#637 WP-Tonic This Week in WordPress & SaaS: How To Develop a Real Digital Brand in 2021?

In the world of WordPress & SaaS post COVID- 19 companies are now totally depended on their online presence so do you build a really effective online brand?

With Special Guest Randy Herbertson Founder and CEO of “The Visual Brand

Randy is a recognized brand strategist, conceptor and creative director with over twenty years of marketing and innovation experience in the client, agency and media worlds, from entrepreneurial to corporate environments. Randy has worked in the WPP and Omnicom agency networks, Conde Nast Publications, Allied Domecq and E&J Gallo. He also spent several years in the digital start up world in during the height of the dotcom boom. Most recently, Randy has worked in the boutique agency world, owning and operating two firms, including The Visual Brand, founded in 2013. He has a strong expertise in social media, digital innovation, packaging, industrial and environmental design.

Randy has balanced his training and experience to play a key role in a number of product innovations and corporate transformations. He has worked with a diverse range of companies industries that include retail, financial, professional services, technology, and entertainment, pharmaceutical, automotive and consumer packaged goods.

He has spoken on numerous industry panels, and is a corporate mentor to a number of emerging companies and individuals.

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Intro: Welcome to the WP-Tonic podcast where each week Jonathan and his co-host interview, the leading experts in WordPress e-learning and online marketing. Jonathan, take it away.

Jonathan Denwood: Welcome back folks to the WP tonic interviews show. This is episode 637. I’m really looking forward to our interview. We got a great expert on branding. I think branding, if you’ve got a start-up it’s really important. We got Randy Herbertson and he’s the founder and CEO of The Visual Brand. He’s a true expert it’s going to be a fascinating discussion. We’ll be back in a few seconds, we’re going for our main sponsor’s message. And like I say, when we come back, we will be straight in it folks.

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Jonathan Denwood: We’re coming back. Like I say, we’re going to be talking about branding, if I can talk this morning. And I think it’s really important for your SaaS, for your WordPress business, to understand how to communicate your brand to your target audience. So, Randy, would you quickly like to introduce yourself?

Randy Herbertson: Sure thing I’m Randy Herbertson and as Jonathan said, I am the founder of Visual Brand, which is a, brand innovation agency based in Westport, Connecticut. Yeah, and our client base is quite diverse. We work with, many different industries and definitely, large companies and also emerging companies.

Jonathan Denwood: That’s Great. I’m really looking forward to the discussion Randy. And I’ve got my great co-partner in crime, Steven Sauder. Steven, would you like to quickly introduce yourself to the new listeners and viewers?

Steven Sauder: Yeah Steven Sauder from hustle fish.com where we can now help you out with any WordPress needs.

Jonathan Denwood: So straight into it, Randy, I just want to put this to you. What I see as your job and your agency job is I think every company, first of all, they’ve got to work out, have they got product fit, service or digital product, but that’s down to them. Have they got product fit and then have they got the pricing, blah, blah, blah, all the business stuff. But then every company has a culture, has something unique about it or should have, or does have. And your job is to help them explain that to their target audience in the quickest, most powerful way to benefit the business. And that’s not easy. Am I right about this, Randy?

Randy Herbertson:
A hundred percent it’s the classic example of you can be too close to something. And when we’re too close to something, we have an internal dialogue as well as an external dialogue that comes to as a whole for us but what we say, doesn’t always get the whole story. So this is a classic example of a business owner saying, I’ve got this great idea this is what I do and they explain it to you and go, I have no idea what you’re talking about. Okay. Because I’m not hearing the whole story probably what’s in your brain. And so really exactly like you said, Jonathan, our job really is helping clients understand how to tell that story. But again, the building blocks are the same with any kind of business and the way we approach it is actually very simple. And it actually grows out of my early part of my career when I was a brand manager for bigger companies, we did these awful long brand manuals every year that nobody ever read that had too many figures and too many models. And I realized that there had to be a simpler and better way to do it. So over the years we built exactly that.

