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For this episode of Ecoffee with Experts, we have Usman Sheikh, Founder and CEO of Web Worx Labs Inc. Matt chats with Usman, as he highlights the key elements of building a brand with illustrations. Watch now to get acquainted with the science of actively shaping a brand.
The company that does great branding stands out among B2B organizations that don’t because they know their customers, their target market, and how to approach them.
Thanks so much for having me, Matt. Happy to be here.
Yeah, I think that’s a fair question. I always did want to be an entrepreneur. My dad was an entrepreneur. My dad’s dad was an entrepreneur. Something about it resonated with me, early on in my childhood, that for some reason I had to run my own business. I attempted it at a younger age. Again, as I got older, I just felt like it was those pulls that were always there.
Yeah, so that’s a great question. So having grown up in a household that always worked hard, our work ethic was always very strong. My mom did three jobs. And we weren’t well off. At the same time, we didn’t have a lot going for us when we started and when I was younger. But my dad always worked a lot, but there was always an understanding in the family that you have to work hard. So the work ethic was not the issue. Getting good grades, and getting into good schools, is just what’s expected. Once we got into good schools and we were able to graduate, manning a couple of jobs. It felt like even though we’re making meaningful impact and organizations, I worked with large organizations with one of the biggest retailers in the world, Walmart, and I’ve been working in banking, oil, and gas. Your ability to see the big picture when you’re starting and make a meaningful impact where customers win and the stakeholders win is very limited. So I always felt that I could do more. So there was time to choose and I know some decisions and some bureaucracy is holding us back. And that’s going to happen in any large enterprise. But just the ability to make a true impact, make a difference in the customer’s lives, that’s what kind of drove the need to say, hey, I could do this better on my own.
Yeah, I think it’s funny because I kind of stumbled upon it. And the more I think about it, I didn’t know I would be able to get here to be honest if that makes any sense. And we would be able to reach as far we’ve been able to reach and, knock on wood, keep going. But initially, when we started, we attempted a couple of other startups. I got involved in some other board member work as well, where I got exposure to other initiatives, and it didn’t pan out. But what I learned quickly was, hey, I’m very good at marketing and I’m very good at customer relations. And just once that became known, I just offered my support to a couple of friends and family that were struggling in their business. And it turned out we were able to make a very quick, meaningful track and the brand growth. A business that was struggling with our digital marketing support that I kind of did in the evenings after my corporate life, then translated into them having weightless expansions, and they’re like, well, what else can you do? It’s like, the next thing you know I’m making as much money, as I’m in my corporate world as a Senior Director at the large organization, as I’m doing in the evenings. And even then at that stage, I didn’t quit and I transitioned into it full time. I was still like, no way, we’re not there yet. So I kept hiring people and kept getting accounts, for four years. So I did two jobs consulting, and teaching, and kept building the brand, kept getting accounts, kept bringing the right specialist on the team, until we were like, Okay, now I can afford to come on full time. And I can afford to pay myself and still support my three kids. But it took time and dedication.
Yeah. So initially, some of the hardest decisions for me were having to say no to good people. Where we wanted to help them with the services that they were looking for, but we had to. We were looking to specialize and say, Hey, we’re only going to be able to do Digital Marketing. . But you know, we can do finance as well, or you can do operations, you’ve done that, for organizations, I’m like, Yeah, but if I spend the time doing this, then I won’t be able to scale the business in this operation. So to be able to say no, and create that niche where we’re only focusing on certain subsections, or sub-elements of functionalities within Digital Marketing was a hard thing. Because as a business that’s growing and looking for revenue, and especially in a startup phase, your ability to say no, becomes very difficult. And that was a tough decision, where we had to walk away from customers, or we had to say, hey, you know, what, we can’t offer this service, we have to specialize. We’ll help you transition to another company that will work with you, they’re really good, but if you want this service stay with us. And that’s what was tough for the first few months, but it helped us scale.
