Design+ Self Promotion

In this edition of Design+, Amy Eaton RGD interviews Marlo Biasutti RGD, Creative Director at M81 Creative, about how to establish a solid digital presence for your business.


Looking at your portfolio and blog, it is clear you have a lot of experience in branding. How did you get here?
My career began in editorial design. I have always loved coming at design from a place of purpose — really understanding why I’m designing something, who it’s for and what am I trying to accomplish. In editorial design, the purpose is clear. You know the audience, the articles and information being designed provide the content to inspire the look. You are in partnership with an editor who helps you understand what they are trying to accomplish.
Logo design was something that clients came to me requesting on the side, separate from my studio career. Although I enjoyed the work, I found it difficult coming up with solutions to truly meet their business requirements. It felt like I was just throwing ideas against a wall. So I kept this as a part-time gig and didn’t pursue it as a full-time career until I discovered brand strategy. This unlocked that world for me and won me over. I love digging into why companies exist, who they exist for, who they are up against and why they do what they do. Understanding what makes them special gave me the purpose I needed to help communicate that visually. 
Once I felt confident in my strategic skills, I left the editorial world and pursued branding and web design full-time.
What was the goal of expanding your online presence?
When running your own business you need to wear so many hats. Designer, Creative Director, Accountant, Customer Service and Marketing. I originally relied on word of mouth and social media to promote myself and my services, but that can only take you so far. I wanted more cold calls and new client inquiries to happen organically. I needed to invest in my website and understand at least a base level of SEO and site analytics. My bounce rates were horrid and I didn’t know why. Three things became clear: I needed a beautifully designed website that was easy to navigate and had CLEAR call to actions.
How do you choose what your next blog topic will be?
My goal is to post something on my blog at least once a month and I try to focus on topics that will provide value to other business owners. Things that have either helped me in my own journey or things that clients have told me are pain points that they’d like more information on. If I get asked a question a few times by different people, I take note and think about how I can address that in my next post. 
Sometimes I feel like I’m sending content out into the ether, do you have any tips for increasing engagement?
Always try to focus on the value of what you are sharing. Put yourself in other people’s shoes and think about what type of questions they are asking and how they search for the information you are trying to get out there. Ask your audience if they have felt the same pains you have around something and then share your experience solving it. Connecting on common ground and then sharing your experience and value is a way to gain trust. Be consistent. Don’t ask for anything in return, simply provide value.
Recently you took a deep dive into the analytics of your own site, what metrics are most important to consider?
It’s easy to get caught up in the number of visitors to your website, but really what the visitor is doing once they land there is just as important. You want to look at your bounce rates and see if people are hanging around when they land on your site. High bounce rates are bad – this means people are clicking on your site, taking a look at your home page content and then immediately clicking their “back” buttons to exit. They are finding the value in the first few seconds of their visit. In the world of SEO, Google will read this as your site isn’t providing any value to its visitors and it will start to rank you lower in the search results. Your goal should not only be to get those visitor numbers up, but also get your bound rates down. Make people stay awhile, click on other pages of your site and explore.
What changes would you suggest to improve those metrics?
Always make sure your content is serving your audience. Make it about them. It’s so easy to get caught up in talking about ourselves. Acknowledge why they are there, what value you provide and how you can help them with whatever issue they are looking to solve. Have clear call-to-actions spread consistently throughout your site, provide suggestions to linked content on your page that relates to what they are looking at, offer free downloads relevant to your blog posts. 
Do you ever steer clients away from redesigning their website? Is it always the best solution?
That’s a good question. I often try to prioritize where I think my clients are going to get the best value for their investment. So if they haven’t done proper brand strategy and brand design to understand why they do what they do and who they are trying to reach, then I would recommend this is done before a website update. 
Another important investment is brand photography. A website is only as good as the images it has. So your run-of-the-mill stock photos and bad Iphone pics will unfortunately undo any of the hard work you’ve put into your brand strategy, copy writing and key messaging. I think in order to make a website redesign worth the investment, it’s important to invest in those two things first.
One last fun question, what was your favourite read in the last year?
Hands down “Company of One” by Paul Jarvis. I have re-read it a number of times and recommend it to all the business owners I work with / know. It’s life changing. 

For the past 10 years, Marlo has been using thoughtful design to solve real business problems and winning some awards along the way. Her experience with typography and hand-lettering is something to be seen, but she also provides great content for small businesses on her blog and Instagram account.