And you know, there are the core components even where you started this, like who you’re competing with? Okay. Not only who you’re competing with we do, a positioning matrix that’s based on where do you want to be? Like these classic [Inaudible 05:23 ] you want to be in the upper right corner. So that’s our goal who’s around us and this substance understand who’s doing what, and, you know, frankly, I could be doing something that is part of one company, part of another company, but bringing those two together is unique that’s okay. I can be doing something exactly the same as somebody else, but there’s going to be some reason why you’re going to use me versus them. So that’s part of what that exercise is about.

Then going into the next part is, again, who are you talking to? You know? And actually I’ll take a step before that. We do a thing called brand drivers, emotional and functional it sounds a little esoteric, but it’s not. It’s down to the core thing is what is the motivation that someone has to work with you? You know, what is the motivation emotionally? What is the motivation functionally? And those are literally single words. And those become the backbone of everything else. Even when you look at your client base your customers, those different motivators are going to have a more or less important role in your communication. And usually frankly, when you look at segments, it’s very few companies have the luxury to communicate to different audiences separately. You’ve got to find that universe, where are you going to communicate to as many people as possible? You know, it doesn’t mean you don’t have direct communication you do.

So it’s, it’s an iterative process. And then coming out of there, the next one is a get our classic thing we called the brand proposition. That it’s the, what is for, because that can sometime be the hardest thing to do, you know, companies spend forever writing their mission statements and then people read them and go, oh, what the hell does that say? So the, what is for, because it’s really important. Because someone says, Hey, so what do you do? You’ve got to say it like a long sentence. At least what do I do? This is what it is. This is why it’s important. And here’s who it’s for, you know? And that can be the hardest thing for any company to do. So that accomplished then, you know, it gets down to, and this is something that we think of the examples of companies that do it great.

And people always use apples and example, because they’re a good example is your brand vocabulary which is what are things that you say and word you use regularly that means something. So when your audience starts hearing those words from you, they know what they mean. It’s your communication code. And by doing that, it actually makes them, it’s like having a design style guide. It makes communicating much, much easier because you know, things you’re going to say consistently. Now look at all of the web folks know that using words, contextually and consistently is great for SEO. Yes that’s built on the same principle. Okay.

And so with those things at hand, then you can start really then building, you know, how you’re going to communicate, who you are going to communicate to, and what’s most important. And like I said, it’s very common for an entrepreneur. Like you called out Jonathan to be really good at something. All right I’ve built a great tool. I’ve got a great service, I’ve got a great something else, but we have to be more than that when we do this. So the goal is to make it simple for you to do it wherever you’re going to do it.

Jonathan Denwood: Oh blow me away Randy over to you Steven.

Steven Sauder: I wanna like just quickly dive into the idea of the visual brand. Is that just like a company name or is there something deeper behind like what that means? Like what is visual about a brand and like how does that line?

Randy Herbertson: So it’s a good question. And actually, in fact, my first company was called Seesaw actually. So visual sort of theme and the rally is that a visual communication is universal communicator. And that would be internationally anything else. It’s a shorthand for communicating, you know, I will tell you that a huge practice for us is actually information design Iconography. We have a big, motion graphics, practice here as well because people communicate very well visually. Perfect example. Like I said, we know in a lot of digital communication, it went from words to pictures to now, if you don’t have motion in your communication, it’s not as engaging. That’s partly because you’re leading somebody through something. You might have a voiceover, you might have other things, but they visually see things, even animated words, and we’d done it in the right way or iconography you communicate faster because in the digital world, we are short handers. You know, we want to get everything in a few seconds about a few minutes.

So that’s sort of what that’s built up. And for us, I guess the other big difference is that we have a very robust strategic practice and design practice and they work hand in hand and a lot of industries talk about that, but don’t really necessarily do it. They do one or the other. And that’s again, by the way, incredibly necessary when you’re helping companies start something new. And like I said, for us, small companies are starting everything new. They’re bringing everything together. for large companies our typical clients are the innovation people, the people that are trying to do something different, you know, like saying, I currently make apples and I want to make oranges, you know, can I make oranges with my company [Inaudible 10:30 ] but I’m great at apples. And so that’s what we help them figure out.

Steven Sauder: Cool. So it’s the idea that like, you should be able to know what a brand is and what it does and what it represents without having to read a big, long paragraph on an about page. Like you should be able to see it, the second you hit their homepage or interact with somebody from that company or see a social media posts. Like you should have some of those elements or those feelings.