That’s a great question. So in the first three years, we didn’t have processes, to be honest. We all kind of figure it out ourselves. The first two years, we were like, okay, we’ll try social media, we’ll do this, we’ll do that. We can’t do all of this, we have to get better and go deeper into a handful of them. And once we realized what we were very good at, and we’re passionate about where we can make a big difference, we started automating some of the workflows. At that point, our core team was with us there for three years, we’ve been working together, so a lot of the knowledge was there. So we just started documenting. And then as we brought in more and more staff members more specialists, everybody kind of knew. We developed something called the onboarding phase, and then the customer delight phase, and then the quarterly meeting decks and the reporting and the documentation that allow everyone to know, hey, if it’s a design project, and if it’s a big one, or says a small one, what are the steps involved? What are the communication protocols? Who’s the person to reach out to? Everybody knew their roles or responsibilities. That happened after the second into the third year. And then I think, just having regular around the world meetings, and that’s all we call it because we have clients all over the world. And so once a week, we would have something internal to Web Worx, as we call it around the world. We look at each client and each initiative, and I have a laundry list of all the activities that are there, and we would just air out, hey, this is what needs to be done for this one. Oh, this hasn’t been done and it allowed for open communication. And between that and the documentation, it just really helped us streamline some of the communication and delivery. That’s it. It’s just project management and documentation.
Yeah, not fulfilled. So we dabbled in a lot of things. We dabbled in augmented reality app development. We did custom app development and custom app solutions. It was definitely out of the normal scope of marketing. It is a vast field. And there’s a lot of areas of specialty, and we were kind of saying, hey, maybe this is something we’re gonna enjoy. And we found that those areas are something we did, we deliberately spent a lot of time writing and executing them. And we probably could have refined them. But it’s something that we felt like it was more technical, less marketing. And we said, hey, we’re marketers and that’s what we’re going to focus on. We’re going to help brand leaders, business leaders, or business owners, become good at marketing, or use our marketing support, to grow their brand. And that and social media, and search engine marketing, because SEO has become trickier and trickier over time. Even designed custom development, but within the website, and brand development and video marketing. Those are the key pillars that now surround us. Everything from technical development, or advanced strategy formulation that businesses do come to us for, we usually say, oh, no, that’s not us. If you’re at a point where you’re ready to build your brand, we’ll help you refine, and you can move into your brand development, brand personality, to now other assets will have you and come up with a custom brand package and then help you market digitally in these channels, these formats. And you’d be out of the home. Or if you ask us to do media buys offline, we’re not specialists in that. We don’t know how to do it. And some agencies and businesses support that, but we’re not them.
Yeah. So we’ve done that time and again, and worked with a whole bunch of different agencies over time. They come to us, and sometimes they pass on work, they’ve been very happy, sharing some of their partners with us. And the same thing with us the other way around, so we’ll say, Okay, if you’re looking for good strategy development, I know a very good consulting firm. First, create that focus. Once you’ve done that, and you need to refine and build those brand assets, and you know what your vision is, and you’ll market it, then we help you get there. You want a formulation of how to scope out the market. What to go after, and who are the customers, needs to be defined before the marketing and brand building activities can kind of take shape.
B2B special is huge. I mean, right now, there are so many b2b, especially in the service space, there are so many b2b services out there. And there’s a right way to stand out and it’s not to say that there’s no competency in the organization, or the ability to deliver good results. In a b2b organization that isn’t doing good branding, the one that does great branding takes the cake. And the reason is that they know who this audience is, they know who they’re speaking to, and they know how to get in front of them. And once they do that, that’s when the magic happens. Your ability to keep your sales pipeline full. Your ability to keep your customers retention and loyalty, all of those plays a huge factor in great branding.
There are lots of definitions out there for what exactly is a brand and there’s not one exact science and brilliant brand new book. I’m doing a course right now that I’m going to be deploying out at our organization. A series of courses where we’re going to be talking about what brand development is. And branding is really, your ability to define your identity in the organization you are in and how you do it, and what you believe in. It is for me, for example, I wear glasses, I’m wearing a dress shirt, what my values are, what my personality and tone are, that is defining a look, personality and feel that customers see across. And that is what branding is. That is what brand development is. Marketing is going to the right parties. It’s going to the right areas where your customers hang out and speaking their language and talking to who you can get engaged with and build those relationships. That’s what marketing is. You can’t go there if you don’t have the right branding in place. For example, you can’t go to a formal party, without a tux. You can go in cargo pants, but you won’t look the part and you won’t be able to get the right to resonate with them. So defining what the brand is, what the personality is, who the customer is, and what the value system of that company is, is what branding is all about.
