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How to Build a Kick-ass Brand for B2B Companies

An interview with Andy Golpys

In this episode of Ecoffee with Experts, Matt Fraser hosted Andy Golpys, Co-founder and Creative Director of Made by Shape. Andy covers the essential components of a successful B2B brand, provides the groundwork for successful brand marketing, and much more. Watch now.

Within my experience, it doesn’t matter what industry you are in and you’re always going to do some sort of sales.

Andy Golpys
Co-founder and Creative Director of Made by Shape
Hello everyone. Welcome to this episode of Ecoffee with Experts. I'm your host, Matt Fraser. And today, in this episode, we're going to discuss how to build a kick-ass brand for B2B companies with Andy Golpys. Now, Andy is the Co-founder and Creative Director of Made by Shape, a branding and web design agency headquartered in Manchester, United Kingdom. He has 17 years of experience working in the Digital industry with clients of all sizes across the globe, from startup brands to global organizations in various sectors. He is also a huge football fan and has been a Manchester United season ticket holder since he was five, attending matches with his father. Andy, welcome to the show.

Thank you so much, that was a great introduction.

Thank you and I wrote it myself.

I think I want you to introduce me every time I walk into a pool.

Yeah, right. Maybe I should get a job as one of those ring announcers. People don't realize that you're not like that in real life. Like, well, what am I like in real life? Like, are you kidding me? I'm the same enthusiastic person, but when I talk to you as I am online, where your voice is different. Well, I'm using a microphone. So have you always wanted to be an entrepreneur, and who was Andy growing up as a kid? What were you like?

Have you ever heard stories about kids selling sweets in school and making a profit? Unfortunately, that wasn’t me at all. I was the guy buying sandwiches from my friends because my mom made me boring sandwiches.

I was the guy selling my sandwiches and auctioning them off.

My mom made me boiled ham sandwiches. I used to go out and buy tuna and salmon. I wasn’t entrepreneurial in high school. I thought I would be a footballer, and that didn’t happen. So the story behind that is I thought I would get a contract, but I didn’t. So I stayed in design when I was in college. And then entrepreneurial for the Southern States. When I was in second-year university, when I was around 19, I realized I was good at web design. There was an industry, and I could make money from it. And that is when it clicked that this would be my career. So I went out and just socialized and networked with the right people. So I designed websites for friends and family and then grew.

So in 2010, you founded Made by Shape. What motivated you to start it?

When I was in my second year at university, I freelanced for agencies. So I had my clients. I was also freelancing and working for agencies as well. And it got to the stage where I had around 200 clients, and I couldn’t manage them myself. So I went to my university lecturer and said, Is there anybody at university you know doing the same as me? I will go out and get the work. I will design everything, but I need somebody to build the websites. So he introduced me to a guy called Jason. And so we started doing the freelance thing together. So I went out and got the work, he built it, and we split everything 50-50. And it grew over a few years, we got so big that we needed to become an agency. So in 2010, we set Shape, but we had been working together for years.

That's pretty interesting. So how did you come up with the name just out of curiosity?

So for the name, we wanted to sign off our website with something called made by or built by or designed by for personal reasons and also like a signature. So we needed like Birdshot short phrase, and we came up with a brainstorm of loads and loads of names and came down to Shape because we’re shaping brands that were shaping clients and the future. And, so Made by Shape is who we are today.

So, how did you get into branding? Did you take a course at university in branding, and you're like, wow, I'm interested in this? So how'd that come about?

Yeah, so branding came later in life. When I was in university and college, we did graphic design. And within the graphic design course, you do all avenues of design. So you do branding, Illustration, Web design, photography, everything, and then you choose the path you want to go down. So I went down the web design route, and we built up an agency, and it was just all geared around websites. But then, as we grew and grew, more clients came to us and asked us to start this startup brand. Other than another agency doing the branding over time, we realized we could probably do this ourselves. And that’s when we started building up a team internally. So today, we have a team of nine, and we’ve got an in-house branding team. And I would say that we’ve been doing this for two years, but obviously, we’ve been designing for longer.

