How PH8 Water used digital alliances to grow its brand

Back in 2014 the team at PH8 Natural Alkaline Water attended the Polaris Centre’s Mastering Your Business workshop series. More recently they’ve teamed up with Polaris Centre partner, and former Mentoring for Success student, Matt Pepper of Pepper Content to grow the PH8 Water brand online.

In this post Matt shares exactly how he’s managed to increase exposure for PH8 Natural Alkaline Water this year and the steps you can take to build your own brand online.

It’s amazing how many businesses do not leverage their brand through partnerships, particularly online. For a beverage startup like PH8 Natural Alkaline Water the resultant exposure from ‘digital alliances’ has been the equivalent of spending tens of thousands in traditional advertising. In the last 6 months alone, online digital alliances have helped PH8 expand into the eastern states, increase online sales by 700%, uncover new export markets and gain global recognition.


Online Shop Revenue up 7x on previous year
– Expansion of Home Delivery Service to Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane & Gold Coast.
– Winner of International Award in China

Bracegirdles is a PH8 water retail outlet

Bracegirdles House of Fine Chocolate

What are Digital Alliances?

Digital alliances are strategic online partnerships with suppliers, distributors, fans, support organisations or people who already have the audience that you want exposure to. They will allow your business to expand and enhance your ability to reach new markets using other peoples’ digital distribution channels and assets (their social media followers, their email database, their website visitors, their online advertising etc) all with minimal resources, costs or risk.

Strategic alliances are especially valuable when you’re starting off and don’t have a large following of your own yet. It’s likely that your partners have already spent thousands of dollars building relationships with their customers and prospects, the same people you’d like to reach!

Start with Existing Partners

What ‘offline partnerships’ do you have that aren’t being utilised ‘online’? PH8 had lots of supermarkets and retail distributors but weren’t encouraging these outlets to do any online promotions that would promote PH8 to their own customers (and introduce their outlet to PH8’s audience). Simply approach your existing partners and work out some way to genuinely help each other out. Make sure it’s always a win-win situation.

TIP: Take the time to get to know your partner before contacting them. This creates a personal connection that should make both of you feel better about entering a partnership, no matter how small.

Tap in to Support Organisations

Sign up with local industry support organisations. For PH8 that meant sites like
Brand South Australia, I Choose SA, Yorke Peninsula Tourism, Yorke Peninsula Food Branding, South Australia & Shandong Connect, Fine Waters of the World, etc. Aligning with these types of partners are not only a quality source of inbound referral visitors and links to but a strong contributing factor in PH8 receiving awards, recognition and trust in the market.

TIP: Go beyond being just a directory listing and see if you can be featured on their blog or social media channels. In most cases, they’re on the lookout for newsworthy / interesting updates about their members.

PH8 Water on SASD Connect Chinese site

South Australia Shandong Connect

I Choose SA promo campaign

I Choose SA for Hydration

Get Press

Pitch your story and point of difference to journalists. The aim should be to receive as much media coverage as possible because this will naturally lead to increased awareness and business opportunities. Just remember when pitching to frame a message that will appeal to their interests, not your own!

For PH8, that meant our message changed depending on the publication. Eg ‘Local SA company exporting to China’ or ‘Unique properties of the water such as a pH of 8 and minerals’ or ‘winning a Gold Medal in China at the 5th China International High End Water Expo’.

– I found that initially contacting journalists via private Twitter and Instagram messages to be most effective.
– BUT be prepared to get rejected or not hear back, more often than not.

Resultant Media
Brand SA, The Advertiser Business, SA Weekend Magazine, The Lead South Australia, Food Navigator Asia, SA Life Magazine, Radio Adelaide and more. Media features increased referral traffic back to your website, a major boost in search engine rankings, increased product enquiries and new media opportunities.

Continue to Scale Up and Build Momentum

For instance, we were initially featured on Channel 7’s Today Tonight which helped us get a story on Inside South Australia, which helped us get featured on the Advertiser, which lead to multiple stories on The Lead, which was syndicated to China. We now have a prominent online Chinese beverage magazine who wants to feature our water because he read PH8’s article in Food Navigator Asia. You get the idea!

PH8 feature in The Advertiser's SA Business Journal

PH8 featured in The Advertiser

Influencer Marketing

Highly targeted celebrities or micro-influencers can help your small business gain visibility FAST and promote your service or product, on a budget. Do you know any influencers or celebrities that currently use your product or service or may be interested? Look through your existing social media followers to identify who might already be featuring your brand.

