Hi, guys! Welcome to Digital Dollars with Kripesh Adwani. Today, we have a very special guest all the way from Bulgaria. We have Vassilena Valchanova with us. She is a great digital marketer, and public speaker, and helps brands with strategies to establish their presence online.
In this interview, we will explore the importance of tailoring your brand message to different audiences and practical strategies for building a personal brand. We will also explore the timing of brand building and the role of AI in the process. Along with that, we will also talk about the increasing importance of the human side in branding and the role of AI in everyday business operations.
The reason to interview her is to explore Vassilena’s advice for starting from scratch in building a brand and her parting insights on the branding journey. Vassilena Valchanova, a renowned digital marketer. In this segment, we will dive deeper into the valuable resources she offers to individuals and companies seeking to build their brands
Guest Name: Vassilena Valchanova
What They Do: Digital Marketing Strategist, Trainer, and Public Speaker
Known For: Vassilena Valchanova is known for Digital Marketing, Public Speaking, and providing strategies to build a personal brand. Her knowledge holds immense value and she talks and shares about her experience in GrowthMentor. She is also the founder of Ratio.bg which is responsible for all communication-related issues, including social media management, blogger relations and many more.
Video Interview with Vassilena Valchanova
Audio Podcast With Vassilena Valchanova
Interview with Vassilena Valchanova
Can you please give us a quick brief intro about who you are and what you do?
Vassilena: I’ve been working in marketing for more than 15 years now. My main focus has been working in-house with teams spanning across e-commerce, SAAS, and B2B. Since 2019, I’ve struck out on my own, functioning as an independent digital marketing consultant. I’m mostly focused on two fields: content marketing and brand messaging.
I believe in building a brand through the power of words. So, that’s the quick gist of it. On top of that, I’m very involved with sharing what I know and helping people build better brands through my blog, speaking opportunities at different events (which is actually how we met), and running different training and education programs for companies and teams—basically, anyone who’s interested in learning more about doing marketing right.
Vassilena, could you tell us about your most significant undertaking?
Vassilena: When it comes to my biggest project, I have to mention my time as an in-house marketer at a company called Enhancv. It started off as a resume-building app and has since expanded into a platform offering consulting options and career advice. The focus of Enhancv is to help individuals find a job they can be proud of, one that excites them.
I was part of the team from 2016 to 2019, during which we experienced tremendous growth. By that time, we had already amassed around 500,000 registered users, primarily targeting the US and Western European markets. It was a remarkable project because it involved a SAAS product, which I thoroughly enjoyed working on, and it had a mission I wholeheartedly believed in, making the work all the more fulfilling.
Can you provide us with some figures comparing the state of the company before and after you joined?
Vassilena: Absolutely. Over the course of those three years, we experienced substantial growth. While I can’t share specific numbers, I can say that we were steadily expanding our user base. From the time I joined until the time I left, we were able to increase our user base by around two and a half times, if my memory serves me right. Since then, I have stayed in touch with the team and the founders. They have continued to experience positive momentum, especially in the past few years, as the talent market and opportunities have been rapidly evolving, including the rise of remote work. Although I don’t have specific figures, I am confident that their growth has accelerated even further.
Vassilena, let’s start with how you acquire clients. Could you share your strategies for client acquisition?
Vassilena: Having been in the marketing space for a while, I was fortunate to have a network of people who were eager to work with me when I transitioned to freelance. Word of Mouth has been a significant source of clients, which makes me proud because it indicates that I’ve been doing a good job and delivering results that people are eager to recommend.
Additionally, I focus on building my personal brand as a marketing expert through content creation. This involves maintaining an active blog, participating in online communities, and engaging in various events as a speaker, panelist, or workshop host. I believe in the power of networking and meeting people in real life as well.
What advice would you give to someone who is just starting and wants to build their brand from scratch?
Vassilena: Building a brand from scratch involves two key aspects: looking externally and looking inside. First, it’s crucial to truly know your ideal customer profile. Understand their needs, interests, and pain points. This is a significant aspect of any branding journey, whether it’s personal branding or building a brand for a company or B2B agency.
When it comes to branding, it’s crucial to consider all the stakeholders involved in the product journey. This includes not only the buyers and users but also other key audiences. For instance, you may need to communicate regularly with investors who have a vested interest in your product’s success.
