When Dr. Alan McClure first reached out to me about his cannabis-consulting website project I had to stop and pinch myself.
An opportunity to enter the cannabis industry without even having to try? Impossible! This was already one of my secret business goals for 2022 — which I thought would involve a grueling slog through chossy cannabis websites and a withering campaign of cold-emailing.
And the more he told me about his PhD in flavor chemistry and how he applies food science to help cannabusinesses make better edibles — the more excited I got.
This was more than just strains, doses, flavors, effects, and sales. This was something much deeper, offering endless interest for my top values of quality, science, and creativity.
Transitioning a brand vs branding from scratch
Dr Alan McClure was a chocolate maker before shifting into food-science consulting, and he was hoping to ride that brand recognition into his new foray into cannabis edibles.
He had a bookmark website in place for Patric Consulting — but wanted his new brand to come alive and get found by his specific audience through brand voice copywriting.
Here’s the DIY version:
Big Ideas in brand story development
As Dr Alan told me more about his background, experience, and what he does for people, I was increasingly certain that his ticket to Big Idea success was some connection with alchemy. After all, edibles used to be called “magic” right?
But I had to tread lightly.
What he does is serious science, so any connection with alchemy had to be tongue-in-cheek. A touch of humorous mystique, but not woo-woo. There are reputations at stake here.
More importantly it’s the audience we had to keep in mind. Small businesses trying to make the best products possible for their own customers, recreational as well as medical. They don’t have time or interest for flowery concepts and gimmicky treatment.
Whatever we created had to be playful enough to put them at ease, but self-aware and serious enough to keep their attention and build trust. Fortunately Dr Alan has plenty of experience, accolades, high-value testimonials, and other proof of expertise to back up a little humor—so he’s free to create a brand persona that matches his own.
But like many scientists and other experts in interesting fields, Dr Alan has one great weakness when it comes to brand storytelling…
There’s a reason the word resembles gorgon of Medusa fame. Jargon turns any mortal reader into stone.
Especially if they’re already frustrated looking for solutions to their unique problems. Every unfamiliar word or clinical construct leads them one blink closer to leaving your site for the next one in their search results.
It’s your job to meet them where they are.
In that vein we also discussed the brand name — asking what, at the end of the day, does the chocolate company have to do with cannabis food science consulting?
Finding no good answer, we decided to change the name to fit the brand story, and it was off to the races.
First step in website writing: the Ideal Customer Avatar
The ICA is a character sketch of your best-case website reader. Someone with the means and interest to benefit from your offer. Someone who resonates with your brand story and guide persona.
It’s an amalgamation of all the important details that might factor into a person’s decision whether to trust you and accept your offer.
Dr Alan was my first client so far to come prepared with an ICA profile all filled out. Which meant we had a great focal point for getting started. Plus it meant he already had an understanding that good website copy centers around a concrete theoretical character based on your target audience.
The ideal customer avatar is the character your website places on a hero’s journey to a better life. The better you understand them, the better you can connect their life experience with your unique solution.
Creating a brand persona
Before you can really come up with the right name and copy for your brand story, you have to understand the character your brand is presenting.
If your ICA is the hero of this customer journey, your brand is the guide that gives them the tools they need and shows them the way through doubts and obstacles.
Your brand is this person’s Gandalf, Yoda, Athena, the christmas ghosts…
What’s the relationship you want to establish between your brand as the guide and your customer as the hesitant hero?
As an experienced food science consultant, Dr Alan channels some incredible molecular knowledge about common problems in cannabis edibles (like bitterness).
As a guide, his role is to show his clients the connection between macro mess and micro magic.
Once they understand the connection, he can lead them to a place of creative freedom where they can concentrate on serving their customers—knowing they’re putting out the best-tasting cannabis edibles science can create.
To add dimension to the guide-persona point with a total non sequitur example: For a massage therapist’s website, an effective brand persona could be — rather than a masseuse describing techniques — a soft-spoken anatomy expert with a soothing bedside manner, guiding the aching hero through the tricky world of musculature and tension. Not just listing services—but educating readers about what’s hurting and why, and showing them the path to the right massage for their needs.
For Dr Alan, personifying his brand character was easy. Once we agreed to flirt with the concept of alchemy, his characteristic bushy beard and experience-lined face fit perfectly with the image of an ambitious and creative craftsman tinkering with mysterious substances to solve problems at a molecular level.
As a consultant, Dr Alan’s work is scientific and process-oriented, but also creative and personality-driven — so the brand voice reflects the best parts of that. His low-key avuncular nature is the perfect basis for this, and leaves room for plenty of very smart but self-aware humor to put prospects at ease and invite them to learn more.
The website echoes his voice — but when prospects schedule a call about their problem, that’s when they really understand what kind of power this flavor alchemist wields.
How to choose a brand name
We quickly agreed that the name Patric wasn’t meaningful for a cannabis food science consulting brand, so we hit the blank page and brainstormed ideas. As always, I started with a fresh legal pad page and scrawled my running thoughts by hand.
We tossed around names like Advanced Edibles Development and Next Level Edibles Formulation. But to me that sounded too bland, too vague, too jargony.