Even though PH8 doesn’t yet have distribution in the North American market we became a member of, the pre-eminent bottled water site in the world. Through this partnership we made contact with two key members of the ‘fine water’ category, Dr Michael Mascha and Martin Riese (America’s No. 1 Water Sommelier) who each delivered powerful testimonials after we shipped free samples. These partnerships led to us discovering and entering a competition called the 5th China International High End Water Expo where PH8 collected a gold medal!

America’s #1 Water Sommelier, Martin Riese on Facebook Live

South Aussie with Cosi on his Facebook page
SA Influencer, Andrew ‘Cosi’ Costello taste testing PH8 received over 28,000 views on Facebook.

Cosi taste tests PH8 Water

SA’s Andrew ‘Cosi’ Costello with PH8 Natural Alkaline Water

DJ Tigerlily – International DJ – Snapchat & Instagram
– We found out that DJ Tigerlily loves PH8 Water via our Instagram account. She has a huge following on both Instagram and Snapchat.

DJ Tigerlily's favourite water is PH8 Natural Alkaline Water

DJ Tigerlily loves PH8 Water

Australian Tennis Star Thanasi Kokkinakis

Kokkinakis and a bottle of PH8

Thanasi Kokkinakis training with PH8 Water

Leverage exposure to your own followers

Once you have received publicity on external platforms, make it go even further by updating followers on your own social media accounts. Your fans will help spread the word to their friends, and so on. Many brands don’t take this extra step and miss out on a 2nd bite of publicity.

TIP: To gain more traction use Facebook ads to target the celebrity / interest / demographic in question.

Don’t forget your core fans & customers

Most businesses do a lousy job of repurposing or sharing their customers’ social media mentions. Your core customers are the best advocates of your product or service so ensure you’re sharing or reposting selected updates about your brand. Remember that many of your customers probably have significant social media followings and are ‘micro-influencers’ in their own right.

To encourage your customers to spread the word, create a community hashtag and offer a giveaway or discount each month to the best photo or update – it will pay for itself in no time!

Maintain & Grow your Strategic Alliances

Stay in touch with your partners and cultivate relationships. The age of digital partnerships is just beginning!

Author: Matt Pepper
Matt is an Adelaide based internet marketer who helps businesses attract their ideal customers through content marketing and online advertising. He is Director of Pepper Content, a member of The Polaris Centre’s referral register.

Digital Health Check
To receive a free digital audit of your business contact Rhys Moult…………

The Aussie Innovator book launch

Last Wednesday Geoff Haygreen attended the release of the latest book by Scott Boocock the  “Aussie Innovator”, entrepreneur and inventor of the HEGS Peg, who loves to inspire people to turn their ‘Ideas into Action’. His new augmented reality book was released at the printer “Openbook Howden Print and Design”.

This private book signing event was compered by Graeme Goodings. Senator Nick Xenophon gave a glowing endorsement of Scott’s success with the HEGS Peg, the clothes peg with a hook, and his inspiring book. Scott literally jumps out of the page to speak to you – buy a book and experience it for yourself!

Rory’s Catering Co. Partners with Polaris for Success

The following testimonial was written by Michelle Le Cornu of Brainbox Marketing for Rory’s Catering and the Polaris Centre:

Rory’s Catering Co. has enjoyed a successful relationship with the Polaris Business and Innovation Centre since 2007.   Rory’s Catering Co. provides corporate and private catering including working lunches, seminars and workshops, corporate breakfasts and Christmas parties.

The relationship with Polaris began informally when Polaris advisors were customers at the onsite cafe at Innovation House, Mawson Lakes, which was managed by Rory’s Catering Co.  An initial conversation about business fostered a bigger discussion about how to grow Rory’s.  That is when Polaris staff invited owners, Rory and Louise Hope, to attend the Business Fundamentals Workshop.

“Business Fundamentals was a good introduction to formalise business.  I had a background in operations and I had some insight but I didn’t have the knowledge of how all areas of business work.” 

Equipped with the Business Fundamentals, Rory progressed to the Mentoring for Success program.

Mentoring for Success was a turning point for my business.  I was in a group with 11 other business owners who acted like a board.  We covered a different topic each month and I could use the board to discuss the issues I was facing in my business and get feedback on what to do.”

Over time, Rory’s business has grown from a small catering service to two businesses, Rory’s Catering Co. and Rory’s School Lunches employing 45 people. The Rory’s Group now has an external board including Rob Chisholm from Polaris, Alan Green Consulting and Brainbox Marketing.

“Rob mentored us through a period of change and we’ve been building ever since.  I wish I’d met Polaris at day one.  It’s taken us years to get our business structure and processes right and we’ve nailed it in the last 12 months.  We’re now in a position to focus on growth.” 

