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.

Results

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 ph8.com.au 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’.

TIPS:
– 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 FineWaters.com, 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.

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