How to Apply Brand Strategy To Your Website
Welcome to this episode of The Determined Mom Show. I am your host, Amanda Tento, and I have with me today the lovely Emily Foster. She is a good friend of mine and she is the owner of Emily Foster Creative, they do brand and website design. So welcome, Emily.
I’m so excited to talk about what we’re gonna talk about today, which is how to apply brand strategy to your website. But first I wanna get to know you a little bit and get to know your background and how in the world you get started in branding and web design.
Yeah, Sounds great. So I’ve been a designer for about seven years now and I went to school for actually advertising and marketing. So a lot of what I was learning was integrated with strategy and I took strategy classes before I even really learned to touch the Adobe Creative Suite.
And during that time we talked a lot. Everything that goes into brand strategy, like brand archetypes and positioning and competitor analysis. And I liked that side but also wanted to be a little bit more artistic. I was also in a digital arts program, so I decided to merge the two and do design.
And at that time it was more designed for marketing and advertising agencies. So a lot more campaign based versus like the Evergreen website and branding design that I do now. So it was always thinking about the problems that the client is experiencing first and coming up with a brief from that and then going into the creative solutions from there.
And then worked in a couple of agencies after college and I loved it but also felt like. The whole culture of agencies was always like rushing to meet deadlines and working long hours. And, I wasn’t exactly sure what to do next. I was doing web design and branding sometimes within that job.
But a lot of it was really rushed, like Facebook ad campaigns or print ad campaigns, which was great because I learned a lot of different stuff. I was actually laid off about a year into Covid.
Just because I worked for an experiential marketing agency that was really affected by the pandemic. So when that ended, I had to figure out, do I want to go back to an agency and use this experience, or do I want to dive more into branding and web design and continue to offer that to clients.
I had been doing some freelancing on the side and really liked the logos I had designed for my clients through freelancing. So I decided to take that path and start Emily Foster Creative a little over a year ago now. I love brand and website design because it just feels like it solves problems in the same way that the advertising and marketing I was doing did.
But like I said, it’s more evergreen and it’s like really the life of your brand. It is your brand, but it’s the life of your company. So I love thinking about that and like thinking that it has a really long-term impact on everything that your business is doing.
Yeah. Awesome. I love that story. I think you’re one of the first Covid transitioners that we’ve had. Usually, they‘re like moms that get pregnant and then, like when they have their baby, they’re like, Oh no, I can’t do that anymore and That’s funny.
That was the interesting part too because, in college, I think I’ve probably told you this before, but I was scared to have freelancing as a career because my professors actually told us, not to freelance until we were 10 plus years into our career.
So actually, that was my plan maybe around 30 I would have kids and then leave during maternity leave. And obviously, Yeah, a lot of your guests have made that possible.
Now I’m looking back and I’m like, okay, thank goodness I didn’t, because I also know the challenges that it comes with. So at least. No one imagines a layoff or hopes for it, but that kind of forced me to do it earlier. I don’t think I would’ve before maternity leave if I hadn’t been laid off.
Yeah, I think it’s awesome. And I don’t know, Oregon has a built-in maternity leave, right? I think so, Oh, it doesn’t? Okay. I know Washington just did.
I think it actually might have, it might be like the Family Leave Act where, I think your company can’t fire you, but there’s no paid maternity leave or anything.
In Washington, they do have maternity leave now, of course, five years after I have my baby. You’re like maybe another baby I can. Oh yeah. And you’re not in Washington anymore? No. It’s like I’d have to move back, and have another baby. It’s like a whole thing, but yeah.
And is that a reason to have another baby? No, I don’t think I am a cat mom. I do tend to have kids someday, but right now it’s just cats, which, Feel like babies.
Yeah. I love it. And I love that you’ve shared your experience. I also really love that you have experience in print, cuz I think you just have so many different mediums in there.
You have the print, you have the ads, like Facebook ads and those kinds of things, the digital marketing, and then you have websites and branding. So you have that whole kind of package in there. So I love that it’s really valuable to your clients.
I think so. I used to advertise it all on my website, but now it’s just like you have to book branding or web design, and then you can work on things after. I think part of why I love branding and web design so much is that I was doing these little projects for clients, like maybe a social campaign, and then it’s okay, but your branding isn’t good. So it’s like, how well will this actually perform? And sometimes it’s just better to start from the beginning.
