As a marketing consultant, why I advocate branding over marketing

My job is to provide advice and guidance to my clients on how to increase their revenues by perfecting their marketing strategies. And while I’m a firm believer that well executed digital marketing, content marketing and social media do make a difference, I’m also equally certain that if your brand is strong your marketing requirements are much less. In the same way, if your brand is weak you can invest loads of money and time on marketing but the results won’t be as good as they could be.

Marketing is definitely instrumental to the growth of your business but your brand needs to be present and strong before you even start considering marketing. Of course, for big companies with big budgets, investing in marketing is critical but as a start-up or an SME, my suggestion is to invest in your brand first and your marketing after. I’m going to give you a very powerful example of how true this is.

Take The Osteopathic Centre, created in 2008 in Singapore, this clinic has taken the local community by storm. Every single time I’ve seen someone asking for a recommendation for a good osteopath, the answer from the community has been the same: The Osteopathic Centre. The interesting thing is that they rarely advertise, their marketing tactics are quite limited, and they certainly didn’t invest in Google ads. Yet they managed to become the number one result in real life searches. I had the chance to discuss this with the owner and co-founder of the company, Clare Holland, and here are some insights that she shared with me.

  1. When did you start?

We opened the Osteopathic Centre in 2008; although I officially joined the team in 2009, I was involved from the beginning helping with the logo design, website and stationery needed for a new clinic.

  1. How many staff did you have when you started?

We started just with two of us, my husband Paul Bell, the Clinical Director and Osteopath, and myself as his administrative support.

  1. How many staff do you have now?

We now have a team of ten staff and are currently recruiting for two more Osteopaths.

  1. How many centres do you have now?

We have three centres located in prime spots across the island. Having started in a central location when we moved home out to the East Coast in 2009, we discovered that there were very few services for the local community and certainly not much in the field of healthcare. Therefore, we set up our second centre in January 2010, offering osteopathy services and then invited other service providers to operate from our centre. This included a podiatry service, counselling service and a mother and baby company who specialised in pre & post-natal care and feeding advice for new mums.

In 2014 we opened our third centre in the heart of the business district and have not looked back since.

  1. What is your current number of clients vs in the beginning?

Singapore is a very transient place, therefore the importance is not so much on total numbers but actually the number of NEW patients to the business. The number of new patients is key as people come and go, therefore you need to keep the momentum up.  We have been successful in this and have seen an increase in excess of 400% on our total numbers since we started.

  1. What are your marketing tactics?

This is an interesting question because I have a belief that if you can provide an exceptional service your clients/patients will speak so positively of you that they become your marketers.

I come from a service background and have very high standards on what I believe the patient experience should be. I think that has been quite key in our success.

In 2011 we also made a positive move towards ensuring it was our brand that people knew and recognised, and not just perhaps the name, Paul Bell.

We are also active in social media, we support local sports events, we work closely with schools, support groups, member clubs and large multi-national companies to provide healthcare support and advice.  We have eye catching and bold branding which is used every time we participate in events etc. We very rarely advertise in print, but when we do our branding stands out; we use it if we have opened a new centre or perhaps moved location.

  1. So why do you believe you have grown so much?

I think this is down to reputation. This was built up at the start by Paul Bell, who had an excellent reputation, both with patients but also with other healthcare professionals such as GP’s, surgeons, dentists etc. He has set very high standards and with myself on board we expect this of all the team.

We put patient care first. This is above profit and still remains that way today.

We provide a very high standard of service, our team of practitioners have a genuine passion for what they do and we have a great support team that allows them to focus their time with the patients to provide exceptional care.

We have also encouraged a positive environment for our staff, where they all support each other and they know we support them. We have regular team meetings and of course social events. This helps to build loyalty which we believe works both ways.

  1. What would be your number 1 recommendation for a start-up?

My advice would be to focus on what you do and do it to the best of your ability. Put strong foundations down and know what your goals are. Think about what the experience is for the client. Don’t let standards drop and try from the start to think about what the client’s needs are. If you get this right, then you are on to a winner.



I was glad to have the opportunity to talk with Clare, as she and I share a very similar vision on how to create a strong brand.

I’m sure that any business would be thrilled with a 400% increase on numbers of new clients.  If you are just starting up or your business is currently stagnating, these are 5 takeaways for you from The Osteopathic Centre’s success story. From the very beginning they focused on:

  1. Creating a strong brand, visually and strategically
  2. Having strong foundations and clear vision
  3. Building a unique, positive reputation
  4. Delivering client/patient satisfaction
  5. Aligning the internal and external brand to ensure that all staff members share and deliver on the brand’s high standard of service.

With these 5 key elements in check, you are on the right path to ensuring that yours will be a success story too.

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