Yeah, that’s interesting. And now we’re going into brand development. And I think that’s, the logo, the front-facing or the client-facing, or, you know, the assets that the people see outside, that effectively is 20 to 30% of a brand, roughly speaking. You’re talking about the logo, the typography or photography, the color palette, the hues, the tonality, the brand personality, all of those brand personalities. And the other session which runs by the decks discussed next but doesn’t have the front. When you go on to someone’s website and you see it, that is, roughly the tip of the iceberg if that makes any sense. Right, that people see from the outside. To get there, you can still have a brand without a logo, you could still have a brand without a tagline and things of that nature. The reason for that is because the stuff that makes up the majority of that brand, is the brand positioning, brand promise, and delivery, brand personality, and the people behind the brand. That stuff is the essence of the brand. Your understanding of where you are from a marketing perspective, and where your position is. How your price and quality differ in your customer’s heads and your customer’s minds and your Creditors. You have to do that research. You have to know relative to your competition, are you a premium brand or are you a lower price brand and that’s okay if whatever position that you take. But that requires research, that requires understanding that that’s part of brand building. In understanding what your product offerings are and your brand hierarchy arrays or brand portfolio is, for example, Apple. Apple has a whole host of brands under them. Apple TV, the iPhone, the smartwatch, what have you. It’s all under the Apple brand. That hierarchy is what they chose. If you look at General Motors or another domestic automobile manufacturer here, such as Chevrolet. Or when you look at the Chevrolet you’re looking at, I believe they have Cadillac and a bunch of other brands. I think they had Saturn at one point if I’m not mistaken and Lincoln is affiliated. Each brand is its category. And you actually can’t tell that GM owns it. Unless you know about the car market. But they try hard to say this is a standalone brand. This is what the customer is, versus Apple, which says, hey, you know, our parent is associated with that product, our logo is not always showing up there. And there’s a whole host of other strategies that need to be defined and understood, and how you’re going to play in this market that you’re gonna play in, from a positioning perspective, from a pricing perspective, from a hierarchy perspective, on how you’re going to cater your solution and services, to differentiate yourself and create a level of distinction. So you stand out in a crowded market. That is the bulk of branding and hard work. That’s what brand managers do professionally.
That’s a great question as well. Well, branding helps. If you invest in branding, you know your customers, you know what you do differently from your competition. So your ability to speak and focus on your marketing and sales becomes so much easier. If you don’t have that, then you don’t know what you stand for. And if you don’t know you’ll change with whatever flow comes in. Whatever the trend is. The challenge with that is, that you don’t know if you’re going to be able to grow in the right direction. And branding puts that parameter on where your company is and isn’t. And knowing what isn’t, is very powerful to understand what your success looks like. And once you know what your success looks like, then you can focus on the marketing and sales initiatives. Okay, online or the online world.
Persona? Yeah, so my persona is also part of the brand development. It’s one of the things we do. We have to know who the customers are for us to get their sales, collateral, social media messaging, or website copy, that will resonate. If you don’t know who you’re speaking to, then at that point, it becomes salesy and pushy, or it just won’t resonate with your target audience. Knowing and defining your target audience and going into the science behind really understanding psychographic demographics, who they are and what they make up, and what their pain points and fears are. That empathy mapping associated with understanding the pain points and where your brand fits in the personality that will resonate with them is part of the random.