Yeah, it's interesting, you know, because startups do come to you, or I've been involved in projects like you've done as a freelancer, and I never built my agency up to that many people. Because I realized client work wasn't for me, I won't go into any more details. But the point I'm trying to make is that you quickly realize that people being they don't have a logo. Or if they do have a logo, it looks like a piece of clipart they got off the internet that will probably get sued for because they don't have a license to use it. And they, and it's like, no, no, no, no, you need at least something or, Or their wife's brother's cousin, Sister design the logo, and it looks like crud.

The main reason frills are quality. So if we’re launching a website, we want all of it to be amazing. Like, we want the branding, the website, and the content, because the content is just important. If we go and design an amazing brand new website, and then they, for whatever reason, choose to do the content themselves, and it’s poor, it affects our result. So we were working on some projects, not just startups but large brands, where they would get another agency to do it and then pass it on to us. And we’re like, that’s not great. Like we were already starting on the back foot. So that’s why we started it, and then I hired individuals to come and run our brand team. And now yeah, we’ve, we’ve got a very solid brand portfolio. So can come to us for a brand or web.

What's involved in brand creation?

So, we go through a process, I’m not sure what other people do. But we have a process that will take you through the project and look like this- Client discovery, which is the writing of the briefs. So we’ve got a format we get the client to fill out. They would answer many questions. So once we’ve understood that and understand the client’s thoughts, we’d go through internal research in client research, industry research competitors, and a brand direction. So we present the direction theory around where we’re going with this project. And then, we’d move on to brand creation and brand mockups. So that’s what the brand would look like and how we mocked up the business cards, signage, etc. Once they’re happy, you do a few rounds of a mount amends brand rollout. So that’s doing the final design and then brand guidelines. So that’s a document where the client would understand how to use that brand. And they get it printed, etc., to share internally. And then also, we offer something called a pitch and presentation doc. So in my experience, it doesn’t matter what industry you’re always going to make sales in, whether it’s just a PDF document, a form, or a presentation you will be talking through over Zoom or face to face. So you will need a branding document to go one step ahead of that inquiry. And we’ve noticed that if we provide all the brand guidelines and stuff, and then the client does that themselves, it’s not going to be the same standard as what we do, so we normally include that in the brand creation. And in short, that is what people get if they come to us for brand creation.

You said that clients would get somebody else to do the brand, and if it wasn't good, it affected your work results, and I get it. And it's something I came up against, and maybe I was working with the wrong people. They thought they could write the content themselves. Oh, I can write it better than anybody else. I'm like, holy crap like you're not a frickin writer man like, and the shit you give me, when you give it to me, this is garbage, and you're trying to tell me that you can write better than someone who's a dedicated writer and I would want to pull my hair out. So how do you that process with clients, or is that a red flag that they're bad clients? I understand how you created it yourself. Other agencies are doing the no-good branding, so you created an internal team. But now, are you working directly with clients? Do you push back on clients who want to create the content themselves, or do you not take them on? How do you navigate that process?

So whether it’s a branding or a website project, we have a vibe check. So we do a zoom call and have a spreadsheet to mark and score people to see whether we want to work with them. And because we have been doing it that long, I think within 10 seconds, you know if you want to work with someone or not. But there are red flags because we have a bigger agency now, and we get so many inquiries, we get to choose who we work with, and anyone seems like they want to cut corners or it’s not just about finances. We understand that some people have more money than others. But a red flag is if they don’t want the best quality.

To reiterate, you've created a checklist of qualities of an ideal client for your agency. And in that checklist, there are red flag questions with points, so depending on the score, you decide if someone is a right fit for your agency. So what are some ways you've used polite ways? Like, I mean, Canadians are known for being overly polite. Everybody knows. I'm Canadian. So what are some ways that you found tactful in saying, Hey, do you just tell me you're too busy, or we are not the right fit?