For a personality-driven brand, the name should conjure person or place — rather than process. We’re trying to connect with people, not faceless corporations. This brand story takes place in a creative lab where cannabitter gets turned into gourmet ganja gold.
The name should reflect the magic.
That brought us to Elevated Flavorology Edibles Studio — which invokes creativity and clean processes while also establishing a playful voice that’s willing to create new words. It’s a little long but we figured Elevated Flavorology would work as a nickname.
After some wrangling we shortened it to Elevated Edibles Experts and settled in to build the brand story.
How to wireframe for a website
Wireframing in website development helps you visualize the big picture of the website and the overall journey of each page. It can be done on a whiteboard, scrap paper, or an app designed for the purpose.
I use Balsamiq because it’s streamlined and features enough imagery to let me present my designs to the client in a way they easily understand.
Wireframing for a website is like sketching a graphic novel. What’s the feeling you want to convey with each frame? What stands out? How does the reader’s eye move? Where do you place the actions?
It also helps you find room for callbacks to other parts of your site’s brand story to establish patterns and themes in your reader’s mind and lead them where you want them. It helps keep your visual components consistent, thematic, and recognizable.
And frankly it helps prevent big blocks of text because you can see how eye-crossing they look from above, before you even write a word.
Write webcopy in a separate doc: a cautionary tale
I was on Dr Alan’s Wordpress one afternoon polishing a couple FAQ answers he’d added. Spent maybe an hour on the revisions, saved my work, and closed the window. But apparently he’d been on the site at the same time — and saved his already open version after I’d made my changes.
Which meant whole paragraphs were lost in the overwritten ether. All that work vanished into the thin air of a Wordpress glitch.
You can imagine what that felt like.
Fortunately this ain’t my first rodeo, so even though I crafted the copy directly in Wordpress, I had copy/pasted my work into the Googledoc containing all our copy.
Phew is right.
Critical website development tip:
Always keep an updated copy of your copy somewhere safe. Never put your entire trust in a website building tool. Especially if you’re working with a team.
If you’re working as a team, make sure to coordinate and communicate. And make sure everyone closes the tool when they’re not actively working on it.
SEO for brand story websites
Whatever your brand story may be, it’s crucial to include language reflecting what your ICA is actually typing into search engines when looking for solutions to their problem.
One place to get ideas for SEO keywords, questions, and phrases is Ubersuggest. It’s (somewhat) free, and at least offers a place to start. But you still have to put yourself in your ICA’s shoes.
When I put myself in their shoes, I imagined potential Elevated Edibles clients might search for things like “solving bitterness in cannabis edibles” or “why won’t my gummies gel?”
Generally professionals use the term cannabis and shy away from other nicknames — but Dr Alan’s clients might occasionally search for things like “how to make better tasting marijuana edibles” or “what makes weed edibles bitter?” so we had to touch on those SEO terms while still being scientific and professional.
To solve that, we set up one section to write about the negatives and pain points in cannabis edibles — and capture those sub-optimal SEO terms as things to avoid — like grassy, bitter weed edibles or moving on from your roommate’s marijuana baked goods.
You can get playful with it — but don’t try to jam too much SEO language in your website. Genuine voice is much more important here. You’ll have plenty of space to cast the keyword net in your blogs/content marketing.
Inbound marketing your brand story website
With Dr Alan’s new brand story website published, Elevated Edibles Experts now exists in the realm where people might be looking for the kind of food science magic he offers.
So what’s next?
He has a lot of SEO ground to cover when it comes to cannabis edibles. It’s an almost $3Bn industry flooded with mediocre products — with a lot of opportunity for edibles makers to stand out with science-based quality and consistency.
Are you familiar with microencapsulation for bitterness masking?
Boom, there’s a blog post.
Do you know the pros and cons of the top 3 gelling agents for cannabis gummies?
Boom, there’s another SEO-rich post.
His next strategy will include publishing regular educational blog posts filled with organic SEO to capture search terms related to bitterness, formulation, gummy troubleshooting, and the like.
Those posts will also be full of smaller pieces of content he can pull out for TikTok and LinkedIn where cannabis professionals hang out, linking back to his site and inviting readers to explore further. And of course reach out with any questions they have. The overall strategy is to increase his visibility and reach, while also demonstrating his value and educating prospects.
Well-informed customers are the best customers.
To organize his SEO content, he has a structure in place for a future pillar page to help readers find exactly what they need to know as quickly as possible. That will also help him stay on track with topics and themes as he builds his audience and clientele.
How to start writing a brand story website
The hardest part of writing is getting started.
The worst way to do that is to open some drag & drop website template and start replacing headlines and text. You’ll wind up with something stilted and formulaic.
It may look neat and tidy, but it won’t be enchanting anyone.
You are part of a story, not a list of accomplishments and processes. You’re a guide, not a resumé.
Templates are great — but they won’t do you any good if you don’t first figure out what story you want your prospects to experience as each section leads them further down the page.
Remember, your readers owe you nothing. As the guide it’s your job to keep their interest and show them the path through the obstacles they face on the journey toward a better life.
The more human your brand persona seems, the better you’ll connect with visitors and turn them into brand disciples.