The Surprising Secrets to Standing Out: Strategic Branding for Service Providers with Ellie Brown

March 19, 2024



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I'm Kara - the voice behind some of the brands you know and love (I know because I love them too!). I'm results-driven and ambitious, just like YOU.

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Even after seven years in business, I still sometimes think of branding as this intangible thing. We know we need it to stand out. Nobody is disputing that good design and strategic branding for service providers has a strong ROI. It’s been proven over and over again, and yet it’s still something that I feel a lot of business owners—who are not designers, have questions about. It’s more that we don’t know the right questions to ask.

So that’s why I am THRILLED to say that I brought Ellie from Ellie Brown Branding on the podcast to talk about branding for service providers. She was absolutely fabulous. She’s such a talented designer based in Cañon City, Colorado, and works primarily with service-based businesses and lots of local businesses. So, if you’re a service provider or you are in Cañon City or Colorado, definitely hit her up.

But in the meantime, make sure you listen to this episode all about branding for service providers. She shares so much information. For example, when is it the right time to invest in a brand and website design? Should you do a brand refresh or a complete rebrand? Should you go with a completely custom website or a customizable template? What role does messaging and visuals play together? What should you not do on your website? Honestly, I could go on and on because she shared SO much value in this episode. I CANNOT wait to share this interview with you today!

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Who is Ellie of Ellie Brown Branding?

Ellie is the owner and operator over at Ellie Brown Branding. She specializes in branding for service providers and Showit website design. She’s worked with everyone from interior designers, accountants, med spas, coaches, photographers and more. She is absolutely brilliant.

In her own words:

My mission is to give business owners the confidence they need to stand out, sell more, and make a bigger impact. I personally am obsessed with working with service-based business owners to help them figure out what makes them special and different and stand out in their market.

Looking for branding for service providers? Reach out to her directly here!

branding for service providers expert

How do business owners know they are at the right stage to make the investment for branding and website design?

If you are just learning a new skill that you plan to turn into a business, it’s best to wait to make the investment. However, if you are ready to step out of the side hustle mentality and into the CEO mentality then I would say it’s probably a good time to invest in it. For me, I tried on quite a few hats before I was found what I wanted to do as a career so I’m glad I didn’t invest right away into all of them.

With that said, one of my favorite quotes is from the CEO of Jaguar who said, “if you think good design is expensive, you should look at the cost of bad design.” If you’re going all in, it’s time. Good design will build up your credibility so you don’t need to justify the price of your services.

Another thing to ask yourself is, do you know who you serve and how you serve them?

If you can’t answer those questions, then it might be too soon or it might be helpful to speak with a brand strategist or web designer about how to gain clarity and define your mission.

Lastly, if you are a physical store with signage, business cards, etc, it’s probably better to invest with a brand designer from the beginning vs an online business with a logo only on Instagram, because it will be easier (and cheaper) to rebrand if in a couple months or years once you’ve clarified how you help clients and what services you really want to be offering.

Do you feel like visuals should come first or messaging? Or do they have to happen simultaneously? 

In an ideal world, they should be happening simultaneously. But, I would send people to messaging first to gain some of the clarity I mentioned, how you talk to your audience, how you pitch your offers, etc. If you are not clear on that, then the design portion and strategy of brand design will be so much more difficult. It is doable, absolutely, but you should definitely clarify your messaging and move on to design from there.

What is an unpopular opinion you have about branding and websites for service-based businesses? 

This one is like my North Star for my business and my life: Simplicity is always going to outperform complexity. This can be applied to both brand and web design. People have this misconception that they need to have an elaborate process because they feel it makes them seem more legitimate when in reality people are chasing simplicity themselves.

Another thing people could walk away from and go change right now is I despise when someone’s marketing efforts have led me to their website and when I get to the top of it, all their social media links are there just tempting people to leave.

You can absolutely have your social media on your website, and you should, but you spend all this time trying to get people to your website, you want them to stay and spend some time in your house versus going to someone else’s platform. A better place to have those is in your “junk drawer footer” and potentially your contact page. Move them out of the top navigation. 

How should we decide if we need a custom website or template customization after branding for service providers?

Again, it all depends on the business, which is why I like having a project discussion to find out where they are because then I can gauge how hands off or hands on they want to be to determine which is the best fit. Custom website design may be better if you want your website to be done and you’re willing to pay the extra money and time to get it perfect, and is okay then to hire a website designer for updates needed.

But at the end of the day, it also comes back to the budget. If you are willing to spend a bit extra on a more expensive template, you’re going to have a lot of canvas options versus if you are using one of the free versions which will leave you more limited on the number of canvases you will have access to and the flexibility of them.

While I do believe custom design offers flexibility and uniqueness you might not always find in a template, it does come at a higher cost and longer development time, and may be harder to edit in the future as a non-designer.

What are some elements you think every service-based business needs in their website that a lot of us don’t have?

Most important are really clear call to action buttons and having them in a color that is different than everything else on your website. This would be your book now or contact button, something along those lines. Don’t be afraid to have multiple call to action buttons on a page and make sure that they are directing people to your ultimate goal of the site.

Another thing, location-specific service-based businesses need to list the city they work in a way that is very obviously placed and noticeable as soon as you get to the website. People are busy, they’re trying to figure out if you can help them or not, if you aren’t listing your location then you’re not answering their initial question.

Another one is, if you have pricing that you can list on a website, just do it. I know some people say that you can do an opt-in for a service guide. If I won’t do it, then most people won’t do it. List your pricing.

What should we do if we like our brand, but still want updates? Do you think it’s always better to do a complete refresh?

I don’t think that all brands need to be raised to the ground every time. You can do a brand refresh versus a complete rebrand. If you can find a designer willing to do that you might keep the same logo, but update your color palette, add some social media graphics designed for your business, and have them design patterns and textures as well. Add some supplemental stuff and leave the logo alone.

What questions should we ask a branding and website designer before we book for branding for service providers?What kind of things should we look for?

You should ask specifics about their process for branding for service providers. Like, how much involvement will I get and what is required of me as the client in this process? Is it collaborative? Are there revisions? What does that process look like? What does maintenance look like after the project is over? Before getting on a call, make sure you are looking at their portfolio and reading through their testimonials.

Red flags to look for when you are going to hire a brand or website designer is if they don’t ask you to sign any sort of contract, have poor communication, or if they are unwilling to research your business or industry. Strategy and research should be a part of the process.

branding for service providers expert ellie brown of ellie brown branding

Thank you for sharing so much about branding for service providers! Last question, do you feel like you had a tipping point in your business where you really started to see significant progress or success?

I feel like I’ve had two thus far. The first was around February of 2022, when I was still teaching kindergarten but doing design on the side. I purchased a course called Booked Out Designer by Elizabeth McCravy. She outlined how to run the business side of design, which I felt was missing.

Being an Enneagram seven I always ask myself, “Am I going to regret not doing this when I’m 80?”. I told myself I could always go back to teaching but there is not going to be a better time to go all in than right now, and I’ve been able to keep going this whole time.

My next tipping point was very recent, this past winter.  In 2023 we found out I was pregnant so I had to get my butt in gear and I’ve started to outsource things that are going to get more visibility and help me in the long term like getting more blogs out there. 

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I'm Kara - the voice behind some of the brands you know and love (I know because I love them too!). I'm results-driven and ambitious, just like YOU.

Meet Kara