Additionally, if you work with the media or influencers, they become another audience to consider. When I work with clients, we always begin by gaining a deep understanding of our target audience, including potential customers and other relevant stakeholders.
Vassilena, could you elaborate on the second aspect of building a brand—looking inside?
Vassilena: Looking inward involves understanding how your product or service aligns with the needs and desires of your target audience. It’s akin to finding a “product-market fit” in branding. To identify key components of your brand’s strengths, it’s essential to analyze how your product or service serves your audience. What unique benefits does it offer? How does it address their pain points? By aligning your strengths with audience needs, you can craft a brand message that resonates deeply and creates a lasting connection.
A SAAS company in the SEO space that wants to establish a strong branding presence. What advice would you give them to achieve that goal?
Vassilena: For a SAAS company in the SEO space looking to build a strong branding presence, there are several key steps to consider. First, define your target audience clearly. Understand their pain points, goals, and aspirations when it comes to SEO. Tailor your brand message to address these specific needs. Secondly, leverage your unique strengths. Identify what sets your SAAS product apart from competitors and highlight those differentiating factors in your branding efforts. Showcase how your product solves SEO challenges effectively.
Lastly, invest in content marketing. Create valuable and educational content that positions your company as an industry thought leader. This will help build trust and establish your brand’s authority in the SEO space. Content marketing and differentiation through unique strengths are essential components for successful branding.
Before we conclude, is there any additional advice you would like to share with businesses looking to enhance their branding efforts?
Vassilena: Two additional pieces of advice: consistency and authenticity. Ensure that your branding efforts are consistent across all touchpoints, from your visual identity to your brand voice. Consistency creates a sense of trust and reliability. Furthermore, be authentic in your communication and engagement with your audience. People connect with genuine brands that resonate with their values and aspirations. Stay true to your brand’s identity and deliver on the promises you make. Authenticity breeds brand loyalty.
I hope our conversation provides businesses with valuable insights to enhance their branding efforts and build lasting connections with their target audience. Remember, clear communication, authenticity, and differentiation are key to successful branding.
The initial step of identifying target segments. Could you elaborate on how businesses should approach this process?
Vassilena: In a comparative niche, it is crucial to ensure that your product or service provides sufficient value to justify the time and financial investment from potential customers. Assuming you have achieved product-market fit, the next step is to identify the different segments you want to target with your brand.
For example, one of your focus audiences might be technical SEO experts. To engage with them effectively, it’s essential to have a clear understanding of your product’s capabilities and how it can help them achieve their goals. Speaking to technical SEO experts requires delving into the technical details and positioning your brand as an expert in the field.
By demonstrating your in-house expertise and thought leadership, you can effectively connect with this specific audience. Additionally, you can provide them with relevant thought leadership content, demonstrating that your team consists of experts who live and breathe marketing day in and day out.
When targeting marketers like myself, it’s crucial to position your brand as a knowledgeable guide in the world of SEO. For marketers with a content focus, provide beginner-friendly or layman-friendly content that helps them grasp the essentials of SEO without overwhelming them with technical jargon. Position your brand as a resource to teach and guide them through the SEO landscape.
On the other hand, for generalists who require a basic understanding of SEO, emphasize the importance of SEO knowledge and how it can benefit their overall marketing efforts. Present your brand as an accessible source that simplifies SEO concepts and helps them keep up with the latest trends. By adapting your language and content to their needs, you can create a direct connection with these specific audiences.
In terms of maintaining consistency while targeting different audiences, how can businesses strike a balance between presenting a consistent brand image and tailoring their communication to specific segments?
Vassilena: Striking a balance between a consistent brand image and tailored communication is crucial. Consistency is achieved by ensuring your brand’s core values, visual identity, and overall ethos remain intact across all interactions.
However, to resonate with different audiences, you must align your communication with what they expect and want to see from your brand. This means using language and terms that they are familiar with and relate to.
By mirroring their language and presenting a version of your professional characteristics that aligns with their perspective, you can build trust and establish a connection. Remember, people tend to gravitate towards those who are similar to themselves, so by adapting your communication to their style, you can foster stronger relationships with your target audiences.
When it comes to branding a SAAS company, how much financial investment should businesses consider before getting started?
Vassilena: When it comes to branding, the financial investment required can vary depending on several factors. The beauty of branding is that you don’t necessarily need to spend a significant amount of money from the beginning. Instead, you need to invest a lot of effort and time into it.