Visit Rory’s Catering Co. to view the menus and request a quote at

To find out how your business can benefit from a relationship with Polaris Business and Innovation Centre, go to

Our Mastering Your Business workshops are really hitting the mark with clients

In case you needed another reason to come to our Mastering Your Business workshops, take a look at this fantastic letter from recent workshop participant Tony Warren from TMA Kitchen Designs to Alan Green, our workshop facilitator:

Dear Alan,

I just wanted to drop you a line to say how much I valued your workshop at the Polaris Centre on Tuesday just gone.

I was going to say that I really enjoyed it – but the truth is you made my head hurt and my ego was seriously damaged by being forced to acknowledge just how much I didn’t know or wasn’t doing that I should be doing! Your session was a real wake up call to face the truth – that I really have no idea how my company is performing except that it currently appears to be surviving (although that could be an illusion).

My mind is still reeling at the prospect of sitting down and writing a plan for sales and marketing, for HR and finance and for operations. Before all of this, I need to draw up a strategic plan with short, medium and long term goals when, up till now, my only goal has been to bring in enough revenue to be able to keep paying the bills, paying my staff and paying me.

In order to help me improve my company and my management skills, I would dearly love to take you up on your offer to send me by email the Powerpoint slides from your workshop presentation. I am sure it will help make sense of the workbook and I will be more encouraged to set to it. If the offer is still open, please send to the email address below. Thank you.

I am cross to think that I have changed accountants twice in the hope that I would get a more pro-active service that would help me plan to grow my business – to no avail. Each year, I still just get a bill for $2,000 mainly to do the annual tax returns for my company and for me personally with no further input, advice or analysis of what the figures are actually showing. I now realise that even if I looked at the past balance sheets with my new knowledge, they would be completely skewed because my accountant would be trying to make it look like my company made a minimal profit and I earned next to nothing, in order to minimise my tax bill.

Let me just say to finish that, if you decide to run the Profit Planning and Cashflow Forecasting module as a separate standalone workshop, I will be the first to sign up for it as I am in no doubt that I would benefit enormously from more of your excellent business coaching.

Thank you again for your help and guidance at our workshop and for being so generous with your knowledge and experience to benefit small businesses like mine that are trying to do it better.

Yours sincerely,


Tony Warren

Director – Principal Designer

Thanks a lot to Tony for taking the time to write such a lovely email to Alan. and of course, awesome work Alan and thanks so much for your continued support of the Polaris Centre and our clients. We welcome all our client feedback but we believe it’s particularly good to recognise and celebrate the good work achieved by your team.



Mr Nice Guys love working with Geoff Haygreen and the Polaris Centre

Mr Nice Guys

Everybody always said starting a business is hard work and they were not wrong!

We started Mr Nice Guys over 3 years ago in an effort to support disadvantaged families with their home clean-ups to ensure that they did not lose their tenancies. We help with interior cleanups, yards and rubbish removals. We offer a personalised home care program, working with individuals where ever possible encouraging participation in their own home beautification. We offer our services to Government Departments, Non Government agencies that support people in their homes and private customers.

After working in the community sector for many years we really had no concept of the realities of running a business from home. We did not even begin to have an understanding of what lay ahead in regards to the hours we would need to put in behind the scenes, nor the complexities of laws, superannuation, WorkCover, payroll, accounting, GST , taxes and oh so much more.

When we were at the stage of thinking “all we didn’t know was too hard”, we came across the Polaris Centre and the small business mentoring programs. We attended the introductory Business Fundamentals session and signed up for mentoring, knowing that the road ahead could become easier if we had someone to guide us. From the first to our pending last session we have learnt and grown as small business owners. We have truly been mentored through every step of our journey and we often reflect that we could not have been as successful in our business without this guidance and support.

For us the mentoring experience has been so successful that we will continue with our participation even though the subsidising funding has ceased. It seems that every month there is something that comes up that we want to discuss, take suggestions on or ask for advice. Our relationship with our mentor, Geoff Haygreen, has helped us to grow both personally and professionally.

If you are considering starting or buying a business in the Northern Suburbs or you have already commenced a business and like us feel like you are swimming against the tide, please call the Polaris Centre and talk to them about the mentoring program. It will be one of the best calls you can make, for your success and most of all, for support to build the foundations of a successful business.

Brace Yourself! Our January client story about

We love hearing great client stories of new ventures and successes. This month we heard that Wendy from Executive Accessories who blogged for us a while back about moving to Shopify had started a new site, this time using Bigcommerce. I asked Wendy to write up a little post for us to share her site and experiences.