Randy Herbertson: Exactly. And again a perfect example, to that statement is that you find so often when somebody lands on a page. Like your website is critical, everybody needs a website. You get to the top of the page, and you really don’t know what the hell they do. you’ve got to go, okay there’s a lot of pretty pictures here a lot of words, but you know, I’m already bored because I don’t know what you do. So in the very, very first thing you say, what the heck do you do? Okay. And sometimes if that’s more complicated, use Infographic. Again, iconography communicates very fast and that’s what you should pay attention to it. And that will communicate, you know, we have some clients who are doing very technical things, engineers and stuff can get a lot of work in the, environmental sustainability world as well. And they’re very complicated in what they’re trying to communicate. And so we often do say, all right, let’s bring this down to one great infographic. So anyone could look at that and go, oh, I get how all those pieces work together. So, you know, like I said, it’s just fast communication.

Steven Sauder: Yeah. That’s, that’s awesome, so when you’re talking about like complex ideas where somebody comes to a page and they’re just like, I don’t understand what you do. Like what does this even mean? Do you feel like that’s generally just a messaging problem or is that that often coming from like a company trying to do too much? Like, they’re trying to say, like, we are the solution to all of your problems in the world.

Randy Herbertson: Absolutely, and the reality is you may be a solution to a lot of things, but how you do it and when you do it as important, because again, people can be overwhelmed by too many options. I should say the embarrassment of riches. You know, I worked for a pretty well-known, agency guy years ago, who would always make us go into clients with a hundred ideas because he thought that was great and clients would never make a decision. We’d have all this amazing work because we give them a paradigm [Inaudible 12:54 ]. So when any company, you look at your [Inaudible 12:56 ] there should be your core offering, or at least your umbrella, and then there’ll be other things you can do and like I said, that’s important. And when you have too many things, too many options, right upfront, you get overwhelmed. So again, preferably on your website, if you’ve got more things, they don’t all have to be on the homepage. What’s the thing you do most often and most well, you know, and if you really look at the reality, if you want to offer different things to different peoples have different landing pages and your communication to get there.

Steven Sauder: But each landing page is around that one core idea and that one core thought.

Jonathan Denwood: I think you really see this Randy when we’ve got a digital focus here, SaaS plugin, you see that with their pricing pages. lot of people think that the more options, the more value, the more stuff [Inaudible 13:48 ] on their pricing pages, that’s going to make it obviously more value, more engaging but it doesn’t does it Randy?

Randy Herbertson: It makes it confusing. And by the way, really good practice that many companies do is give a recommendation. It’s all totally fine. It’s like, this is our recommended thing to do. People don’t necessarily look at that as a sell. They go, oh, okay. There’s a reason you’re telling me this because other people have felt that way and it’s the best value all that kind of stuff. So, you know guide them, you know, it’s really important to guide them. And like you said, on pricing too it’s something, that’s a common practice, but if you’re giving me different options, tell me what I get in each option. Okay. And honestly, make sure there are differences. When you see something where everything’s checked off? Okay. So why would I pay more for that? You have to be really clear.

Steven Sauder: That’s really interesting. I was on somebody’s page the other day. And they had like three different plans, right? Like classic SaaS stuff. Like your beginning, your intermediate, your, you know, gold level, whatever. But underneath it, they had like percentages of users that choose which plan and who knows if they made it up or if it’s real or not, but I didn’t even trigger my head, but you’re right. Like, that’s what they’re doing. They’re pushing one out there farther than the other saying like, this is what the people usually want. So this is probably what you’re going to want.

Randy Herbertson: And by the way, that works, we’re very peer driven we say, oh, most people are buying this. That must be the right one. So yeah Guidance is good, you know, and making it easier for them to do.

Jonathan Denwood: I think we go for our break folks, got a couple of great sponsors supporters of the show, have a listen, we’ll be back in a few moments. Folks

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Jonathan Denwood: We’re coming back. We’ve had a bit of a chat with Randy so obvious that he knows he’s been doing this for a while. It’s pretty obvious that he’s experienced. He’s got the arrows in the back. He’s got that look. I think it’s been a great discussion so far. So Randy where you’re saying, you know, when you’re talking to the kind of analytical coder, the kind of the accountant type what you’re saying, it sounds a bit, and I’m not being funny here because I totally think what you do is totally important. But they tend to think, oh, this is all very soft this is all very loving. How do we measure it? What return on investment are we going to get? What guarantee can you give Randy? But I think what they don’t understand Randy is the technical barrier had been reduced through APIs, through Amazon web services, various things make it easier to build a SaaS to build an online business. But the thing is, it’s the Branding that will make the difference to some ways. What do you reckon about that statement?

