Branding is essential when it comes to building a business and brand. Many have aspirations of branching out on their own, but lack direction inn how to effectively market and brand themselves. This is where coaches, such as Sierra McCowan, come to play.
The Philly native, who currently resides in the Pocono Mountains, is the founder of The Elevation Studios which is a full- service digital marketing agency. They specialize in helping female founders elevate their marketing strategy and their brand identity in order to maximize profits.
I recently interviewed Sierra where she chatted more on her brand and vision.
Naosha: What are some visual marketing technology services and why do you think that they are important in this day and age; why do you think that they are so necessary?
Sierra: Well, digital marketing is important aside from traditional marketing for various reasons. Because of the pandemic that we have been going through, we had to go almost 100% digital. It allows people to access your content and your business information within a click of a button. With print marketing or flyers they do not provide the same accessibility; it is different, so, digital marketing is important during this age.
Naosha: Have you seen an increase in your clients or the number of people who are interested in booking you or who have become interested in the visual services because of the pandemic?
Sierra: Yes, and I was surprised. It has been amazing to see how many people are trying to start or build their business during this pandemic…it is amazing! This is the best time when everyone is at home and does not have the opportunity be at work full-time; it gives you a great opportunity to figure out your path to entrepreneurship.
Naosha: I would like to know, when did you realize that helping people market and find their brand was something that you were interested in? I see that you have your Bachelors…you originally started in Public Health and Business Management and then when you got your master’s you went on to Organizational Leadership. So, when did you know that you wanted to help people in this way?
Sierra: I believe that it was my freshman year in college, 2016. I began making flyers. My major was Public Health, but I worked in the office of educational wellness prevention. I helped them by making flyers; so I kind of got into the designer graphic role. I also worked for a multi-level marketing company, I will not mention their name, but that experience gave me an understanding of network marketing and from that I developed a love for all things branding and marketing. Once I obtained my first client, I recognized what it felt like to be a business owner and I wanted to go straight into the agency aspect and that was how it started.
Naosha: I think that it so refreshing when people who start out with the career that they thought they wanted and then are able to find their passion…I just think that it is so amazing. What are some of the things that you encourage the clients to ask themselves prior to a consultation?
Sierra: Prior to a consultation, I ask business owners or non-profits, to take a step back and think about what kind of impact they want to have on the world. It is hard to create a sustainable business if your goal is to make a quick buck; it will not last…it will not work. You will be focused on things that are not real or organic, because the focus is on making a dollar and it may not be what you are even passionate about.
Naosha: It is interesting that you bring up the point of making a “quick buck,” because digital media has changed so much, and it rapidly changes every day. What advice would you give to someone who wants to get into digital media so that they stay relevant?
Sierra: It is about being consistent. We have all heard that you have to post, post…post but I think that being consistent is more valuable than always trying to find something to post. Because at the end of the day if you are struggling like that to come up with content that does not even have anything to do with your brand it does not make any sense. I would say to post meaningful content at least once a day and try to connect with your audience. That would be more beneficial to your brand than just trying to “show up” it will just work for itself if you are creating organic relationships.
Naosha: Speaking of showing up, I know that we are in the middle of pandemic right now and there are a lot of people that have lost their jobs, who are suffering financially. Do you have any advice or apps that people could use for digital marketing or purposes like that?
Sierra: I use Canva for my graphic design. I do have a premium account, but I also encourage those of you who have a non-profit to get an account because the premium accounts are free for you non-profit owners. It is definitely amazing, even outside of the templates it allows you to create your own designs and keep your branding consistent with their brand kit. I also use Asana that is my project management tool, so I organize my content calendars in there; my client portal is linked to Asana. They have a free account up to so many users; workspaces, so that is beneficial. Dubsado has a premium basic, I think up to 3 users. I use that as an automation tool for client scheduling.
Naosha: Speaking of designs, and this is something that I and the listeners want to know, how important is it to revamp your social media sites?
Sierra: Revamping your social media is important if you are not set up properly. With that being said, if you do have a business or a non-profit just making it easier for people to access and learn about your services and developing consistent branding across your website, social media pages, even down to your email marketing. So you are able to develop trust with your audience. It is important to make sure that your social media is up to par period. Things like outdated links, unclear logos…things of that nature. Especially if you have those tools like Canva or Asana…just use them and do what you got to do.
Naosha: What do you think are some important aspects to revamping your social media? What are some of the core things that you should revamp if you are on, Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter?