Neil and I are very proud to have launched our third e-commerce store

Braces have always been a popular line on our flagship site and our customers are always telling us how pleased they are to find us. So we decided to make it easier by creating an online boutique specialising in braces.

We are hoping that by creating this niche store we will become the go-to destination for mens braces in Australia.

Our aim is to have the largest selection of quality braces in Australia and with over 60 styles to choose from we are already well on the way. The range includes airport friendly braces (that don’t set alarm bells ringing!), formal button on suspenders and even super soft braces that you can wear next to your skin if you don’t want to tuck your shirt in.

Once again we have decided to go with an e-commerce platform – where we pay a monthly subscription and have access to amazing features and functionality – rather than having a stand-alone website built. However this time we opted for a Bigcommerce site (our other two stores run on the Shopify platform), and so far so good.

Bigcommerce is an Aussie company, which is great. But they charge in US dollars, which is not so great (especially given the exchange rate at the moment!). The support is fantastic and there is a good selection of themes to choose from.

The site is only a month old and we are still “tweaking” it, but once it’s been up and running a little longer and hopefully risen in the search engine results, I will post a comparison between Shopify and Bigcommerce. So watch this space!

In the meantime we would love some feedback on the website!


Wendy Gomersall

Executive Accessories

Thanks Wendy! Very informative and I look forward to hearing how it goes.

If you are reading this and think you might have a story worth sharing, shoot me through an email or give us a call at Polaris.

Simon Tanner Real Estate

Tanner Real Estate has been operating in the real estate market and selling homes for the past three and a half years. While still a relatively young company, Tanner Real Estate has already established a reputation for exceptional service and outstanding results.

“I think you’d be mad not to use the Polaris Centre” – Tanner Real Estate director Simon Tanner

Seeking a better understanding of the financial and management side of running a business, Tanner Real Estate director, Simon Tanner, joined the Polaris Centre’s Mentoring for Success program.

“It has definitely had a positive effect, helped me to get my head around things and see exactly where I’m heading,” Simon said.

“I now look at our financials more often and set KPI’s (key performance indictors) for staff and myself. We do more one-on-one’s with the staff, so it is a more structured environment now.”

“I don’t understand why someone wouldn’t use the Polaris Centre. If you ask the right questions and have the right mentor you can pick up huge amounts and benefit greatly.”

BW Enterprizes

BW Enterprizes, based at Burton, makes essential components for trucks and road trains. While having been in business for less than two years, BW Enterprizes is responsible for designing the Binder Winder – a unique and easy way of winding portable ratcheted straps for storage when they’re not in use, which can be fitted to any gate slot on any trailer.

“If you’ve got a problem, take yourself to the Polaris Centre… they have helped me immensely” – BW Enterprizes owner John Ball

BW Enterprizes owner John Ball said the Binder Winder concept came about after sitting in his cab watching a fellow driver hand roll his portable ratchet straps on a hot 45 degree day. “That night I came up with Binder Winder; an Australian made durable device, designed to make the job of rolling and storing portable ratchet straps a little easier.”

“I’d been a truck driver for 48 years and I didn’t know anything about business, but the opportunity came up and I grabbed it,” said John, who took up the opportunity to participate in the Polaris Centre’s Mentoring for Success program

“It’s had a huge impact,” he said. “It has given me an insight into the business world and now I know where to go, who to see and what to do, and virtually how to run an organised business.”

Icon Graphic Design

Icon Graphic Design, based at Mawson Lakes, produces artwork for almost any project. From logo designs to business cards, letterheads to brochures and even signage, Icon Graphic Design can undertake or even print manage most projects.

“We are learning a lot and it’s been great. I’ve recommended the Polaris Centre to a number of people” – Icon Graphic Design partner Paul Danher-Hart

“While we’ve been operating for 22 years now, (promotion) had always been word of mouth. Our clients had always fed us plenty of work,” said Icon Graphic Design Partner Paul Danher-Hart. “Marketing the business was something we had never done, but with the recent downturn work started to dry up so we decided to ramp things up a bit.”

Paul contacted the Polaris Centre for assistance and participated in the Mentoring for Success program and attended several networking evenings. He says it was a Business Fundamentals workshop that made it “quite clear to us that our issue was marketing”.

“We are now actively marketing the business and it has become an ongoing thing,” Paul said. “We are learning a lot more about SEO, social media and moving into streams we hadn’t looked at before.”

“I know that it sounds silly, but we hadn’t really learnt how to run a business… we are graphic designers. There is a formula to running a business that you have to know and implement, which has been invaluable to us. It’s like being a mechanic; they know all about cars but may not know how to run a business.”