A general response could be that we’re not the right fit for this project, and then we would always try and recommend somebody, we wouldn’t just leave it cold. There were obvious ones, like, for example, you said you fell in love with WordPress. We use something called Craft CMS. So we love Craft CMS and choose not to work with WordPress. So if somebody came to us, and it was an amazing clan, and they wanted to use WordPress, technically, we could use it, but if they decided not to budge, we would mark them down for that. And that’s not their fault, it’s that’s our choice. So there are ones like that, and there are the personality ones. So I think it’s about enforcing my personality because if they don’t get my jokes, we don’t get that connection that works two ways. Like it’s not just about the client paying us, so we have to say yes. So we want to get the right clients as well. So, in general terms, you could easily say, We are sorry, we’ve taken so many inquiries at the minute that we get to cherry-pick who we work for, so we’re going to concentrate on other inquiries. And then say, why don’t you check out these guys and send a couple of links that we think will fit that budget? And I think it is the best thing to do in the long run. Like right now, we have no bad clients.

That's awesome. Usually, 80% of your clients are great, and 20% you're in, and then you're trimming the fat and getting rid of that 20%

I said yes to everything ten years ago. No matter what, we would say yes to everything.

Yeah, I'll do it. Yeah, I'll do it. Yeah. Well, you got to do that when you get started, I think. But coming back to brand building, you've created a lot of brands now for businesses, like B2B businesses. So what key elements make up a successful brand for a B2B business?

I think, a clear message. So, we all know a brand isn’t just a logo. It’s the message, tone of voice, and clarity the whole brand gives its audience. And perception is key. So, what jobs do you want people to perceive when they see your brand? What jobs are perceived when they meet you and visit the studio? How do you want them to feel? The rollout of that brand is just as important as creating clear brand guidelines. And I often see brands get that wrong. I feel like you see a brand launch, and it looks amazing. But then, our marketing anti-doping elements have not been rolled out consistently. And I think that’s where it falls short. And so I think it answers your question, like the key elements, to me, is not just creating a brand, it’s about executing it and rolling it out properly.

How can they ensure the reader resonates with their target audience? Like what are these? What are some of the groundwork you do to make sure that happens, and mistakes don't get made?

So we have a checklist at the start of any project we listen to the client first and to where they are, where they want to be in the future, what issues and what the target audience is, what specific products and services they want to shout about most. And listen to them, look at their competitors, and what opinion they have of their competitors, whether it’s positive or negative. So I’m listening to all that, digesting all that information, then doing our research. So based on this, we will be able to look at what their target audience needs in general and internally in their business. Because they’re looking sideways, they’re looking at their competitors and what’s going on in their industry. But we’re going to look at the target audience, make a rounded approach, and look at the actual target audience and what they need rather than just within that.

So you just said something very key. For instance, it's looking at the target audience and starting with their target market and who their target customer is. And I mean, I'm assuming that even if it's B2C or B2B, a persona is still involved because John works for Acme steel, a B2B company you're targeting. Whatever, I just made that up. And he's still a person behind that. He's still the CEO or the CMO, or whatever the case may be of that particular company. Do you do those steps regarding helping to develop the brand in conjunction with looking sideways at the competition?

Yeah, a good example is that we’re working with an architect who does residential. So he builds residential houses and extensions like nice big houses. He wants to be very modern and contemporary and stuff like that. And that’s all fine. That’s all still relevant within this briefing, he fills up. But when he talks about his target audience, he tells us this vital data stands out like golden, sparkling, and fireworks going off around it. Because generally, ten years ago, even probably five years ago, you would have, if it’s a family, the male would be getting in touch about the house extension and talking about the work and stuff like that. Whereas now, that role is for this guy, by the way. It completely changed that 90% of his clients are female because the females want to get involved with the visuals and the creativity and tell the guy exactly what she wants to improve the family home. So whether it’s being done with dad in the kitchen, you would not know that data unless that specific client told you. So he could tell me that. But then I could go to another architect, and he could say, Matt, 95% of my clients are male 45. So it is dependent per brand. You can’t just look at, okay, well, all of this industry is male, I don’t think that’s the right way of looking at it.

How did he find that information from his client database?

He goes through his existing client database and then looks at the future as to where he wants to go. He wants to do more in certain areas. So, for example, if he wants you to go more down commercial, again, as he knows from the data he’s been looking at, that he’s not dealing with the CEOs of the company, the founders of the Big housing groups, and builders, but with a Marketing Manager. And that Marketing Manager is between 26 and 35 and female.

