Professional services companies are not generally known for taking risks with their marketing. Anyway, creative, fun, humorous content is strictly for the consumer market, right?
Wrong, and workplace pensions advisers Hymans Robertson have proved it with the ‘Mr Feelgood’ campaign – throwing out the old professional services marketing rulebook once and for all.
This bold, imaginative and totally integrated campaign has brought in unprecedented amounts of new business in just a few short months.
That’s why we’re delighted to present October’s Valuable Content Award to Hymans Robertson. Courageous marketing director Terri Lucas answers Sonja’s questions about the approach.
But first, a bit of background…
Hymans Robertson wanted to shake up the workplace pensions market with a new approach that would benefit employees and employers alike.
Terri says: “At the moment pensions are about putting money in, transferring the risk to the individual without giving them the tools to manage that risk. But this approach is storing up problems for the future when the next generation realises it is retiring into poverty. We were determined to address this issue. Our breakthrough arrived when we came up with an approach that’s much more focused on outcomes than inputs – we call it ‘Guided Outcomes’ (GO).”
So Hymans Robertson had a great idea and a strong story but needed great content as a means of explaining it. Terri wanted to build a daring and creative campaign that would really bring the new concept to life and connect with clients and prospects on a very human level.
Mr Feelgood was born.
How important was it to stand out in this market?
“We were up against much bigger names in this market so we knew we had to do something different, to be imaginative and stand out creatively. It’s a route we can pull off because as a steadfastly independent firm we have the freedom to be bold and daring, even if we we don’t have the budgets of the bigger business. A straightforward literal presentation of Guided Outcomes wasn’t going to be enough. My steer to agencies was ‘don’t bother us with anything that’s traditional or corporate or navy blue’.”
How did Mr Feelgood come about?
“The idea for Mr Feelgood came from the agency Landscape. We’d put the project out to pitch and Landscape delivered beyond expectations. Eight out of ten of us on the Hymans Robertson panel immediately said ‘yes, that’s it, we’ve got to do that!’ When it’s right, it’s right.”
What content did you create and how was it shared?
“As well as working it into our main corporate website we developed a stand alone microsite as a base for the Guided Outcomes message – guidedoutcomes.hymans.co.uk. A big part of bringing the website content alive was through animation and we developed four fun little Mr Feelgood videos. Alongside this we crafted regular content to educate the market and tell the story plus a more traditional film where we got industry contacts and potential clients like Marks and Spencer talking about how excited they were about Guided Outcomes. We wanted testimonials and endorsements so we worked that into the video.
PR was important for making the case and for building profile and awareness. We got national, broadcast and trade coverage – the story was in the Sunday Times, the Daily Mail, the FT, the Telegraph, radio 5 and lots of trades. The Pensions Minister Steve Webb found the new thinking so thought provoking that we know it is now on his radar as another solution as he considers pensions reform.
We hosted a series of in-house events around the topic too. We placed ads in the trade press. Ads, PR and social media are good for awareness and familiarity. We find that things like direct marketing and events are better for prospecting and getting meetings.
Our sales and marketing teams are really tightly integrated. We worked hard to make sure that our marketing messages and sales pitches were consistent and joined up. It all needs to be linked and follow up conducted by the business development team in a timely fashion.
We don’t shy away from direct marketing here at Hymans Robertson, as long as it’s creative and genuinely helpful. We crafted a creative mail out campaign using mini iPads that looked brilliant. The iPads were sent to carefully selected prospects with a pre-loaded presentation (starring Mr Feelgood of course) with links to the microsite content, which our new business people could follow up.
Social media played a part too. We set up a #FeelGoodFriday hashtag and had a bit of fun on Twitter and LinkedIn using the Mr Feelgood dude kind of feel and tone. This helped us to spread the word and extend the news to our networks. We got conversations going through Twitter with journalists and got a bit of coverage that way. “
This is a valuable, multi-channel approach that has really paid off.
And the results?
“The campaign launched in May this year and since then, in new business terms, we’ve had extraordinary success.
We made 315 calls and from that secured 78 meetings so far. We have 52 opportunities in the pipeline and we’ve won five major new clients to date! We’ve recently conducted a poll on name recognition in this market against our competitors and we now have 45% recognition, from pretty much a standing start.”
What lessons can other professional businesses draw from your approach?
- Take the creative route and dare to be different. I think the business-to-business and professional services sector is way behind applying some useful techniques from consumer advertising that would make a world of difference between fitting in or standing out. Be imaginative, have some fun with your marketing. It needn’t be boring.
- Get proactive. In professional services we still have an old fashioned stigma where perhaps business used to come through the door more readiliy and doing nasty active marketing and sales things was seen as a bad thing. I think there’s still some of that legacy left.
- Give your content meaning (and make sure it looks great). The real value is giving it meaning to the people you are trying to attract. We also believe that content needs to look brilliant – we are bombarded with information and communicate in a 24/7 world so we need to be grabbed instantly. But once grabbed, there also needs to be substance, so having a strong visual is a vital component but not enough in itself.
- Show don’t tell. This was definitely key to the GO project. We had something new and abstract, a different way of working, so our task is to show them the way, show how different could be better.
- Multi-channel is the only way when it comes to taking your idea to market. Use all the tools you have available to you – ‘old’ and new can work together.
- Joined up sales and marketing. To get sales results you need absolute integration.Believing from the top that sales and marketing should be integrated is the right place to start. We need good relationships and trust between the teams and then just belief that we make it so. We drive it through that way. It’s not about ‘marketing is here to support sales’. I just won’t tolerate that. We’re in it together; we’re working for the same firm. Sales needs us to warm up the market, get people talking, get some buzz and excitement. Marketing needs sales to walk through doors and convert that into work.
- You need strong leadership; you need leverage. It’s about staying focused on the task, having regular catch ups and pushing people faster than they think they can go if you want to be first to market.
- Be human. Treat your buyers as human beings as well as the professionals they are.
- Oh, and don’t be too attracted by new shiny things. I think with the mini iPads we got a bit carried away! The idea was so strong we didn’t need to got that far!”
There is so much to learn from Hymans Robertson’s bold concept, creative content and tightly integrated business development campaign.
Congratulations to Terri and team – we’re mightily impressed. Your award badges are on the way. Professional services marketing has never felt so gooood!
P.S. You can find out more about Terri’s thinking on her blog: see ‘Humans Buy Services’.