Sesh Sukhdeo: “Know your audience, and what differentiates you”

Don’t stop learning. Even if it means going back one step, it’s worth it, anyone who plays chess will know that you can still win by taking a step back or even sideward. If you’re struggling with attracting customers and feel you need to develop your brand — go to a workshop, get a referral, address it. As […]

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Don’t stop learning. Even if it means going back one step, it’s worth it, anyone who plays chess will know that you can still win by taking a step back or even sideward. If you’re struggling with attracting customers and feel you need to develop your brand — go to a workshop, get a referral, address it.

As part of our series about how to create a trusted, believable, and beloved brand, I had the pleasure to interview Sesh Sukhdeo, Author, Speaker and Founder of One&Done. Sesh has worked with hundreds of businesses internationally, he has spoken at the UN on Entrepreneurship and Collaboration, his insights have helped businesses of all sizes and he contributes regularly to board level strategy envisioning and has engaged with thought leaders globally for his entire career. He is known as the corporate diplomat, someone who has no issues at reaching or engaging with leaders globally.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Today, I’m a little like an orchestral conductor in a very exciting tech and services venture called One & Done. I’m very excited and feel like getting here was always destined to be, even if like many entrepreneurs I originally set out on a zigzag path leading somewhere else. As I look over my career I think of those colorful Rubik’s cubes, slowly rotating and turning to become naturally aligned. Everything is settled in One & Done.

Can you share a story about the funniest marketing mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

As anyone who has spoken in India will know, audiences can be pretty large — and very interactive! Once I was speaking at one of India’s leading IT conventions, in fact it was their annual event, and I was the keynote speaker. As normal the organisers asked me what my talk was going to be about — wanting to create a bridge to the crowd I glanced at the event overview, and shared my message: “I’ll be talking about how the CBI in the UK influences collective policy and representation within the business environment.” First mistake: I assumed that the long form of CBI would be provided, however it was not — so all they had was CBI. (The CBI, The Confederation of British Industry, is the UK’s premier business organisation, a voice for firms at a regional, national and international level to policymakers.)

What I did not realise is that CBI in India means Centre of Bureau Investigations in India. This Indian CBI operates under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions and was originally set up to investigate bribery and governmental corruption.

Up I get to talk about CBI — cue rapturous applause — and began to share my opinions. Everyone thought that I was taking about how The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) was investigating UK businesses. I realised something was amiss when everyone started applauding when I said, “The CBI has a voice in the UK, it is strong and represents business at all levels”. What a great strike for India against the old colonial master!

Sometimes, what we think is understood can so be easily be misinterpreted, especially international communications. It is something I learnt from, and ever since have taken note to check the meaning and understanding when I speak internationally.

What do you think makes your company stand out?

Sesh: To me, a company stands out when an experience occurs, one which is memorable, one that meshes with your own persona. One & Done is an example of a company that stands out in terms of intrinsic authenticity from day one. We know and love the fact that consumers, clients, our industry colleagues and others are all looking for the genuine approach and I try to let my personality excite the brand. One & Done is rooted in an inclusive, communicative, stable and ambitious approach and self-evolution.Companies that grow without those attributes face many challenges as they seek to involve their natural stakeholders and attract new ones.

Can you share a story?

Sesh: Entrepreneurs need to take into account that although they wish to, they do not have all the answers. A good entrepreneur finds himself at the center of a sustainable ecosystem of talent. It is far better to engage with true experts, rather than waste unnecessary time. A true expert has the knack and expertise to make a gem out of some rough ideas. You have to act as you wish to be — isolated and alone, with those advisors trending you to the “norm” or those who can take you out of your comfort zone, but not endanger your excellence threshold.

I have realized over time, that whatever my own expertise and its applicability — there is always an expert out there outside of my experience who has achieved longer, better, or more successfully at those things that I only know relatively.

I came across one of the worlds leading business consultants whose expertise is on business plan development, Cayan consulting from the US. Trusting my luck, and you have to; I wrote an email requesting information and to my surprise the CEO replied and shared his insights — and he then put me immediately in touch with a local expert, who took what I had, reframed it and enhanced the value of the business in the process. What’s great about working with true experts is that they see big picture, through a different lens, and unhindered they will open new perspectives which we will leave unwittingly at the table.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that it will help people?

We have launched a very exciting tech and services business which helps those businesses around the globe who travel and trade to do it easier and better than what they currently do. We work with distinct customer groups, who require Travel, Commerce, and Finance services. We offer new experiences for each of them. And as a group of customers that don’t have the access that larger businesses do, collectively however they represent a significant spend and invest time trying organise time critical services to keep their businesses afloat and operating. We fast track them to this goal in a totally new way, bringing SME’s who are collaboratively minded together by providing a single platform which aggregates volumes and hence pricing and drive new experiences and convenience, it’s a one click or one call and it’s done.

We have gone past ideation; we’ve built out our platform and we have grown our prospect and client base exponentially. Simplification seems to resonate with everyone I’ve shared it with, I crossed three continents in one month recently, UK, USA and India and everyone got it, but one piece of feedback was striking, we did not have a “Super brand!” This resonated, as the month before, I had done an interview with Gerry Foster, a leading US brand expert, who has worked with a number of global leading brands, in his interview he shared the context that every Brand has a Secret Sauce, and a true Super brand stands out from the crowd, his information can be found at This had me pondering, I knew that our proposition stood out, one platform with multiple essential business services, it is appealing to events, conference and expo organizers and those businesses who travel and trade. I was passionate about the business but not the name and positioning we had at the time, and no one in my team were experts in branding, something was amiss…!