Therefore, he needs to tailor his messaging, colors, logo, brand, and all those things to appeal to that particular person. So no matter what, whether you're doing it for B2C, or B2B, you still need to do the persona work and the research. You can't create a brand from nothing.

Yeah, and this is if you do it properly. We could design something that looks nice and has no drama. Like, everything we do will look nice. But, if you do not get a strategy or feeling behind it, you don’t know whether you’re getting it right until you launch it. You know who you’re targeting if you do the strategy and are comfortable. And even if someone doesn’t like it, one person might like the visual, but one person might not. Like, that’s just opinion at the end of the day. But if the strategy is right, the tone of voice is right, and the message is right, then you know that you are targeting people who want that type of language and service.

How do you test that? Like, everybody has an opinion. Now you and I have been to design school. I told you I took a one-year accelerated web design course, including logo design, graphic design courses, color theory and language and design, and so on. And people who don't know that stuff, I find they build ugly websites, and clients who don't know that stuff want ugly websites. It's crazy. Anyway, I won't go down that rabbit trail. But like, everyone has an opinion about design, but there are laws of design and rules of design that you and I both know. And so I'm trying to say when you're testing this, do you roll it out with a small ad campaign to test and see? Do you do a customer survey of hey, what do you think of this? Please take our short survey to win a $100 gift card and tell us which logo you like better. How does that process work? If you care to share with our listeners?

Yeah, so there are different routes that brand owners want to go down. Some want to go down the survey route, and they do that before anything is launched publicly. So they’ll do that with an audience of probably around 20 people. And then you get certain questions, and we do that on type form. Type form is a website you can create and get opinions on. But what happens the most is that people involved in the project are very comfortable with where they are and fully believe it. They’re not measuring the website’s success but looking at conversions and tracking to make them see if the website is performing better without doing any SEO. And then that’s where you can see whether it was successful. Because at the end of the day, whether you choose blue or red, you’re never going to please everyone.

But, if your conversions go up without additional traffic, that's damn good. So what are some of the most successful ways to market a brand? Because we discussed launching it and the research involved, you get it on par and target. But then the rollout, you said that most of the mistakes people make are in the brand's rollout. So what are those mistakes, and how can they be avoided?

Well, I would say, look at what you currently use it and look at where it needs to be integrated, what you use most, what’s mandatory that you need to have. So like people say all the time, like, Oh, you have to use everything to be successful. I don’t believe in that. For example, for us, Twitter and Facebook, no point in spending any time there. So I would look at what you use and what you’ve got time in because everyone’s got different internal expertise and time. So what can you work on and then create a hierarchy around that? So, for example, if you’ve got a very strong LinkedIn strategy and do a bit of Instagram, make sure they’re on the list to roll it out. So I think that people don’t consider all venues, they do the brand guidelines and see the website and then stop there. And that is the mistake they make.

So the mistakes people make are going to channels where their audience isn't? A B2B Company like I'm hearing you say that Twitter and Facebook, and I would agree with you in some ways like LinkedIn for a B2B company is the number one place to be like, number one.

There are two points: you could go to the wrong platform and waste your time. But I’ve seen so many people not create a strategy around that platform that is back run. So, for example, the website could be shiny and new. But then Facebook is in the road guidelines. So it’s not been executed to the same level. So I’m saying launch a new website, and then ensure all the other platforms are raised to this new level.

Okay, so in other words, they've created a new website, but they haven't updated the branding on the other channels corresponding, so there's a disconnect. But, oh, that makes so much sense. So you see that happen a lot?

It sounds so simple. But I see it all the time.

Oh, my goodness, that is so simple. Why would you not do that to be consistent across all channels?

Some people might want us to do it. Some people might say we can do that ourselves. So I don’t know. But, our clients pay us to do it. So when I look externally, I go, Oh, that’s a nice promo video, and then you check out the brand. And it just looks completely different.

So, do you think they should delete all previous branding assets, like videos, and create new content?