I agree. And. I find it challenging when clients don’t have the budget too. Do that foundational work, yet they want you to work some sort of magic with ads and all of that stuff. We’re sending them to this website, that’s not really great. It’s not really gonna convert anyone. And they’re like, why aren’t these ads working? Or why aren’t, why isn’t this working? It’s a challenge.
I feel like it’s hard because, yeah, especially new business owners or side hustlers. It’s hard to afford everything at once. Also on the riverside, I’m always telling people, Okay, we can do your branding and web design and you can make that investment, but then what will you do after that? It is going to move the needle, but then you still have to market yourself. Do those Facebook ads and, or maybe not always Facebook ads, but something to promote the website.
I love it. I love that you continue to encourage them on that. So let’s talk about brand strategy. Just give us a little quick refresher on what is brand strategy and why we need it, and then we’ll go into how we can apply it to our website.
So it’s really, it can mean a lot of different things, and I feel like it’s been a buzzword recently. Everyone says they’re strategic with their branding, really, not everyone is, but it’s basically creating a plan for how you’re going to speak to your audience and accomplish your goals, but like less in a marketing sense.
But more like, how is your brand going to exist in the world, in what you’re trying to accomplish, is how I like to explain it. So thinking about your target audience, like where your brand shows up in their story. So we’ve been talking about building a storied brand that works a lot, and we both listen to the Marketing Made Simple podcast. So I guess that’s a plug, even though it’s not on your podcast.
I know, I love that podcast. I, that’s the only one that I’ve binged on right now. It’s. My favorite.
I was listening to it last night. I love it so much. Yeah. Yeah, like thinking about like, where does your company show up in that story of your customers? Because really it doesn’t matter what you say about your brand or how you design your logo.
If your clients don’t perceive it a certain way, then it’s not going to make an impact. So it’s almost like thinking. Reverse engineering and like thinking about their story and then what your brand needs to do to show up in that and to solve their problems.
Like I was listening to the market, he made Simple last night and he was talking about how we know Tylenol will solve your problem of relieving a headache and tons will solve your problem of relieving a stomach ache. So it’s like thinking about.
Who do you want to target? What their problem is and then how does your branding show up? And it’s like a lot of thought leg work before you actually get to any designing.
Yes, it is. I’ve been working through that process because we talked about it a lot and it’s been quite the challenge just to like really. Figure that out and pull it out. Like it’s definitely not something that’s easy to do on your own. So I love that’s something that you offer in your agency.
Yeah, I know. I think it was because of my background. I don’t know how to offer anything else, to be honest. I guess I could design a logo. And it obviously is more expensive to do brand strategy too, so there are different levels, but I don’t really know how to design something that’s going to move the needle for clients without thinking through that strategy at least a little bit.
Yeah, and that’s the best way to do it, honestly. It’s just you’re laying that foundation, you’re laying the foundation of the house really, and then you’re building and what people are. Often they go back and try to put up cardboard walls or, on a flat foundation and there’s nothing there to hold them up. And that’s really what we’re talking about.
Hopefully, you don’t have to tear down the house as often if you have that good foundation.
Yeah, exactly.Yeah. Like I’m tearing down my house right now because I. Didn’t do that. I didn’t have it in place. And I’ve morphed my business way too many times. I’ve torn it down a few times and rebranded it and all that stuff. And I just really, I’m tired of doing that and I’m like, Okay, this is it.
It’s hard and scary because it does take more time and if you outsource it like more money, but I think people. It’s a long-term plan, basically like thinking like how will this benefit you? Like I think people like to think of I just need a logo, Just something quick. But any time or money that you’re spending on that is really wasted time if you’re going to have to replace it soon.
Yeah, exactly. That’s a good point. Yeah. All right, so with this brand strategy, how do we apply it to our website in order to convey that message?
There are a few things. One, like it, shows up in brand identity. So I noticed a lot of people will do a website before they do branding, which sometimes is good because sometimes you just need something up and start getting that SEO attraction and basically just have a digital billboard.