Randy Herbertson: Well, it’s true. And look at it. It is very measurable. It’s all measuring engagement, you know, and transaction. I mean, it’s the classics digital model that actually changed the whole world. It used to be when things weren’t digital, you know, a billion years ago, there was no way to really measure the thing. Oh, you got a lot of exposure. Isn’t that great. It’s actually seeing the engagement. So, when you have the right kind of messaging, A people engaged to begin with, and then actually they go down the purchase funnel, so that’s the way you measure it. So that’s like kind of speaks to the accountant’s like, yes, we got from here to here to here by changing the way we do it. And if you don’t see a material changes, then obviously it’s not right.

But the nice thing too is that is optimizable. That’s why we often recommend particular when you take the work I described to actual communication, have a couple of versions. Okay. And then optimize which version is working best. That can be even in an email, it could be in a communication directly. It could be on your website. It’s okay to do that because that you’ll be able to tell because it’s measurable and that’s, how you tell it works. But it also boils down to, it’s not just getting exposure even or engagement it’s like, did they follow through, did they buy what I’m doing? You know, did they buy into the fact that I’m saying this is the most recommended?

And then the other place you can go to and not every company has either the luxury or the inclination is to do some research against this you know, we do actually that here and, you know, both qualitative and quantitative because sometimes even the numbers, don’t tell you the real story of the, why the, why is the most important question. So what is that it happened or didn’t happen? So even if it’s as simple as doing a survey or having call with people who are customers, it’s a good way to do it. You know, you see a lot of businesses, especially at SaaS businesses and others doing the post-surveys, not everybody does them, but enough people do them that you can kind of learn why that worked.

Steven Sauder:
if I’m a founder and I have a product, let’s say it’s, you know, some online course or something I’m trying to sell or a widget or whatever, it really doesn’t matter. And it’s a great idea the people that are using it love it but I’m just not getting the traction that I need to keep growing it. Where do I start? And like do I need to start with asking myself existential questions? Do I start by measuring? I only have so much time in a day and you’re trying to run a company and you’re trying to figure out this problem at the same time. Where do you begin to diving into that?

Randy Herbertson: So it really starts with understanding who is buying and then saying, how do you clone that. Now certain platforms like Facebook has lookalikes and other things that, you know, things you can do. But it’s really understanding that. And within the people that are buying you, there’s gonna be some common threads, okay. Some that are completely targetable and some that are going to be a little bit more, qualitative. And so really it’s the classic build on your success. If you’re getting no traction at all and no consistency that there’s something bigger, wrong. And that could be literally in your product isn’t different enough or compelling enough. But, but if you do have like a, you [Inaudible 22:34 ] a core audience, you need to, see what they’re like exclude clearly they’re probably not to be the whole universe of who you want to get to. Unless you’re something so specific that there’s five people who want it.

Steven Sauder: And then like, by consistency, like if I’m looking for my user group and trying to find consistency, I’m looking for like measurable, consistent metrics like this is for all, like only you guys buy this or only women buy this, or only people under the age of X buy this. Like measurable data like that is that what I’m looking for in that consistency? Or what do you mean by that word?

Randy Herbertson: It’s a starting point. But it’s beyond that. It’s understandable more psychographically about why they buy it. Okay. Demographic is certainly part of it, you know, but it usually goes beyond cause demographic doesn’t tell the whole story. It’s that they are people that are in this kind of business or this kind of leisure thing that they’re interested in. they’re using it for this kind of purpose. In fact, that’s even a nice thing that some companies actually do when you do a checkout of something, it’s like, what is this for? And give them some drop down categories. You get some data to understand, even, if you can’t tell after they have used it, what it’s for, because that’ll help you start the target to say, oh yeah, this is really, when they’re using and why are they using it?