Building a strong brand requires dedication and resources, but it doesn’t always require a massive upfront financial investment. For example, understanding what your best customers appreciate about your product and ensuring that your brand messaging aligns with their preferences can be achieved through conducting interviews with your customers and analyzing their feedback.
This doesn’t necessarily require a large monetary investment but rather a commitment of time and effort. The monetary investment in branding can be as big or as small as you feel comfortable with and aligned with your overall business goals.
Building a strong brand requires dedication and resources, but it doesn’t always require a massive upfront financial investment.Vassilena
Can you elaborate on the benefits of founders building a strong personal brand?
Vassilena: Founders who have a strong personal brand can be a tremendous asset to their company. I’ve had the opportunity to work with several clients whose founders were well-known figures in their respective industries, and it greatly benefited their products. A founder’s personal brand infuses a sense of trust into the product itself.
In today’s digital landscape, communication has become more personally-centric, and social media platforms heavily prioritize content from individuals over brand-related content. Leveraging a founder’s personal brand as a channel to build the product brand is algorithmically viable. It allows for a stronger connection with the audience and enhances trust-building efforts.
What advice would you give to founders who are looking to establish their personal brand?
Vassilena: Building a personal brand requires showcasing both the personal and professional sides of oneself. As a founder, it’s important to demonstrate expertise in your field, whether it’s business development, sales, or growth marketing.
However, it’s equally crucial to reveal your authenticity as a real person. Share not only your professional accomplishments but also aspects of your personal life. Whether it’s discussing challenging days, sharing moments of exercise, or spending time with your family, this transparency conveys that you are open and genuine with your audience.
How can individuals strike the right balance between professional and personal content when developing a personal brand?
Vassilena: Striking the right balance between professional and personal content is crucial when building a personal brand. As a general guideline, sharing around 80% professional content and 20% personal content can be effective. However, it’s important to remember that personal boundaries vary, and individuals may choose to disclose different aspects of their personal lives.
It’s perfectly acceptable to establish barriers and keep certain areas private if it doesn’t align with your comfort level. Sharing even a small sliver of your real life can create a genuine connection with your audience and contribute to building your personal brand.
According to you, what is the easiest way to build a personal brand?
Vassilena: Content marketing is a powerful tool for building a personal brand. The key to successful personal branding through content marketing is creating value and being helpful to your audience. For example, if you prefer audio and video content, like you do, hosting interviews and sharing insights from industry experts can provide valuable information to your audience and establish you as a resourceful host.
On the other hand, if you feel more comfortable with written content, like myself, blogging and creating newsletters can be your primary channels. The format that feels most natural to you will allow you to produce consistent content and maintain an engaged audience.
Remember, building a personal brand should be enjoyable. Choose the content format that aligns with your preferences and strengths, and focus on providing value to your audience.
What advice do you have for freelancers or individuals just starting out? When should they dive into the content marketing part?
Vassilena: When it comes to freelancers or individuals building a personal brand as part of their business, my advice is to start sooner rather than later. Even if you don’t consider yourself an expert, you have valid experiences and insights that will be interesting to others.
As a freelancer, your work with clients on platforms like Fiverr or Upwork exposes you to new and interesting things that you can share with a larger audience. Building a personal brand will help you move away from those platforms and increase your rates faster than anything else.
So, don’t wait for perfection or for feeling like an expert. Start sharing your journey and experiences as soon as possible.
On the other hand, when it comes to building a brand for a product or a set of services, what considerations should businesses keep in mind before diving into brand building?
Vassilena: When it comes to building a brand for a product or services, caution is necessary. Before investing in brand building efforts, it’s crucial to ensure you have a product that’s worth talking about. Focus on finding your product-market fit and achieving some early traction.
While brand building is important in the long run, it’s wiser to invest time and effort into solidifying your product-market fit before dedicating resources to branding initiatives. Prioritize understanding your target audience, refining your product or service offering, and creating value. Once you have a strong foundation, you can confidently embark on brand building with a clear direction and purpose.
Let’s discuss the role of AI in brand building. How can AI be utilized to enhance branding efforts?
Vassilena: AI presents exciting opportunities for brand building. From a marketing perspective, AI can be a time saver by automating repetitive tasks such as content creation, drafting, or repurposing. This time saved can be reinvested in mindful brand development and strategy. AI can streamline processes and provide valuable insights to optimize branding efforts.