Sierra: We will start with Facebook because I found that to be a big one. If you have a Facebook page or you have a Facebook group, just branding your links when it says Facebook.com/ and then there will be a bunch of numbers, people do not know that you can change that to match your brand’s name, so you can send people directly to your Facebook with that link. For LinkedIn, you can have an updated bio and headshot that will set the tone for your brand or for your personal page and how you would like for people to interact with you. For Instagram, it is good to update your highlights, making sure that it has all the right information, making sure that people are able to get in contact with you, and making sure that there is nothing on there that you would not want anyone to see or that does not represent your brand.
Naosha: What advice would you give to someone who would like to apply their aesthetic and is it a good idea to have a color scheme or a color theme on Instagram?
Sierra: I believe so. The colors that I use on my personal page and business accounts are my brand colors. So there will be a certain amount of colors that I will use on my personal page and my business page, but you will know that it is Sierra or that it is Elevation Studios. It develops that “know, like and trust” with your audience, where they are able to click and recognize the difference and say oh yes that is her business or her brand.
Naosha: I see that you published a Covid-19 free survival kit for small businesses on your website, can you tell us a little more about that?
Sierra: I did put that on my website, and I need to make it available for download. I created that for business owners to give them some insight as to how they could be marketing their business during this time and I have included some tools as well for them to use that will assist them with their branding and marketing. So, I can make that available for download soon.
Naosha: That is great! Do you have a ballpark estimate as to when we could expect that?
Sierra: I can do that by the end of the day. You can go to the website by the end of the day and you will be able to download it.
Noasha: What are some of the challenges that you have had to overcome being a brand strategist and creator?
Sierra: My biggest challenge has been internal; me deciding that this is exactly what I need to be doing right now and not focusing on everything and anything else. Another challenge has been growing a team. Everything else has been wonderful, I have been very surprised, and I just feel like God’s got me. Building a quality team has been my biggest struggle. Because you cannot do it by yourself and by me continuing to try to do it by myself just will not work and that will not work for anyone.
Naosha: Are you looking to expand your team?
Sierra: Yes. I am hiring right now. I am looking for a graphic designer.
Naosha: Followers of Purposely Awakened did you hear that, see we are here to hook you up with your fellow Black community members…wow, that is exciting. Speaking of life, if you are not promoting your lifestyle, would you recommend keeping your personal feed separate from your professional feed?
Sierra: I would say yes. In a sense you still want to maintain some professionalism across your personal page because you are still representing your brand, but also you want to have that space where you can feel free to be yourself. So, for example. I am a foodie…I love to cook but my food creations have nothing to do with “Elevation Studios,” so having my personal page allows me to do what I love and to show what I love doing. I would say that it is good to have your own personal feed but if it does not relate to your brand, do not put it on there.
Naosha: Oh girl, send those recipes my way (laughter). Where do you see digital marketing heading, following the Covid-19 pandemic, do you think that there will be a higher demand for it, or do you think that it will die down a bit?
Sierra: I think that there will be higher demand for digital marketing services, especially now that people can see what will happen if we have to go 100% digital. So, that is important or just to be able to locate your business. I have worked with brands that did traditional marketing; print flyers, word of mouth and it did not work the best; especially if you are trying to reach people who are not in your neighborhood or within walking distance from you; it is going to be hard to sustain your business. So, digital marketing is definitely about to take off.
Naosha: I need to know this…back in the day this used to be known as a number sign but now, it is known as a hashtag. Can you tell us the importance of the hashtag and how it plays a role in digital marketing?
Sierra: On certain platforms hashtags are a valuable tool. I believe for Instagram it is a valuable tool and I believe that it may be for Twitter as well. It works in a similar way as digital marketing because it allows people to see your content. So, say that I tagged ATL hairstylists and I am here in Pennsylvania, it will allow that audience to see your content and it provides more brand exposure.
Naosha: You made a career pivot into digital marketing and you love it and your business is thriving. So what advice would you give somebody who is looking to make that career choice and how should they use digital marketing to help them get further into that career?
Sierra: I will always suggest that you have a plan. If you are trying to leave your 9 to 5, in order to transition into entrepreneurship full-time, you definitely should have some type of exit strategy and make sure that this is definitely something that you want to do and that you are able to sustain that lifestyle.
Noasha: Thank you so much for that golden advice Sierra, you were a pleasure today. I am going to go and get my notebook and write down some of these tips for our audience.