy me, support me, and recommend me to your friends”.

What are some of the top mistakes Megan sees entrepreneurs and small business owners making and how to avoid them?

Three Branding Mistakes to Avoid

1. You don't know what branding truly means.

You might think of branding as just a logo, a tagline, or a color pallet easily recognized as your brand. Those things do help people see your brand out in the world. However, that isn't an accurate representation of what branding is. Branding is how your business makes someone feel, the results you can get them, or what you stand for as a company. Branding is how other people experience and talk about your company compared to all others out there.

2. Getting too hung up on marketing tactics.

This is where you think you must everywhere all the time to get results. First, it starts with Facebook, then Instagram, or you see people having success with Tiktok and podcasting. All of it is shiny object syndrome that leads to feelings of overwhelm or frustration from being spread too thin. If the focus is only on the visuals or getting the exposure; it will work against you as you still need a solid plan.


3. Not evolving your brand with your strengths and passions.

You are the boss. You are in charge. You can do what you want with your brand. You are in control and can change things up as you go along. As you grow, learn, and change as a person means you can change your brand as you go. Branding is fluid and can and should change with you. Changing allows you to stay in integrity and enjoy your business by being a pure reflection of who you are.



Marketing is like building a house. Goals, strategies, tactics make up your plan to get you to where you are trying to go.

Goals: The blueprint of the building. What the structure is going to look like, where you’re going in the long term.

Strategy: The foundation and framework. You need to build the walls, install the wiring, make sure all the doors are working.

Tactics: The fun interior decorating part of it all, painting everything, adding the best curtains, making the house into a home.

References mentioned in this episode:

Megan Wagner is an award-winning marketing strategist and brand coach who is obsessed with helping entrepreneurs nail the basics of branding so they can grow their business with less pain and more profit. She’s the Founder of Heart Based Branding Academy 

You can connect with Megan on Instagram at @marketingcoachmegan


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Welcome to the Lean Out Your Business Podcast, a show dedicated to helping entrepreneurs accelerate business growth and simplify success. I'm your host, Crista Grasso, and I've been working with businesses for more than two decades to help them lean out and optimize what's working while eliminating anything that's not adding value. So, if you are ready to get more time back in your day, more profit in your business, and to do business differently growing and scaling on your terms. Let's dive into today's episode.

Hello, hello, and welcome to another episode of the Lean Out Your Business Podcast. Today we are going to be talking about heart-based branding with Megan Wagner. So, Megan, so excited that you're here. I'm going to give you an opportunity to tell everyone about yourself. But first, let me share a little bit about you. Megan is an award-winning marketing strategist and brand coach and she is obsessed with helping entrepreneurs nail the basics of branding so they can grow their business with less pain and more profit, which who does not want that? Most importantly, she strives to help her clients build a business that is based on what lights them up, brings them joy, and is completely authentic and aligned to their individual strengths. Megan, welcome. I'm so excited you're here.

Thank you, Crista, for having me. I'm so excited to be here as well.

So, tell everyone a little bit about your journey and how you got into branding. And you know what it is about what you do that lights you up and brings you joy?


Oh my goodness, okay. Well, as you said, I am a marketing strategist and brand coach and I actually started my business back in 2015. So, this is my sixth year in business, I can't even believe it. When I started my business, I started out as a marketing consultant done for your marketing service agency. That's what I thought I wanted to do back in 2015. And I actually started my business because I had lost my job in corporate, I was a director of communications, and the job before that I'd been a marketing and PR manager. So I'd worked in corporate since my days after graduating from college. And you know, I must say that losing my job, while at the time was very upsetting and very stressful; was actually a blessing in disguise for me because my company was very toxic. And I think we can all relate to those past jobs that just were miserable to be in, I was surrounded with a close-minded atmosphere and a no culture rather than a yes culture. And on top of that, I also had to endure misogyny and ageism, because when you're in your mid to late 20s, if you don't have that experience, you're deemed as perhaps not as valuable or your ideas don't have the same merit as somebody who's been there for 20 years, right? So, I was dealing with a lot of that ageism, a lot of misogyny, and also a lot of micromanagement. So it was not the best place for me to be in because I'm generally a fun, happy person. And I was turning into a version of myself, I did not even recognize; losing my job was probably a blessing in disguise, probably the best thing possible for me. I kind of realized after that experience that no matter where you go in a corporate setting, companies genuinely don't care about you. They truly don't, they don't care about you, they don't care if you can't get to work, if it's a blizzard outside, they just literally don't care. So that's when I decided that I needed to go out on my own and do my own thing. The thought of that really lit me up because I could have flexibility, I could, you know, not have to report to anybody or have my ideas constantly swatted down and not even considered. So, I really desired, I guess, the glamour and the prestige of being an entrepreneur, which isn’t this is why we get into it, you know, because it's like this peaches and rainbows, glamorous kind of life. And I wanted to build something on my own for flexibility, for more income. And I also really wanted to build something or build a business that no matter who got brought in to be part of my team, I really wanted to make sure that they were treated really, really well. I wanted to implement equal pay, which I have, which I did. I wanted to foster an open-minded, trusting, and transparent culture within my business and I wanted to build something that I had not gotten in the corporate world.