However, it’s important to remember that while AI can be efficient, maintaining a human touch is crucial. AI should be used as a tool to support and enhance human creativity, not as a complete replacement. Balancing AI technology with human input ensures that the brand’s authenticity and connection with the audience are maintained.
How can individuals differentiate themselves in an era where informative content is readily available?
Vassilena: In today’s digital landscape, where informative content is easily accessible, adding a personal touch becomes crucial for differentiation. While informative content can be found in abundance, simply regurgitating existing information won’t set you apart. What will truly differentiate your content is sharing your personal experiences, perspectives, and insights.
By infusing your content with personal anecdotes, lessons learned, and practical examples, you offer a unique perspective that resonates with your audience. This personal element becomes the actual differentiator, establishing an authentic connection and setting you apart from others.
How are you utilizing AI in your own work and daily life?
Vassilena: Currently, one of the ways I integrate AI into my daily work is through conversational AI, such as ChatGPT. I’ve been using it consistently for the past few months to assist with various tasks. It helps me brainstorm ideas for titles and headlines, as well as provide support with copywriting. AI has become an invaluable tool in my creative process, enabling me to enhance productivity and generate innovative ideas more efficiently.
What do you believe is the most common mistake companies are making in their brand-building efforts?
Vassilena: One of the most common mistakes companies make is to play it safe when it comes to branding. They fear standing out too much or being divisive, so they opt for a generic approach. However, building a brand is about having a unique point of view and a distinct brand voice.
Without a strong brand voice, a company fails to leave a lasting impression on its audience. It’s essential to develop a style and voice that resonates with your target market, setting you apart from competitors in their brand-building efforts.
How can you help someone who wants to build a brand? Do you offer resources like newsletter, blog, or courses?
Vassilena: Absolutely! I offer different levels of engagement for individuals interested in brand building and content marketing. Firstly, I have a website, blog, and newsletter where I share valuable content. Subscribing to my newsletter is a great starting point to access the content and stay updated.
Secondly, I work with companies as a consultant, providing services such as copywriting projects and content marketing strategies. I would be happy to engage with anyone who wants to work on their brand messaging.
Lastly, I recently launched a video-on-demand course focused on content marketing and brand messaging. It condenses my expertise into manageable lessons, providing practical knowledge that can be immediately implemented. It’s a comprehensive resource for individuals who want to explore these topics further.
Participants can expect around 20 hours of content, divided into individual lessons that are structured and easy to understand. The goal was to provide practical guidance that participants can immediately apply in their day-to-day work. By investing just one hour in each lesson, learners will gain valuable insights and strategies to build their brand and enhance their marketing efforts.
As a special offer for the Digital Dollars audience, we will provide a promo code to access the course at a discounted rate.
If you were to start your branding journey again, what would be your first step?
Vassilena: If I were to start my branding journey all over again, I would prioritize connecting with people. While we often discuss digital marketing and online channels, building a brand requires direct interaction and understanding of people’s needs. I would attend networking events and conferences where I could meet peers and potential customers. These face-to-face conversations provide valuable insights and opportunities for meaningful connections.
Any final advice you would like to share with individuals embarking on their branding journey?
Vassilena: Absolutely. I would advise anyone starting their branding journey to begin wherever they feel most comfortable. Brand building can seem overwhelming with so many possibilities, and it’s common for people to express their uncertainty about where to start. My advice is to take it one step at a time.
Begin by creating content on one channel, speaking about one specific topic, or attending one event. As you take these gradual steps, your appetite for brand building will grow, and you’ll gain insights from your target audience’s response. This feedback will enable you to improve and expand your brand-building efforts gradually.
In this interview, we saw how Vassilena shared her insights and resources for building successful brands. The combination her blog, newsletter, consultancy services, and the comprehensive video course offers a range of options for individuals and companies looking to enhance their brand-building efforts.
It’s inspiring to hear about the growth and impact she achieved during her time at Enhancv. Her insights on stakeholder considerations and leveraging strengths for branding success and expertise in these areas are truly valuable. It’s reassuring to know that businesses and individuals can embark on branding journeys with different financial investment levels.
I hope you found this interview with Vassilena informative and educational for building a personal brand and improving your marketing efforts.