For today’s story, which is actually about stories, we have three bonus surprises to help you tell yours better:
I grew up on a 242-acre ostrich ranch (more on that next time, I swear), in a dusty Central Texas horse town filled with cowboys wearing skinny jeans LONG before the world was ready… where the best example of great branding was a tie between the drive-through beer barn (not making that up), and the local mattress store, which advertised its MIND-BLOWING SALE on Serta Sleep Numbers in gigantic, neon bubble letters.
Since at that time, I was often found writing my name in gigantic bubble letters across every piece of paper, important contract, and irreplaceable antique surface in our house, my sweet, encouraging mom was like, “Jen. You know, if you work really hard… one day, maybe YOU could be the one writing those mattress sale ads on the store windows.”
Carden family motto? Dream Big.
Thankfully, “branding” isn’t about neon bubble letters or how cool the town was where you grew up, or I’d be screwed. It’s about storytelling. And fortunately for my career outside of mattress sales, in the South, a good story is nearly mythological.
Around the Carden family dinner table, you didn’t say much unless you had a story to tell, and if no one laughed by the time you were done, you didn’t say much again for a long, long time.
So, in the interminable silences after my jokes didn’t land (good thing I got used to THAT young), I started listening to the elements that made a great story; the parts that made people laugh, that kept them interested and involved — the turn of a phrase, a slight pause before the next line, the short descriptions that stuck with you four hours later. And around that dinner table, as my food got cold, I fell in love with stories. I began to understand the power of a great story told well.
When it comes to business and branding, storytelling is infinitely more effective than selling.
When it’s done right, a good brand (and website) tells your story for you in a way that other people can repeat.
(Read that one more time because it’s Monday.)
But if you’re like me, you find your own story the hardest to tell. Which means that unlike the mattress store, you don’t have any gigantic neon bubble letters selling your best qualities for you.
You sit down to write your website content or find some images that represent your brand and end up weeping into your wine, having realized THERE IS NOTHING ABOUT ME THAT IS UNIQUE OR INTERESTING, ONLY THE OSTRICH FARM THING, AND THAT’S MOSTLY JUST WEIRD.
That got a little personal.
In short (or more accurately, “in long,” at this point): I get it, and I want to help. No, I cannot write your website content for you, even though I’d love to. But I DO know some very talented copywriters to answer our “OMG, AM I BORING?!” bat signal, our good friend (and TONIC site user herself!) Kaitlyn Parker of Copy Uncorked has put together a SPECIAL bonus just for you:
When you snag a new TONIC site, you’ll get 20% off of several of the TONIC-approved Copy Uncorked website copy resources, PLUS, a whole *free* catalog of tips and resources to help you write your website content (and avoid the whole crying under your desk situation). Kaitlyn also has a done-with-you group copywriting situation called The Copy House coming VERY soon, and damn if I don’t want to be part of that myself.
Other copywriting suggestions: I don’t think they know I exist (I literally just commented “I love you.” on one of their Instagram posts this morning, so that’s my current level of creep), but the girls behind OBEDIENT marketing agency may be my copywriting soulmates, and their Instagram is a treasure trove of tips and examples. There’s also my short thesis, “How to Write Copy People Actually Want to Read,” which we turned into a blog post right HERE. Annnnd my insanely good + strategic-copywriter-to-the-pro’s friend Ashlyn Carter has a KILLER youtube channel for all you visual learners.
“Jen, I’m good with copy — but I’m NOT a photographer and I’m worried my TONIC site won’t look great without great images!”
Good news. We thought of that, too, and we’ve got three options for you:
01. ANNOUNCING: TONIC x Social Squares Free Trial
My friend Shay Cochrane has an incredible company called Social Squares, offering incredibly high-quality stock imagery for creative brands and businesses. I actually did their logo design, and we’ve used Social Squares images in our designs multiple times (you can see them in Margarita and Vieux Carré). Which is why I’m SO happy to announce that Shay’s graciously agreed to give EVERYONE who buys a TONIC site a 14-day free trial of Social Squares.
That means even during your trial period, you can create an account, log in, download as many images for your site as you want, and enjoy their HUGE catalog of marketing resources…. and finally, finally feel like your visuals match your brand (And speaking from experience, going beyond the trial is worth it — we have a Social Squares subscription ourselves and it’s worth every penny.)
This offer is ONLY available when you purchase a TONIC design, so you’ll get an email with your template purchase that has all the details!
02. TONIC x TIDE & TREE Free Photo Collection
Charlie from Tide & Tree allowed us to curate a collection of incredibly gorgeous stock images for use on your site + wherever you want them, and you can download that image set for FREE. Charlie’s images are so great, with a minimal look and a cool edit. She says they’re “Cozy and Hygge-inspired,” but I’d just say “They don’t look like stock images.” You’ll also get 20% off a Tide & Tree membership with the code TONICSITESHOP.
3. TONIC x Moyo Studios Discount
If you’ve followed us for any length of time, you’ve undoubtedly seen us use images and mock-ups from Moyo Studio…. which is basically the creative world’s secret weapon for looking cohesive online. We love their scene creators and their always-expanding catalog of minimal, modern designs that instantly make your Instagram and website look 💯. (All the images used in the infamous GREYHOUND site are from Moyo!) Molly and Mark are offering you guys a special code, so take 15% off of your membership or download with the code TONIC. (Again, we’ve got one, and it’s worth every penny.)
In case it’s not clear yet, Jeff and I are in this business because we want you to have a website that helps you be seen for who you are at your best and known for what you do best.
We’ve tried to do as much of the work for you as we can, building template designs that stand out in a sea of 47 other tabs, grow with you and your brand, and feel like a custom website built for you (because it was!), but we know the content part can be tricky. I really hope these resources help! If there’s something else we can do, please let me know. We now have a growing RESOURCE LIBRARY of content like this, including all of our podcasts, tutorial videos, tools, and other educational content, so head there if you need some more help!