Going into 2015 when I started my business again, I started as a marketing consultant. And I was doing a lot of subcontract work for other marketing agencies, which was great for experience in different industries and you get to work on a whole bunch of different projects at one time and you also got a lot of experience doing a lot of different things. So, I was I was dubbed at one point, the Jill of all trades, which is wonderful. But that brought a lot of unnecessary stress. And it brought a lot of unnecessary, I guess, unhappiness because while I knew I was doing a good job, I knew what I was talking about, I knew what I was doing, I just felt that there was always something that was off, there was either a deadline or something went haywire, or an ad campaign didn't shut off. It was just something, it was always something that you had to worry about. And I was like, finally, after doing that, for a couple of years, I just had this realization, like, what am I doing, I finally own my own business, I was making about the same I was making in corporate which the first few years that was huge, but at the same time, it's like, oh, my God, I feel like nothing's changed, except I don't have anybody breathing down my neck, when that realization hit me on the heels of that was the pandemic, with that a lot of that work kind of fell away. And you know, I started a new business partnership, and that, you know, was very promising. And during the pandemic, we were very, very busy. And then that kind of fell away afterwards. So, like, all these things just kind of fell away. But I realized that they fell away for the good of what I wanted to do and what my realization was, I love to coach, I love to teach, and I have been a member of the faculty at St. Bonaventure University teaching in the Master of Communications Program since 2013. And so that's something to be said, that's probably like the longest job I've ever held. Because I just love it, I love to teach, I love to mentor my students. And so, I'm like, okay, Megan, if you are still happy in this job; if you're still happy in this job for eight years, then that speaks to what you need to be doing in your business. So finally, I had that lightbulb moment when I just, I finally woke up and like, okay, what I need to do is, I need to be coaching. And once I got my first two coaching clients, what I found is that the impact that I had on my knowledge and my teaching, and my coaching them was far greater than any impact I had on planning a campaign or running a Facebook ad campaign, or, you know, these things that we know as marketers are really, really involved. They take a lot of expertise, and a lot of know-how, but somehow, they're just dismissed and businesses get in this mindset where if they run a Facebook ad campaign, that's the silver bullet to making their business explode, and nothing could be further from the truth. And so, what I found was when I taught someone, and I showed someone, and I solved a problem for someone that not only had the greatest impact on them, but it also made me feel so freakin lit up. I'm like, yes, I feel so good. I helped someone today, by the way, you know, afterwards, I send my invoice, and then I had nothing to do after that, then maybe send them the replay of our session together. And it was awesome. And they loved it. I love it. So that's when I knew I wasn't the only person that had to be feeling that way where they started building their business years ago and now it's just not fitting with them anymore. It's just not, it's not serving its purpose for them anymore.

So right now, there are 31 million entrepreneurs just in the US and I read a survey the other day, it was a full 2020 survey from Small Business Trends, and only 43% of entrepreneurs stated that they were happy. When you factor in the number of entrepreneurs that are out there, there are over 17 million people who aren't completely happy in their business. That's when I knew that I had to refocus my business to my strength and into my passions, and that there is legitimately a need out there. So that's why I'm here. It's been a journey and it takes courage to switch to different things in your business and to switch gears and to really have the courage to do something different. But my God, is it worth it.


 It is so worth it. Yeah, and I think so many people can probably resonate with so much of what you shared where it is that winding road, right? It's like what you think you're going to do; you never know exactly what you're going to do. It's when your journey starts that you have experienced some really bad, some really good and you're just constantly pivoting and the road keeps on winding, and then you finally kind of find the thing that clicks and I think that that's a lot of what you talk about with the heart based branding that I'm really excited to dive into with you and it makes perfect sense that that's what you do based on your journey because like those early really bad experiences in corporate are great because as much as they probably were not fun at the time they gave you the clarity of the type of business that you want to run and the type of business owner you want to be and then you know your other experiences with the agency and stuff it just, it all kind of shapes what makes sense for you right now and I'm going to assume that that's probably true for everybody as all those experiences as well eventually takes them into what you call heart-based branding. So, tell us more about that.