But if you don’t apply your branding, then there’s what a billion websites out there in the world and it’s like, how is yours going to stand out if it’s not speaking to your target audience? So it’s like how your branding shows up on your website and the color selections and font selections that you’re choosing.
But then also thinking like taking that brand strategy that you’ve come up with and then, Applying that to your website strategy. So also reverse engineering of who is using your website and considering the UX a lot and considering the user and how they’re going to go through the website.
And it’s not always a quick answer. I think sometimes people think of They’re in a certain industry, so they’re like, Okay, I need to have all these things because I’m in this industry. But it doesn’t necessarily like if you’re a restaurant and your competitors are restaurants, it doesn’t mean that your clients are the same or that their problems are the same. So it’s reverse engineering.
Who is my primary audience that’s going to be coming here? What does their path through the website look like? How does that brand identity show up to attract them when they’re there too? And how can I help them solve their problems through the path that they’re taking on my website? Weather. Getting them to purchase something or fill out a contact form or read a certain blog post or something like that.
Yeah, so what you’re talking about is that call to action that we need to have on our website. It should only be one of them. It should be very bold. It should be, all of those guidelines. What type of, I know we’ve talked about StoryBrand again, but what type of process needs to happen before you apply that to your website?
Let’s say you already have your strategy done. How in the world do you get it from the paper and like in your head and like in your planning, however you might lay it out, a mind map or whatever you’re doing, how do you get it from? There to translate into the header and the subtitle and the title and all of those things.
I like to basically put together a brand strategy document and then take that. So that will include things like Keywords, like not SEO keywords, but more like brand keywords and that’s what I call them at least, but they could be just like copywriting snippets that you would use throughout your brand.
And then that also includes your positioning and your target audience and everything. So I would take that and then develop a site map. With your path to the website. But then for those details, like your page titles and like the things in your navigation, you can actually take that language style that you’re using in your brand strategy and figure out ways to apply it to the website.
So one thing that I did recently for a client was a wedding photographer and chose a luxury wedding photographer. She charges a lot more than other photographers. And her style is more editorial. So one example, instead of just saying weddings or portraits in her navigation, we said wedding experience to make people really feel like they’re getting more of an experience and that’s why they should spend more money with her.
So that’s an example that would show up in her brand strategy guide of. Basically, her positioning is that she’s more of an experience and the words that she would use would be a little bit more elevated and more focused like even less focused on the photography, but focused on the premium experience that she’s giving to clients.
So that’s one way to like, think through the copywriting and how that shows up on your website. And then I mentioned the site map, so I thought it through. Again, who is the user, and what is their journey like? How are most of your clients coming to your website?
Are they finding you through Google Pinterest, and then thinking like where, which websites will they probably land on the most? And then from there, what path do they have to take to get to that call to action? I hope that answers that.
That really did actually. That was a really good example. The wedding experience like that just makes, like wedding photography, you’re like, eh. But then when you combine those two words together, like wedding experience, that. Makes it like a whole nother thing. It instantly expands your mind as to what it could be. What is this experience? And it makes people curious too, I think.
Yeah, I think so. And then also when you click on the page, it goes into more detail. Here is the general timeline that clients have when they work with her and the extra benefits that she gives them.
Like she assists a little bit with the planning process, thinking through that too even for a photographer, your website can be so different from other photographers. And I think that’s why your brand strategy really matters.
I think in a lot of industries we just tend to follow trends or like what everyone else is doing and that’s not going to be evergreen. Which is why you go back to the heart of branding.The website.
Exactly. And talking to the people that you really wanna reach. I know. You and I have talked about the wedding industry as a niche and speaking to them are gonna be different than speaking to someone in the auto industry or in the restaurant industry. It’s just a totally different market. And using those right words like you’re saying is gonna be really important.
Yeah, definitely. And I think that’s something that gets forgotten. Like we’re talking about applying brand strategy to your website, but really brand strategy covers so many things I think sometimes people think they just need to DIY their website design or hire a web designer and then maybe do SEO.
But you also have to think about copywriting your imagery. Like I actually have a client, I sent a proposal too, and I included that we could do food photography and copywriting and consider all of that, like after doing his brand strategy. Because if one of those things falls short, then the strategy falls short and it’s going to not get the kind of results that you want for your clients.