I plan to launch and showcase the new brand. And let the audience know a new brand is here and divide that old content into the new one.

What part do press releases play in your brand launch strategy if any?

It’s great for our SEO as well. We do that as a strategy. So we launch press releases when we launch a brand. But if the client wants to get involved, we’ll put some content around that and show some case studies. I recommend that everyone does anyway because it’s free and great for awareness. But I would say that is one checkbox in the Toolbox.

So, every time you launch a brand or website, you're doing a press release at your agency's cost to get the word out about the great work you guys are doing.

Yeah, we want to showcase the projects we’re proud of, and the client sees that as a benefit for them because they’re included in it.

They probably benefit from that as well.

I think I was talking about social media.

How important is it for a company to have a recognizable logo and branding strategy?

I’m going to be very biased with this. Because I’m in the industry, I’m going to say that it’s important to differentiate yourself from competitors to have a unique brand. I see the impacts of a good brand daily. Like, I see the results from product purchasing inquiries and shorts, and the list goes on. And I think, to me, to differentiate yourself from competitors, you can do this by analyzing yourself without an agency. You can add all your competitors, you can look at their logos, you can look at typefaces, look at colors, and the way that the home screen on the website is done. Like you can analyze this all yourself. And then, when you put them together as one document, they are next to each other. You don’t see how many similarities they have and how you can differentiate yourself. So, for example, if you’re a personal trainer, and all of your competitors use red and the big, bold type. So they’ve got a picture of a guy in the gym, like you know, straight away like you’re not going to go down the red route, you’re going to choose a different color, and that alone will set you apart.

And red is not a good color. Psychologically, it speaks of danger, but Coke uses it anyway. I won't go down that route. So case in point, there's a company I know of that had a logo created and thought they had a unique logo. Then somebody came along and said, trademark infringement, this is too like our logo. And here's the thing. There are so many, darn, it's just crazy, man. It's good, and it isn't good like you got a graphic river.com. And there are all these logo designs. You go to iStockphoto, Govector stock, big stock photo, deposit photos, whatever. And it's like, it's getting to the point now where Holy smokes, wow, the flip. Do you create something unique now, in your mind, that isn't like the 1000s of other logos that are already out there? And even one that's already created and you're like Scheidt, that's a good logo. It's what I would like. But now it's like, I used to use 99 designs.com or .ca for a client of mine. She was my aunt. And she didn't have a logo firm. She operated her music school for 25 years without a logo; it blew my mind away. It was a small local little shop. And I got her a logo from 99 designs that we bought the rights to take it off, exclusive right. So somebody else may be abusing it. But the question I'm trying to ask you is, how do you navigate that with your clients?

Because that would be embarrassing, you know, it happened with the provincial government, where I live, one of the organizations that had one of the divisions of the company of the government that was an entity had a logo created for them. It made national if not international news that you're using a logo that didn't have any checks and balances. So I'm just curious how you navigate that.

Well, we have never come across it before. Like there has never been anything legal come across our desk. We create everything unique for our clients, so it would have to be a coincidence if that happened. But in terms of checks, you can run checks. So once you have created a logo, you can run it through Google Images to see if anything similar comes up. So as I say, it has never happened, so I don’t know the policies we would go through if someone said, hey, this looks like ours.

It's awesome that it's never happened. I used to get clients to find me five websites they like and tell me what they like about them and five websites they hate and what they don't like about them and their blue-sky list and was it the same process for the logos because that is how I see the danger can happen. So find five similar logos, or I would present five similar logos around the templates, or don't do that?

Don’t do that, we ask that they talk about their company.

So stay away from that is how you avoid the mistake.

We make analysis comparisons, and it’s all about their target audience, where they are now, and where they want to be. But at the end of the day, they came to our agency for expertise, so we should be giving them advice on what direction we think they should be taking.

Andy, do you think any businesses don't need to worry about branding?