Well, let's  first, I guess, do a little bit of a rewind, and  let's talk about branding just for a second. Because what I've heard over my almost 15 years working in marketing, there is so many misconceptions about what branding is, if I had $1 for every time someone said, I need a rebrand. I mean, I'd be in Tahiti, we would not be talking, I'd be off into Tahiti somewhere, you know, sipping pina coladas on the beach. But when we talk about branding, it's not a logo, it's not a tagline, all those elements are part of the brand, of course they are. So, a brand does not explicitly say buy me, instead, it says, “This is what I am, this is why I exist if you agree, and if you like me, you can buy me support me and recommend me to your friends”. So essentially, a brand is a living, breathing entity that is the core of your business. That is who your brand is. And I love saying the statement as well, because I think people kind of hear this and be like, what? But your brand doesn't belong to you, it belongs to your consumers or your prospective consumers. So, it is their impression of you from a top of the funnel phase. So, if you're new to a brand, it's what they perceive you to be. And then also, it's that end result when they have actually worked with you. And you could create the most beautiful website, the catchiest logo, the funniest tagline, of course, you can do all that. But if doing business with you, or experiencing your brand is a terrible experience, and your brand is going to be weakened, and there's going to be some deficits in that experience, people are not going to want to do business with you again.

So that's essentially what branding is. And when we think about heart-based branding, we're talking about infusing your own individual strengths and passions into that brand. Because when you think about the people you follow on Instagram, let's take for example, I follow someone based on a human as most of times people buy from people. So, if you are not individually vested in your business's brand, then that's a problem. And when we think about, you know, kind of going back to my situation, like I started my business thinking and knowing that there was a need for all these services. Absolutely. People need Facebook ad campaigns, people need communication plans, people need websites. But was it true to me, and what I wanted to infuse into my business because my heart wasn't in my business for a long time. It wasn't in my business. And now when I coach, I'm like, my heart is all in it, like my heart is on my sleeve, and I am all in it. And so, when I walk away after a session, I just feel so good. Whereas before, if let's say a Facebook ad campaign wrapped up, I'd be like, finally it's done. Or it's like, oh, well, the clients disappointed because they didn't make a million dollars in a week. And with $100 budget, you know what I mean? So, it's like, it's one of those types of situations where if your heart is not infused in your brand, there, there is going to be a disconnect, and you're going to be a lot less happy. And honestly, your product isn't going to be as good. So that's essentially the core of what heart-based branding is.


Yeah, I love that. And that makes so much sense. And as you're going through that I feel like so many people do have that disconnect, where they probably did you know a lot of what you did, where you start off down a path, but over time, realize it's not what fuels them. It's not what lights them up, but for whatever reason they stick with it. So, I love that you're really encouraging people to make that change and really embrace that heart-based branding.

So let's talk about some of the mistakes that entrepreneurs make. Because I bet there are a lot of branding mistakes that entrepreneurs make. So, what are the things that you see people do wrong? And the things that really kind of cost people their sanity? Right?

