How Important is a Personal Brand to Agency Growth?

By Jason Swenk on April 26, 2023

Do you have a personal brand? Did you create your brand with purpose and intention? Does it speak to who you are and your mission? Do you know how you can use it to create the opportunities you want to access in your career? Today’s guest is a branding expert who created an agency focused on one-on-one brand development, coaching, and consultation for women leaders. After 20 years of helping create and fine-tune brands, she shares the right questions to ask yourself in order to unlock your brand. She also explains why the process could even make you uncomfortable.

Laura Barnard is the founder of Breakthru Brands, a brand-building agency that empowers women leaders. Her team works to empower women and the LGBTQIA+ community to break through barriers and close gender gaps in leadership. Laura breaks down her agency’s process to help unlock their clients’ brands, and why it’s so important to know yourself and your purpose to create a successful brand.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • Lessons on branding from big corporate brands.
  • 3-Steps to unlock and activate your brand.
  • Finding inspiration and purpose in your agency’s vision.



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Sponsors and Resources

E2M Solutions: Today’s episode of the Smart Agency Masterclass is sponsored by E2M Solutions, a web design, and development agency that has provided white-label services for the past 10 years to agencies all over the world. Check out and get 10% off for the first three months of service.

Podcast Takeover!!

Get to know your Smart Agency Guest Host: Dr. Jeremy Weisz is the co-founder of Rise25, an agency that helps companies launch and run podcasts profitably. He followed Jason’s podcast and eventually joined the mastermind and has been a guest on the podcast before. Today, he’s helping Jason bring something new to the Smart Agency podcast audience by interviewing a special guest and getting a new perspective to the show.


Lessons About Branding from Working On Big Brands

Laura’s impressive background includes an MBA from the University of Chicago and a degree in Psychology from Harvard. However, if you ask her what influenced her journey the most, she’ll say it was basketball, both playing in college and then coaching. It provided her with the discipline and leadership skills she uses in her career. Basketball was also how she got to know the first female leader that inspired her current path.

Looking back at her career, Laura spent over 15 years working in corporate America focusing on brand management. Business school is when she first understood brand management. She was eager to apply her passion for psychology in her desire to understand why people think, act, and behave in the ways they do. Brand management emerged as a way for her to bring psychology into sales, strategy, and business management.

Leading strategy for iconic brands like Skittles and Wrigley’s, she worked to help big brands create an impact. It was a great opportunity for her to learn as much as she could about the business. The #1 lesson she took from that time was the importance of knowing your consumer really well. Understand what motivates them. Find out what they need and what benefits they are seeking. Laura also learned to manage large businesses with cross-functional teams, five-year plans, etc.

Later on, working with Haribo, she had the chance to step into a leadership position and help a big brand establish itself in the US. By the end of that experience, it was that her future in the industry was to break out of stifling corporate America and make her own path as an entrepreneur.

Finding Inspiration and Purpose In Your Agency’s Vision

After fifteen years of climbing the corporate ladder and improving her skills, Laura relocated with her family. New jobs, new schools, and new surroundings required some time off. She took the pause she needed to reflect on her next chapter.

This was an opportunity to work in brand management but do it with more autonomy, more ownership, and ultimately with more purpose. She was inspired to use everything she had learned about brand management to start her own company advancing women leaders.

This thinking led her to one of her first inspirations, her former basketball coach, Kathy. She wanted to help Kathy increase her impact as a woman leader and get her messaging to a wider audience. This experience helped shape her agency’s vision of growing a network around sports leaders and eventually in other industries as well.


3 Steps to Unlock and Activate Your Own Brand

Laura’s team has helped over 100 women leaders define and activate their brands. In time, they’ve refined and adjusted what they do to form a very effective 4-week process that is clear and effective. Overall, the process is divided into three basic phases:

  1. Discovery. During the Discovery phase the team works to help people get to know who they are. This process helps them get clear on who they to themselves and for others, as well as what they want to stand for. It may be uncomfortable for some clients. In fact, Laura believes if they’re not making the client uncomfortable, they’re not doing their jobs. It also includes interviews with key stakeholders who can speak to the clients’ strengths and abilities and say things clients will probably not tell about themselves.

  2. Defining. The interview and discovery process helps Laura’s team determine the clients’ purpose, mission, and vision. This is what they call brand values which become somewhat of a north star.  Furthermore, many times a leader will come to them at a time of inflection and change. The agency helps define the paths they can take and opportunities to position themselves to have a greater impact.

  3. Unlocking. This is the deliverable phase where they craft the brand story. Once the values and paths are defined, how do you brand yourself and tell your story? A brand story is a 2,000-word narrative that clearly states why they do what they do. This way, they can start shouting it to be world by speaking about it, writing about it, going on podcasts and interviews, etc.

Gaining Intentional Growth By Knowing Who You Serve

For Laura, intentional growth starts with knowing who you are and who you serve. Be clear on your clients’ needs and try to match that as uniquely as you can. For Laura and her team, the way to make the business their own was to focus on building leadership brands for women.

Of course, this also means they can’t help everyone. This is why they also grow through strategic partnerships. They know sometimes they must refer clients to agencies that will be better equipped to help them. They are also always on the lookout for partnerships with larger organizations that can help them grow their networks. These can be big organizations that have large groups of women leaders and get curious about what they do and how the agency may fit into that.

Do You Want to Transform Your Agency from a Liability to an Asset?

If you want to be around amazing agency owners that can see what you may not be able to see and help you grow your agency, go to Agency Mastery 360.  Our agency growth program helps you take a 360-degree view of your agency and gain mastery of the 3 pillar systems (attract, convert, scale) so you can create predictability, wealth, and freedom.

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