It’s a great question. So it starts first with the business leader, business owner, or brand manager, whoever we’re interacting with. We have to give them a question. They have to have a sense of what they want to do. We give them a push, this is the market you want to go after. From your perspective, what are your preferences and colors? From your perspective, what do you think about your competition and who do you want to get inspiration from? Are there other folks in other industries that you like what they’re doing and you think will work in your industry? So we get to know as part of the onboarding process, what the preferences are, as part of the documentation we are due to immerse ourselves in the brand-building exercise. And then we take those notes and we take that questionnaire and we have our internal whiteboarding session. Where we meet with our brand specialists, our designers, and our social media copy specialist. This then helps us IDA in terms of, who’s going to do what and how are we going to come up with the brand-building exercise and come up with a customer profile. We then go to do research using third-party tools, and there’s a whole host of them, that provide a lot of insights in terms of where the demand is, who the competition is, and we just start documenting. There is a template that we have internally that we use, that has pages of slides that we look to populate. That helps us understand who the market is? Who the customer is? What the competitors are doing? What the psychographics of the customers are? What is the journey mapping? And what is the exercise? And that is part of understanding, then A – Given this and given who your competitors are, these are the messaging that you can do to be distinct enough in the marketing. This is giving your price point and value equation. This is what you can do to use this kind of personality to resonate. And therefore, these are the two or three buyer personas, you should go after in a market to stand out.
There may be a market for it. That’s what we should ask them, what’s your goal? And they’ll say no, don’t want to take on bigger jobs, I’ll take on small jobs. And if more the handyman work and the network and there’s more. And how does a brand rent process? You want to do premium real estate and luxury real estate and you just want exclusively that. And so that will help you define who’s your customer? Who’s your pain point? What keeps them up at night? And how can your solution help them with their problems? And we help defined that. So we do the research, we look at the states or the premises that they want to be known in? Who the competitors are? And then we say this is what we think you can do to stand out from a renovation company perspective.
So I think the easiest and the most effective way is, from a digital perspective, at least, don’t neglect the homepage. You can have your mediocre logo, you can have an overall sluggish website. But if your homepage is slow, and is designed poorly, you’re going to get into an unreasonable uphill battle with the client. That is the first impression that most people turn away. Build, don’t neglect that because that is your ultimate brochure page, that’s your sales page. It’s the white element of your brand. It should speak directly to your customer, it should have the right photography, it should have the success stories, it should have your social proof. And it should be back with good design and insights. Best on the homepage, you can have other sub-pages of your website that are sluggish and don’t have elements. But if you neglect that element, you really should be softer for where your biggest impressions are going to be formed.
Yeah. So social proof, like, is part of the testimonial. So the hero header is huge. I mean, that hero header, whatever you get, it should Wow, that’s when you stop them in their tracks. And once you go ahead and build that hero header with the right messaging, it should be speaking directly to your customer. It should have a bold statement that’s no longer than seven words. If you have a direct call to action, that should be another call for action right at the top, where they can immediately reach you or another way that you can convert and do business with you. And that grind below that there should be some elements of who you are. And you form or build trust or your key value proposition or key values are as an organization. And then you get into some of the other elements. If you’re a b2b brand, especially in the b2b area, showcase your customers as heroes. If you’re focusing too much on yourself and not your customer, especially as a b2b brand, you’re missing them. So showcase your success stories right there in one format. Now I’ve done a video testimonial or a success story or case study and don’t keep that away from them. Because as a business leader, that’s what any other business leader is looking for when they’re looking to come to work, and do business with you. Make it easy to say, Hey, I’m here, I get you. I do amazing work and check out my success story. You can have that too. And then that goes to the social proof, add other calls to action that allow them to continue on the journey near the footer, and then have a footer with a bunch of good links that will keep them engaged, if they want to stick around more.
You could. With blog content, people have a social media feed. We had blog content on our homepage. It’s doable, it’s one of the ways to engage. People keep it on the blog, on the footer as a link. It depends. What’s important is to be better. And if you are in the B2B area, especially the success stories that give instant proof and credibility that, hey, we have done this before and we can do it for you again.
Yes. It comes down to what your goals are. If you have a white paper and you want to drive them to the white paper or an event that helps you stand out as a brand. That is what it is. The attention you are desiring and you hear that as part of your background video, that is the hook. It is the visual eye candy that will stop them- Oh these guys get me. And then there will be something more powerful on that copy and they’ll say, wow, they’re really speaking to me now. I want to check this out. It can be a white paper. It can be a giveaway. It can be something that builds trust and not barriers.