Well, there are so many and you know that first mistake goes back to what not knowing what branding is or thinking it's only a logo or only a tagline. But if you really think about that, people don't buy from you or do business with you because you have a cool logo. I mean when's the last time you're like, “Oh, they have a catchy tagline, I'm gonna buy from them.”  And I actually went through this process with a client of mine and they were getting really hung up on taglines and they were getting all this feedback input, which is great, but they were really overthinking it. And I was like, okay, timeout. Let's really think about why you're creating this tagline. Obviously, you want to adjust perception a little bit, which is very important, but think about this. What is it that makes people want to come back to you It was a service based business and he rattled off, you know a couple things. None of that, none of them was a logo or a tagline. So, you really have to get out of the minutiae of the visuals. While they are very important. That's not the big picture. So that's the first mistake that I see businesses make. So, the second mistake is that they're getting too hung up on marketing tactics. A lot of business owners are like, “Oh, I need to be on Instagram, I need to be on Tik Tok, I need to be on Facebook, I need to do a podcast,” what ends up happening is they become very frustrated. And you know, they go from one shiny object to the other. And they really don't know why nothing's working. But what I want people to think about in terms of branding, it's like building a house. So, if anybody's ever built a brand-new house before or built anything, you have to think about this sequence. And I teach this to my students, and we also teach it in our program at St. Bonaventure, is when we think about branding, and think about building out a plan, you have to think in this sequence. And it is goals, strategies, tactics, goals, strategies, tactics. So the goals are like the building's blueprint. So, you've got to start with a blueprint of what the structure is going to look like, where you're going to get to, where you're going, the strategy is like the foundation and the framework. So, you have to clear the land, you have to pour the foundation and you have to put up walls and then a roof, you have to get all of those structural elements in place. Then finally, the marketing tactics are like the interior design, it's like picking out paint colors, it's picking out artwork, it's painting the house, it's planting flowers and shrubs on the outside. And that's the fun stuff. That's the sexy stuff, right? So a lot of entrepreneurs start with the sexy stuff, and they don't want to do the planning, which that's what you need before you can even have a wall to put paint on. So that's the second mistake I see entrepreneurs make. And then the third is what we touched on it a little bit. But the third mistake is that they don't evolve their brand with their own individual strengths and passions. And I think a lot of it has to do with mindset, because we're terrified to make any kind of change or any kind of mistake, what I realized was like, wait a minute, Megan, who the hell's the boss in this room here, that's you. So that means you can do what you want. You can change your business how you want, you can say no to clients and projects, and you can do whatever you want to do. And a lot of times people think that their businesses are like a tree or a stone like it's not movable, you can move it, you absolutely can.  When I think about the person I was in 2015, it is lightyears different from the person I am today. And so, if I'm evolving, and if myself as a human is infused into my brand, then why would I think that my business would not evolve with me?  And so that's one route. That's really, really, really important thing that I see business owners, the mistake that business owners make is that they're not changing with their own personal strengths and passions. So those are the three big mistakes I see.


So so so good. And the thing is when you want to get to the next level, you need to start acting like and being like the next level. And if your business is still stuck in five years ago, but you're trying to grow as a leader, and you're trying to scale your business , it’s really hard to do when it's not changing to where you want it to go. So I think that makes so much sense.

And it makes it more difficult. Because if you're still trying to market your business and putting your blood sweat and tears into this business, you really don't have a fire for oh my god, it just makes it so much more difficult to do that, it makes getting up in the morning more difficult. It makes you know, enjoying even enjoying your free time more difficult because your mind is you know, just dreading the next meeting or dreading this or it's just easier to really think about what things you can do to evolve your business with yourself.

Yeah. So, you had mentioned I loved those statistics that you had shared earlier. But it sounds like there's so many entrepreneurs who probably aren't happy with what they have and don't have heart-based branding currently in place. How does that really kind of blow up the rest of your life? When you think beyond your business? If you're not happy in your business, you're kind of miserable things aren't really going well. How does that have an impact? And what can you do to really avoid that?

That's a really great question. And I remember I was sitting in our apartment, and there were certain aspects of our life that were going really, really well. My husband had just landed his dream job. You know, we were sitting in this amazing city downtown and I just was just sitting there like why am I not happy? Why am I not happy? I should be so happy and I'm not. And so, it really is a poison that seeps into every aspect of your life. I also remember I was sitting with a friend, we were having lunch, and it's a dear friend of mine, I hadn't seen him in a long time. And we're having lunch. And my phone is just like blowing up. And I just felt myself tense up, I think I was using a slack it was, I hate slack. It is so misused, but my slack app was blowing up. And like, I just needed an hour to spend with my friend and I just tensed up. I must have had this look on my face. And he said, Megan, you need to calm down. I don't know who's on the other end of that phone. But you need to calm down, it's not worth it. And I was like, oh my god, I think I started crying. But that affected the quality of my time with my friend who I hadn't seen in a long time. So once that is alleviated, it just gives you just a more a lighter approach to everything else in your life. So now if I want to have coffee with my husband in the morning, I can do it uninterrupted. Because I know my coaching schedule, I know what's going to be done. I'm not on 911 24/7 standby, which drives me nuts, but it also requires a lot of saying no. And since the pandemic, I've gotten really, really good at saying no, and I wear that with a badge of honor because setting boundaries is my frickin jam now and so I'm okay with not taking a call that I know it's not important or responding to a message right away, or not having this 911 24 /7 mentality that just made my skin crawl, and it made my blood boil. So just eliminating that has been worth its weight in gold. And really just being able to enjoy life again, spending time with my husband in the mornings having our coffee, sometimes it's four o'clock, and we're like, let's go to happy hour. And we do. So just spending that time and I think especially the pandemic has really made people aware of what's important and what is not. And so for me, I know what's important to me, and I know what I need to do as a professional. And I also know that there's been so much suffering in the world, I don't need to create any of that suffering due to my own account. You know, we're only on this planet for such a short time. And so, my husband and I, have this mantra that I love and I am sure people have heard it before, but it truly is our life mantra. And that is we are always in the pursuit of happiness. Just keeping that simple mantra is so helpful in any aspect of life, not just your business, but you know, especially your work and what you do cuz you're spending most of your time on your work or at your work. Why be unhappy? I tried it. I'm turning 40 next week and so I look back at my 20s and 30s and I don't even recognize myself, I'm like what the hell are you trying to pull girl? What are you trying to do? And I was just like, why did you have such a tight grip on this? You know, corporate ladder and you know, even though you know how many people have tried to knock you off of that ladder? How many times, it's not worth it? That's, you know, it does it seeps into every element of your life.