Another really important tool is to understand, and you can also again tell this with web analytics, what was the purchase path?, did they register and not buy right away? Did they come back later? Did I have to follow up with them three times? That kind of thing so understanding that helps you understand what’s your purchase cycle for certain things it’s fast and other things it’s considered may have to come back. These are all things you can get from your web analytics. If you’re selling e-commerce.

Steven Sauder: Yeah something online that you can sell, Jonathan go ahead.

Jonathan Denwood: Yeah. I was thinking, I didn’t do that. I’m going to put this to you, but I’ve got to be honest with you Randy I didn’t do this myself, but I wish I had, I think if you’re gonna build a product, a productized service, that’s what WP-Tonic offers, Randy a productized service, to some extent. But what I didn’t do was find some of what I thought was my target audience, like 2 or 3 of them said I’m thinking of doing this can I have like 10, 15 minutes of your time? And can I ask you what your needs are, what your concerns are, why do you use this particular product service, what you like about it, what you don’t? I didn’t do that, but on reflection it would have gave more, much more focus and I would have really benefited from like a couple of days of doing that. What do you reckon Rand?

Randy Herbertson: Completely, right. And it can be as simple as that, Jonathan is just literally having constant conversations with, people who did buy. Because again, you can always recall for what made me decide. Okay. And by the way [Inaudible 25:44 ] it was an easy, fast decision boom, you checked all these boxes. Great. But usually they’ll say, hey, this, this is really what drew me in, or this would, and even frankly, you want to know what gave them pause? Is there anything they said, oh, I’m not so sure or I got confused at this part, but I still went ahead and did it? So that that’s important because you know, that it will be that pause, maybe the thing that will stop some people from doing it.

And then look at the other part, which, is not a new idea is then also using testimonials is incredibly important, real testimonials. Another thing I also like to tell people is that, you know, every business has issues that they have to solve from a customer service standpoint. Being very visible with solving problems is great. In fact, some companies even do their customer service like that on social media, because it’s incredibly visual. Cause people don’t mind that there is a problem or they see the company being responsive to, help them solve that problem that takes them all the way down.

Jonathan Denwood: Do you think, just to, you know, do you also think that like interviewing three people that signed up, or even if people that you find that they are using another product, but it’s in the same area, but the other reason why this is important is to zero in, on some of the language they’re using and replicate it, on the key pages.

Steven Sauder: Completely. If you could ask this, so if you were to describe my product, how would you describe it? And by the way, if they spit back out the words that you have great nailed it. But if they don’t and have their own words exactly your point, sometimes you do get language from your customers and that’s different than saying, well, you know, I think it’s a blah, blah, blah, blah. And by the way, if they’re confused, then you know, that’s where you got the problem. He’s like, well, I’m not sure exactly it kind of does this. That’s where, you know, you haven’t been clear enough in your messaging,

Jonathan Denwood: We’re gonna kind of get around to wrapping up the podcast part of the show. Randy is going to stay on for some bonus content, which you’ll be able to see the whole interview on the WP tonic Facebook group page, and also on the WP tonic YouTube channel. Also if you really want to support the show, please sign up for our newsletter. It’s go to WP tonic forward newsletter, and sign up for that. There are some great offers on the signup page and you get a weekly newsletter about WordPress SaaS and some of my extra thoughts which is sometimes outrageous, surprise, surprise. So Randy how can people find out more about you and what you’re up to Randy?

Randy Herbertson: So they can reach me directly at Randy@thevisualbrand.com or visit our website, thevisualbrand.com.

Jonathan Denwood: He’s a busy man, but I think he’s always got time to have a quick chat with somebody he’s got that look. Steven how can people find out more about you your new setup and what you’re up to Steven?

Steven Sauder: Yeah. Head over to Hustle, fish.com, check out some of the projects that we’ve been working on.

Jonathan Denwood: Oh, that sounds interesting. In the bonus content, I’m going to be asking Randy about if he was starting a start-up and he was the marketing branding with his co-founder. The structure of building some, a brand from the beginning he’s got some good ideas around that. I think you’ll find it really interesting bonus discussion. So join us for that. We’ll be back next week with another fabulous guests. And another useful discussion for you, WordPress or bootstrap entrepreneurs we’ll be back soon folks bye.

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