That’s a great question. I have helped a lot of brands in this space. We built a website as a rebranding exercise for a very complex engineering brand. It sells very complex perforation and zero-dis chart engineering-based solutions. I can’t even pronounce half the stuff. It took us six months to develop this website because the content was so technical and so rich. A lot of hours and working effort went into it. And because the website loaded fast, because it was a white element, because it had the right content, their ability to not only rank on search but to get leads and we are tracking those out with the conversions and clicks. They are happy. That is one example. We had another B2C, a direct e-commerce luxury brand that gets Italian hand-made accessories from the same place that you get Gucci bags. They are a Canadian brand and they wanted to create a white element. So we took and researched what they were looking for and how they were different from Gucci versus Michael Kors, versus Louis Vuitton. And they are premium. These are $600 or $1,000 purses, and it is a no-name brand that did not exist in the market. How are they going to create the right impression and create that instant connection with their target audience? So we studied their comparative audience. We worked with premium photography with them. We looked at the best luxury designs and found that element that helped them look the part. And because of that, they have been able to get so much traction. They are getting more visibility. They are on fashion shows. And all because they looked the part. And that is part of the brand-building dream that we are talking about. Because if you don’t look the part, how are you going to be able to attract the right audience?
What’s a vast amount of money?
It comes down to, small businesses they don’t need to spend thirty grand. There are solutions and services that we offer that are much less than that, that can help a brand stand up. It comes down to what your goals are and how fast you want to grow your market. There are websites we have done for eighty grand, a hundred and twenty grand, and there are websites we have done for ten grand. It comes down to the goals and priorities and what is involved and the stakes and how fast they are looking to grow in the market. Businesses should invest in brands once they have a viable business idea with some sort of attraction. If you have retaining customers or repeat customers that you can satisfy and if you are not investing in your brand at that point then you are affecting your ability to scale and that’s a mistake. At some point in time, it is going to catch up to you, the ability to stand out in the market. You will find that folks that are investing in it will just look more polished, and appear better and their business ability to convert is much better. That’s my recommendation. Always define your business, you will get some customers to work with the minimal viable product that you have. If you have customers coming then take the time to invest in the brand and then market it as well.
No. The logo is part of it but we have developed something called a Brand book. It has everything from the logo, the color palette, the topography, and what the fonts have to be, the iconography, the personality – It is a thirty to sixty-page book depending on photography. That gives you a hundred percent certainty, of exactly what you can do from a visual perspective, from a statement perspective, from a mission to vision. Then you can take it to anybody else. You can take it to market. You can take it to TV. You can take it to the radio. To website. You can apply it to social media. Everything looks consistent and consistency is so important. And branding and marketing. Because if you don’t have the consistency you are making it harder for your customers to remember you. Imagine today if your name is this and tomorrow it might be gone. You are making it harder for customers. Choose the right colors. Reinforced that message. You get samples and filings. Customers are marketed and advertised to regularly. For you to stand out and be consistent and be familiar, first, you have to move on consistency. And that is why everyone says, hey, you have to be a consistent brand. Because if you don’t have the consistency you won’t be able to build familiarity and when you don’t have familiarity you won’t have a brand recall. So you are building for your customers to remember you and consider your brand as a solution, for your products when they are in the market. That’s called a brand recall. And that’s when it becomes more powerful and more magical. Just don’t invest in a logo, invest in a brand book that gives you consistency. And it’s part of the brand-building exercise.
No, I think you covered quite a bit. The beauty of brand building and marketing is a fun exercise. When you are building something and it will stand out and you’re nurturing it and helping it grow and become something bigger. It’s a great journey. Whatever journey you take it on and how much effort you do put into growing your brand or business, enjoy the ride and make the most of it. That’s all I can say. If you enjoy it then I think you will learn to cherish it. This can be clearer. This can be crisper. This photo is wrong. You will learn it pays back in full tenfold.
Yes. I would.
We have a website. Check out our website, we make websites, webworxlabs.com and we recently did some updates on it. We are very proud of it. We are going to keep on creating some hype and buzz for our own social media on it. I like to look. I’m proud of it. I’m a proud daddy, but that’s where you can find us. There are a lot of sections. You’ll get a chance to get to know me a little bit more. I am on all social media platforms. We are on Youtube, Tik Tok, Instagram, LinkedIn, and even Facebook. So if you need to connect, reach out to any of them.
Thanks so much for having me. It was a pleasure.
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