So true and happy early birthday, but as somebody who has passed over that 40 mark a little ways back, I can say it's interesting. When I was younger, I looked at 40 as being so old, right? But really, truly I feel like I'm more confident, more aligned, just like my 40s have been great. Yeah, I'm excited. I'm here for it. Like I don't, I don't have a problem with it. Just like when I turned 30 I didn't have a problem with turning 30. I feel actually younger mentality wise than I did when I was in my 30s because again, I've got, I had the tight clutches on the corporate ladder, and I just was like taking myself too seriously and all this and now I'm like, I mean, I'm here for it. It's, I'm very excited. I'm very excited about it. Like I think my 40 years are going to be pretty incredible. I am sure they will be and I find that most people feel that way. It's like we do I feel like by the time we get into our 40s we don't have time for the stuff that doesn't matter anymore. we're much more discerning with our time and if you're in your business, and you still are doing things that you don't love anymore, it's time to apply that discernment to your business based on everything that you shared and what we just talked about today like I really feel like there's so much gold in what you do and so tell people a little bit more about where they can find you and what you have going on and what's coming up for you.

Oh wow. Well, you can find me first of all on all the socials. My handle is @marketingcoachmegan, you can also learn more about my new program called Heart Based Branding Academy at

Excellent. And everyone, those links will be in the show notes. So, you can go find Megan and check out all the amazing things she has going on. And I want to ask you one final question which I always ask everybody, I feel like you might have touched on some of this already. But I can't wait to hear, which is how do you work smarter, not harder, and keep things lean in your business?

I absolutely love this. This has literally been my mantra since I was in corporate and I would tell my own team this like we need to work smarter, not harder. So, I'm so happy that you infuse this into your podcast every episode, I think that's amazing. And you know, what I would say that has worked best for me is learning how to establish boundaries, not only with other people, but also the boundaries of happiness as well. And so, for example, you know, when, you know, we got out of lockdown and business groups, I joined a ton of business groups when we moved to our new town, and none of them really got me anywhere. And then the pandemic happened. And then when things kind of started back up again in the fall, I was asked to come back to these groups. And I said no, so just master the art of saying no to things that don't light you up. That's what I would say.

That is some serious wisdom there for business and for life. I love it. Well Megan, thank you so much. This has been so great. I appreciate you being on the show. Everyone, I hope you got a ton of value out of today's episode. And we will see you again next week.

Thank you for joining me for another episode of the Lean Out Your Business Podcast. I hope you got a lot of value and actionable insights from today's show. And we'd love if you take a moment to leave us a review. If you have any questions on today's episode or on how to lean out your business join us over in our private Facebook community where every week we do live training and Q&A.  I'd love to have you be part of the conversation, head to to join us. And before you go, be sure to subscribe to the show so you're the first to know when we release a new episode. We'll see you next week.




by Crista Grasso

Crista Grasso is the go-to strategic planning expert for leading global businesses and online entrepreneurs when they want to scale.  Known as the "Business Optimizer", Crista has the ability to quickly cut through noise and focus on optimizing the core things that will make the biggest impact to scale a business simply and sustainably. She specializes in helping businesses gain clarity on the most important things that will drive maximum value for their clients and maximum profits for their business.  She is the creator of the Lean Out Method, 90 Day Lean Out Planner, and host of the Lean Out Your Business Podcast. She is also the founder and CVO of the Profitable Planner Co and Criscara Jewelry.


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