When Katie Callaghan of The Startup Funnel Strategist and I met, she was ready to completely rebrand and refocus her copywriting business. After several years working with coaches and creative entrepreneurs, she felt that it was time to dive into a new niche market.
Katie’s background in sales and conversion copywriting gave her a unique mix of skills that blends emotional connection and data-driven strategy. And she saw the perfect opportunity to put all that to use in the startup world.
But in order to break into this new niche, she knew she needed a professional image that would help her make a strong impression and help communicate what she could offer.
Defining the Brand
To start things off, I helped Katie get clear about her new brand through the Brand Clarity workbook and several coaching calls. We defined her brand story and ideal client:
Katie Callaghan is a Digital Conversion Strategist who helps growth-stage startups optimize their marketing materials through online sales and persuasion techniques so they can convert more customers, make more money, and change the world even faster.
She blends her love of data, structures, and measurable results with the soft skills that allow her to write emotionally nuanced copy that makes her audiences feel heard and understood – and delivers higher conversion rates for her clients.
Katie’s ideal client is the youngish city-dwelling startup executive who just received a new round of funding and is looking for the best way to invest in their business. They don’t want shiny marketing tactics or quick schemes. Instead, they’re looking for something that will help them strengthen their company’s foundation and deliver results for years to come.
They’re ambitious, innovative, smart, and kind of a workaholic. Their work is fulfilling because it’s constantly challenging them and helping them grow. It plays into their strengths as a free-thinking problem solver with a strong corporate background.
They dream about changing and disrupting their industry and wholeheartedly believe that the solution they’re selling is going to improve their customers’ lives in a really practical, but significant, way.
Then, we talked about the types of businesses she wants to fit in with and stand apart from to define her place in the market:
Katie wants to fit in with businesses that project authority and niched expertise balanced with authenticity. They’re structured and systematized, but are also built around their founder’s approachable persona. Katie wants to emphasize structure and results while also infusing her unique quirky personality into the brand so her clients know exactly who they’re working with.
She wants to stand apart from other online marketing names who feel overly corporate, draw beginners, and focus on content marketing. Her core is optimizing sales copy for experienced brands and drawing them in with her quirks.
She also wants to stand apart from brands that teach emotionally manipulative brainwashing tactics. While Katie’s copy solutions are emotionally nuanced, they come from a place of deep respect and understanding. They highlight real solutions instead of unethically pushing a one-sided sale.
After getting clear on all this, we agreed that the Brand Web Presence package would be the best fit for her. In addition to her logo and basic branding elements, I would also help her set up templates and graphics for all her online marketing and website so that she could make the best impression in the online world her ideal client would find her in.
Setting the Direction
With her Brand Foundation in place, it was time to start translating all the abstract concepts we’d been talking about into visuals. I created Tone and Values boards to guide this conversation and help us make sure we were on the same page.
The tone words we chose for The Startup Funnel Strategist are: energetic, confident, compassionate, straightforward, and quirky. I created a separate board for each word so we could talk about them individually.
Looking at her brand as a whole, we also decided on these value words: resonance, ease, change, compassion, and drive. I made her values board using some images from her tone boards and bringing new ones in to support the theme.
Katie felt like these tone and values boards were on point, and so I moved onto creating Style Boards to help us decide on a more concrete visual direction for her brand.
The first round of boards didn’t include anything that felt completely right. Katie felt that the boards were all either too sterile and corporate or too crazy and quirky. She loved some of the warmer color schemes with pink and purple hues. But she worried that it would repel some of her ideal clients.
I went back to the drawing board with all that feedback and was able to present a style board that Katie felt would lead to really effective graphics. It was clean and minimalistic without sacrificing the energy and quirk she needed to communicate.
And it included those bright warm colors she loved, balanced with calmer more traditional blues. The elements together created the perfect blend of organized/professional and energetic/disruptive.
Designing the Brand Building Blocks
Once we were clear on the visual direction, it was time for me to head into the studio and start drafting concepts.
Because Katie’s work revolves around clarity and strategy, I wanted her logo to be simple and straightforward. Her services are highly personalized and she works closely with each of her clients, so it was also important to have a personable feel that reflected some of her quirk and charming nerdiness.
My first instinct was to go with a custom-lettered logo, but after many attempts at that, it was obvious her brand called for a much more streamlined look than hand-lettering could provide.
I moved on to trying to find the perfect font and finally landed on a clean and modern slightly-retro script font. Since the bulk of her branding would live online, I felt it would be ok to break a logo design rule and apply a gradient that included all of her brand colors. This gave the logo much more energy without sacrificing legibility and order.
I created two alternate logos that could be used in different settings: a square version to be used in smaller applications where legibility was still key, and a circle seal to be used where brand recognition had already been built.
Her color scheme included slightly desaturated versions of primary colors. Using primary colors highlighted the energy and quirk of her brand while keeping them just a little desaturated helped tone things down so they wouldn’t drift into childish or overly cheery territory. Katie called it the “equivalent of showing up at the office in a funky blazer.”
For her supporting elements, I wanted to tap into the calm energy of the galaxy images all over Katie’s tone and values board. After hours and hours and day and days of trying to create beautiful splashes of paint myself, I reached out to Abigail Losli for help. She created gorgeous watercolor paintings we could use as backgrounds to create energy and movement where appropriate.
For her fonts, I decided to keep things super simple and straightforward by using variations of the same font. Her accents and CTAs would be set in bold blue all-caps, headlines and titles in regular sentence case, and her body copy in regular black. This would help ground the flowy paint, the energetic color scheme, and the swooping lines of her logo.
Using all these elements, I created the marketing pieces Katie would get the most out of. That included a business card, thank you note, lead magnet PDF, and webpage templates.
The Brand Clarity process we started with helped Katie zero in on her zone of genius when working with clients. It helped her strategically select where she would put her name out there to maximize her marketing efforts and resulted in guest blogging opportunities for big marketing publications like ClickZ.
The graphics we created were like a balm for impostor syndrome. Katie could show up and just do the work, knowing that her brand was handled and that she didn’t have to worry about potential clients judging her as unprofessional — even when she DIYs her graphics.
The style guide and templates Lilly put together for me have hands down been the most amazing part of this process. I love everything she’s created, but the style guide takes the cake.
I move really fast, and I’m constantly testing copy variations and design tweaks. So I don’t always have time to wait for a designer to put things together for me.
Thanks to the style guide, my site doesn’t look terrible when I fiddle with things. Its actually looks good and it’s easy for me to create! It’s not a patch on Lilly’s work, obviously, but it’s way more professional looking and aligned for me than anything I ever created before.
Now, Katie’s attracting ideal clients regularly with total ease. She has people coming to her now who are excited and ready to work with her. And she even closed 3 new contracts — on the same day!
Lilly took me through her Brand Clarity process and in 3 months helped me move my business forward more than I have in the last two years.
I love every single inch of the brand we created together and I thought I couldn’t be happier with her work…then I got this in the mail!
If you’re looking for a designer or any sort of branding help…or you’re just stuck and trying to niche and can’t figure out where to go and what you want to create…talk to Lilly. Please for the love of God talk to Lilly. She will change your life. She certainly changed mine!
The Startup Funnel Strategist