We had canvassed over 200 businesses internationally, everyone said what a brilliant business concept, however the name we had at that time just did not click.

Today we are One & Done, a very different name. I see that the universe has a way of answering your calls, imagine, being introduced to one of the worlds most awarded creative directors, Tom Eslinger at Unleashed! Tom has over 500 awards under his belt, his work is in the Smithsonian Museum and Museum of Modern Art in the US, and he has worked with global brands and created entire movements which appeal to the masses. He works with Glen Cameron, a content and strategy guru who has worked all over the world for leading CEOs and businesses sculpting their messaging and developing awareness and reputation strategies. Together, they are innovative, open, collaborative and flexible. You’ve got to look for natural partners, and for us are exactly that.

Ok let’s now jump to the core part of our interview. In a nutshell, how would you define the difference between brand marketing (branding) and product marketing (advertising)? Can you explain?

Brand marketing is all about creating an associated state of awareness, comfort and interaction with your brand, or members of your brand family. Advertising and brand though are not interchangeable words. Some people also call advertising branding, I don’t think they are even close.

Product marketing is based around the verifiable expression of attributes. When a product, solid and straightforward, gains a brand, it becomes more than the sum of both parts. It comes to life.

Can you explain to our readers why it is important to invest resources and energy into building a brand, in addition to the general marketing and advertising efforts?

It is important to build the brand because this is what drives influence, it is what helps you stand out from the crowd, it is ever lasting and creates the appeal which drives adoption. Imagine buying a garment without a label, what’s the feeling like. We are impressionable, and a great Brand taps into the psyche of its intended audience, it elevates your proposition, which apart from a Super Brand drives your IP valuation up!

Can you share 5 strategies that a small company should be doing to build a trusted and believable brand? Please tell us a story or example for each.

The strategies which will help small companies to collaborate with your customers to co-create the brand, there is nothing better than getting early feedback.

1) Don’t stop learning. Even if it means going back one step, it’s worth it, anyone who plays chess will know that you can still win by taking a step back or even sideward. If you’re struggling with attracting customers and feel you need to develop your brand — go to a workshop, get a referral, address it.

2) Engage with customers on social media — friends can be found everywhere! I have found that the two different mediums each have different emotions running through them, different interests and flavours, Facebook vs LinkedIn. Both are useful — people tend to share allot more about how they feel on Facebook than LinkedIn, they are a lot more emotional, whereas LinkedIn has an element of scripted storytelling.

3) Relationships matter. These days as people have access to information and are influenced by others, think about the experience that you wish to provide. It’s the one thing which is hard to copy, and uniquely valued. It is important to create a bond with your customers, it’s not easy, so take the time to think about what a great relationship looks like and then surround yourself with people who make a difference.

4) Work with specialists. You can’t be brilliant at everything, but you can put together a brilliant team — and lead it brilliantly!! I have wonderful copy writers, it’s amazing — I will put out a post and then one of my teams will put out a slightly tweaked copy, and it’s amazing to see how the responses differ!

5) Know your audience, and what differentiates you. If you can’t capture what you do in 20 seconds then I would suggest you need to refine your pitch, people generally will get lost in their own thoughts or will tune out if you are not clear.

In your opinion, what is an example of a company that has done a fantastic job building a believable and beloved brand. What specifically impresses you? What can one do to replicate that?

Disney! It’s all about the experience, the films, the characters, the theme parks… they all stand out in terms of delighting you as the customer, it has lasted over time and remains part of our mindset when we think fun, family and happiness.

What role does social media play in your branding efforts?

The role social media plays is vital to brand building, each social media organization has an audience, which is distinct but complex, social media through PR is used to build and maintain trust with the target audience, they must therefore be in sync. Working with UNlshd, we’re looking at how brand voice interacts with public awareness of your brand, if at all, and the reputation and emotion that it elicits, if any! Social media allows you to get people and customers engaging with you, which is what drives brand loyalty.

What advice would you give to other marketers or business leaders to thrive and avoid burnout?

Learn to Collaborate vs Compete. We can’t be the jack of all trades and the master of none, learning how to collaborate is one of the biggest assets we have available to us, and it’s often overlooked. When done well it unlocks tremendous value exchange. The second piece of advice, I would give is to understand the context of corporate wellbeing. I reached out to Robert Raymond the CEO of Achieve Systems in the USA who said, “wellbeing is not one dimensional, it reflects emotional, physical, cognitive and spiritual aspects. The work life balance is so vital for happiness creation (you will note I did not say wealth creation). So many leaders, across all spheres burn out, because they try to do it all and don’t take care of themselves. If your looking to grow you health and wellness business globally, please have a look at a highly collaborative business ecosystem.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Be at peace with yourself. It is where we understand our authenticity, not just the tones of our own voice, it is deeper, it is where you understand the difference you can make and are as the saying goes; “living life on purpose and becoming whom you are destined to be !”.

We are blessed that very prominent leaders in business and entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world with whom you would like to have a lunch or breakfast with? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Sir Richard Branson are you reading? His persona is one I can identify with and be inspired by. If I ever met Sir Richard, I would want to share some of my insights on the next wave of travel innovation. I don’t just want a pretty picture with him in a tropical place (although I’m not against that!), I’d be listening to his true voice, and the insights it would so naturally offer.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.

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