I do, yes. I think that local businesses that offer local services like tradespeople don’t. I think they should concentrate on an amazing branding website because they work mostly from word of mouth and recommendations. So, for example, local tradespeople like electricians or plumbers. You would expect them to have a bad website, which doesn’t matter because you would be getting a recommendation that they did a great job. So you would trust them to do that. I think the difference that comes in there is if you are the local gardener who looks after your garden, trims the bushes, cuts the grass, and general maintenance. They wouldn’t need to worry about a website. They only have to get the business card around and get word. But if it’s a landscape gardener and they were renovating the garden and changing it. So putting in a hot tub or an extension is a completely different business side. So that is where I would say you need to concentrate when you design a website. It would help if you had case studies, before and after pictures, and a showcase. So let them build trust with them and showcase what you can do because of the money they will be spending. So that’s the type of business I would say I wouldn’t need. So I think any other industry needs a website.

So you say a local plumber could get away with a templated logo and website? Whether that's Wix or a pre-made WordPress theme.

I would never recommend it, but if we have to. I don’t think the audience is going to be that bothered. I don’t think you should spend twenty thousand pounds on an amazing website, and at the end of the day, you will only get recommendations from friends.

That's true. Do you think it is possible for a company to over-expose its brand?

No. I think it can be if somebody pulls it ten times a day and keep pushing content on LinkedIn, it then becomes annoying. But it’s still not over-exposure in my eyes. So my main worry there is targeting the wrong audience. So if you are pushing content out and trying to force your brand unto an audience that doesn’t want it, that’s when it’s incorrect, and that’s the wrong strategy. But if you are targeting the right audience and publishing regular content, that’s amazing.

I agree with you. It all comes down to who your audience is, and so many companies get that wrong. I worked for a car dealership where I asked for the persona of the specific vehicles per person, male and female, who I could target on Facebook, and they didn't have that data. And based on previous interviews, I have learned that's not unheard of. Marketers seem to want to skip it because they want to get to the tweeting or post or blog creation. But yet, the foundation is research, research, and research of your target audience and customer. So it's a recurring theme that I hope people who watch learn and get from.

Also, our attention span is the lowest it’s ever been in the whole of humanity and familiarity. So I would say with things like LinkedIn where you should post a lot to stay in people’s minds. So every time people go on LinkedIn, you want them to see your post and your feed. So if you do it once per month, they will forget about you immediately.

What's one big takeaway you want our listeners to get from this episode?

So I would say it’s all about the agency. So find a good agency, and I think vibes lead you to the right agency to work with for five plus years, not just a one-off project. They should have a great portfolio, and you must be comfortable with them. I think that’s my biggest takeaway. I think many people are trying to do their branding, and I would never try to cut my hair. I would never try to build my own house. I would leave it to the people that love it. So I would say the research phase from a client’s point of view, don’t send clients to every agency you come across. Make sure you do a spreadsheet, like a checklist, to say, is the portfolio relevant to my industry? Do they have great client testimonials, reviews on Google, and a culture page on how they treat the staff? What does the bloat look like? Are they UI informative like do they know what they are talking about? Maybe look at the agency rather than just the portfolio.

That is a great thing. Look as if you are looking for a five-year partner. And agencies have a checklist of what you are looking for in a client. So what's next for Made by Shape?

So we hired three people in like two months, and the goal was to get to nineteen. It’s already bigger than we want it to be, so we will not hire again this year. We are restructuring Shape in the hierarchy in like communications, and I’m going to be more on the business side now. We are doing great, and I’m very proud of what we have created. The plan for the year or two is to grow more on what we have now. No more team members. I bought out another web design agency.

You acquired an agency?

Yes. We acquired one

That is a smart strategy.

Yes. So all their clients have come to us. So we are in the middle of sorting that out. I am going to be busy for a few months.

Congratulations to you, Hey, Andy. How can people connect with you online?

So on our website, which is madebyshaqpe.co.uk. We have a lot of blogs and articles on there specifically about our area of expertise like Craft CMS, Shopify, Branding, etc. We are good at updating our Instagram with any projects, the handle is madebyshape. I am on LinkedIn, and I use it a lot. So send a friend request or say hello.

I want to thank you for being on the show today, and it's been a pleasure having you here.

Yes, Cheers for inviting me, mate, I enjoyed it.

Take care. Bye.

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