Like many fledgling small business owners and solopreneurs, Pamela Hock googled budget website development services when she started her practice, and clicked on some high-volume low-touch agency that cranks out template websites for naïve new business owners.
Here's the website they did for her mental health counseling business:
I mean...where is that? Why the boats? She's based in Richmond, VA. What does any of that jungle imagery have to do with her, her business, or her clients?
And why did they just take her raw writing and stick it in for copy? How could someone sign off on this work and be proud of their job?
And they charged her hundreds of dollars for this.
Website development on a budget
She doesn't have the funds for a major website project, so we agreed to build her website gradually over several months with a retainer.
First priority was rewriting the page for her counseling services, where current clients could access their portal, and new prospects (from Psychology Today) could contact her—while we developed her Big Idea.
On our discovery call, she told me her story and why she does what she does. And how she helps her clients. And why she's willing to work with sex offenders after having been victimized for years.
I asked her what her clients ask about most frequently, their most common doubts and hopes. Then we reworked her one-page website, concentrating on customer-centric copy and simplifying the drag & drop design.
Ditching all the irrelevant cluttered imagery.
Website headlines & hero shots
Different brands have different conventions for what first appears on their homepage. Whatever it is, keep it simple, with one CTA (and occasionally a secondary)
Whether counseling or public speaking, her face is part of her brand. Ideally we'd have a professional photoshoot—but again, this is website development on a tight budget. We had to use what we had.
So we picked one of her existing videos to show a living, breathing human presence. And a note of credibility—because holding a microphone is an automatic indicator of expert authority.
She didn't have any hi-res videos—just what's on YouTube—so we added a TV-screen filter in Wix to occlude the blur and stylize the Hero Shot for her counseling webpage.
What to put on your About page
The most important part of a website is the copy that connects readers to how you help them.
Pamela specializes in counseling for sex offenders—a vitally important niche that can be a little tricky to talk about because of cultural stigma.
Her horrifying personal story of being trafficked through adolescence is the driving force behind her connection to the business. Her trauma story gives credibility to the empathy she offers to people who are often ostracized and have a hard time finding quality mental health help.
Pamela knows first-hand how PTSD affects daily life. She knows from experience how trauma scars body and mind.
So instead of listing her degrees and resumé features, we introduce her brand narrative and invite readers to learn more about the services she offers and what to expect from individual counseling sessions.
First we build trust and connection. Everything focused on the reader's point of view. No resumes here. This is storytelling. With your reader as the star of a hero's journey to a better life.
How you go about that depends on your business, your audience, and your actual story. But there's always a way to connect on a human level.
For Pamela, we got a little playful and used a Zoom screenshot to show a prospective client what a session might literally look like. Budget-friendly, unique, and very human.
Now her prospects feel involved in the process before they even schedule their intake session. Which makes them more comfortable with the idea of spending money on services.
Once her individual counseling page was set up and ready to collect and direct prospects, we started working on the brand transition she really wanted. But had no idea how to approach.
Sex Trafficking Public Speaker
The next step in Pamela's journey of recasting her brand story was to focus on the Big Idea that would let her connect her private practice under the same brand as her biggest passion—which is standing before an audience telling gut-wrenching stories from her life as a captive sex worker as a means of educating people.
Her unforgettable stories pulse life into the grim statistics of sex trafficking in America—as she stuns and uplifts and informs her audience.
She goes all out on the notion that telling your trauma story is vital to the recovery process.
So our fundamental branding question for this project: What does serving individual trauma clients have in common with public speaking about sex trafficking?
Well it's all about giving trauma a voice. A crucial part of the healing process, whether individual, cultural, or global. We have to speak about trauma in order to grow and make progress.
We brainstormed some ideas in the good old fashioned way with a battered yellow legal pad littered with scraps of thought and jumbled notes for jogging the creative chaos of the writing brain.
Brainstorming is all about throwing things at the wall and seeing what sticks. Pen and pad help your brain physically experience that process. Thought comes up, write it down, and move on to the next. In a writing app it's far too easy to fall prey to editing—and then you lose all the ariadne threads that may lead to your Big Idea.
By Any Voice Necessary rings the right tone of determined desperation in the fight against the dragons of sexual trauma and trafficking—and conjures historical movements aimed at righting social wrongs.
It also unites under one concept the voices represented by her client work, her public speaking, and her future podcast (the third leg of her Big Idea).
Her brand's Big Idea centers around amplifying voices of trauma for the purpose of healing and addressing these deep-rooted problems we seldom think about.
The trick was to capture her stoic humor in the webcopy while still optimizing for SEO. Fortunately Pamela is a natural storyteller and happy to interview as much as it takes to capture her voice in words.
At the same time, her videos speak for themselves. She comes to life on the screen—and as she gets more video from future gigs, we'll add them to the page via Wix.
What is a Big Idea in Marketing?
In marketing a Big Idea is the driveshaft of all your brand storytelling. It's the essence of how your brand connects to your audience and the bigger picture of a better life.
Big Ideas are usually simple.
But they're not always readily evident. They require stepping into your customer's shoes to discover what it is you're really offering them. Not the product or service—but the benefits. The new life they can hope for.
The easiest low-budget way to do this is with a simple GoogleForms survey about the customer experience.
Ask about their:
Hopes and expectations
Doubts and concerns
What problem you solved
What that means to them
What they can do now that they couldn't before
Why they chose you
What they're looking forward to
With enough perspective on the better life you offer, you can boil it down to the essence to find a Big Idea that connects.
Once you have the Big Idea, everything else sort of falls into place.
A Big Idea is just the beginning
Don't get me wrong—there's still a lot of work to do. We have to build her SEO with periodic educational blogs about symptoms, techniques, and trafficking. Activate her social media channels and get her posting regularly. Pitch podcasts to feature her as a guest speaker.
Then of course there's her own podcast forthcoming, featuring guests telling different types of trauma stories and discussing their experience and the recovery process.
And as we grow her audience, we'll collect their emails via ConvertKit to organize and engage them directly about podcasts, appearances, mental health tips, and other exclusive content.
All driven by one central idea: spreading the word on sex trauma and trafficking By Any Voice Necessary.
Marketing is a journey. And it's all about building momentum. Which works a lot better when you're working with a Big Idea.