Yeah, exactly. Now, do you have any? Do you do your copywriting for your clients or do you have someone that you outsource that to, how does that work?
I usually like to outsource it just because I think if they have a lower budget, I will send them a copywriting form that kind of gives prompts to basically write their own copy and help them to think through here’s how we should say something or a lot of times they haven’t even thought through a tagline to put on the top navigation or not top navigation, the top header of theirs. Site. So it prompts them to think through those things.
But if they have the extra budget, then I have copywriters that I would recommend. Especially ones in specific industries like the wedding industry and creative entrepreneurs. And I think that helps to work with someone, again, like getting back to the specifics of they’ve worked with a lot of people like you and they understand some of the terms of the industry. I think that helps if you can invest in a professional.
Yeah, I agree. That’s awesome. Awesome. So what other advice do you have for people that are either maybe rebranding or just starting out with their business and want to make that foundation from the ground up and create that brand strategy? What are a few things that you can leave us with that you know will help us in our journeys?
I would say a little bit of homework is to write three client archetypes. And that’s basically going to write an avatar on three of your ideal clients. And they don’t have to be super similar, but go out and talk with a few people that you think would be interested in your product or service.
Whether it’s via Instagram, DMing them, or just creating. Organic relationships that way don’t feel super silly. Or if your sister could be interested in the candles you sell or something like that. Like just go out and have in-person conversations and ask them, what are, what interests them in your brand. Even ask them about what problems they are dealing with right now.
And think about how your brand could help them solve their problems. And then when you have a picture of a few different people, then go write those client archetypes. So that would just be like, you can come up with a fake name that is maybe similar to that person that you talk to and occupation that they’re interested in, what their problems are, why they would probably buy something from you, how they found you and think through that. It’s like writing a little fictional story almost about.
If you are selling your services or products out of a physical store or like a website, then how are they finding that and what is their typical day look like before they find that they are stressed out before they stumble upon your brand?
Do they walk past your store and happen to see it? Just get it. Curious and imaginative with those scenarios. And I think having those real conversations with people too will help you catch things that you might not have caught before. Like maybe notice the kinds of hobbies that they have and maybe similarities between those three to five people that you’re talking to and that will help.
It doesn’t have to be super fancy like just, get a few pieces of paper and write them out and if you’re not super creative, that’s okay, but just maybe even list just some qualities about those people. And I think that can help you at least get started to at least DIY it yourself.
If you want to work with a professional in the future, I think it will help them to really understand, like when they ask you if you’ve thought through your target audience, you can actually have something to show off, yeah, here are some details about them.
And at least your ideal target audience. Like even if you’re not selling to them right now, then you know the path of where you want to go
That’s awesome. That’s great advice and everyone listening, you must have some homework now. and Emily’s gonna check it tomorrow. Now. I’m just kidding.
I know it sounds intense, but just make it fun. Like it doesn’t have to be high-pressure. Like it can just be something to get your mind thinking.
Yeah, that’s great. And that’s something that I like to do, those kinds of things when I’m away from my desk like I can’t do that kind of stuff. For some reason at my desk I have to like, Go to a park or somewhere that’s like away from my normal environment to get my head thinking that way. I don’t know why I wrote all of my StoryBrand emails at the park while my kids were playing. Yeah, it’s just like I have to get out of here. So it’s interesting.
Yeah, I think it helps you boost your confidence a little bit too, because you get to get back to your why and think about who you’re trying to help. I feel like that’s one of the biggest motivators for business owners to really think about. What problems are you solving and the beautifulness that adds to the world when you solve those?
Yeah. I love that. Awesome. Thank you so much for being here, Emily, and sharing all of your knowledge. Where is the best place for people to get in touch with you?
Thank you for having me. They can find me at my website on Emily Foster creative.com. You can also shoot me an email at Hello Emily Foster Creative, and I’m on Instagram at design with Emily and also Pinterest at Emily Foster Creative. If you want to check out some of my work. And I’m always happy to answer questions and Instagram dms or just start a conversation and see how I can help you.
Awesome. Thank you so much for being here.
Yeah, thank you so much. I appreciate this. This is Awesome.