If more firms were braver with their marketing, then maybe professional services would not have such an image problem!
Let’s be honest. Professional services has got a serious beige problem. Thousands of dreary websites offer a “partner-led service”, “clear vision”, “passion and reliability” and sometimes, if you’re lucky, “a global approach”. Such promises are all very worthy, and occasionally there’s substance behind the claims, but inspirational and unique they ain’t. No wonder so many creative people tend to seek their fortunes elsewhere.
That’s why the BDLN is always impressed by firms that genuinely stand out. And when we came across the website of the Lancashire-based accountant Cassons, our eyebrows lifted. Here was something unique.
Cassons has a tradition of sending clients and friends a Christmas message with a twist. Each year, the whole firm gets together to produce a video. In recent years, they’ve transformed Lou Bega’s Mambo No. 5 into Cassons No. 5 and Bonnie Tyler’s Holding out for a Hero into Cassons Heroes. They even adapted The Adam’s Family theme tune into The Cassons Family for the firm’s Christmas party. Each song even has specially written lyrics reflecting the firm’s work!
“It all began on my first day back in 1996,” explains head of marketing Jill Murray. “Les [Nutter, managing partner] said he wanted to do something different for the firm’s Christmas cards, something with a personal touch. Back then, there was no LinkedIn, you didn’t have a website with staff photos – clients didn’t know the faces of the people who worked for them. So Les suggested creating an advent calendar that had a photo of two or three team members behind each window. It was a great success – we had clients calling up asking ‘which one are you? We want to know what you look like!’
“From there, we progressed to cartoon photo cards and then to videos. We initially used Christmas songs for the videos but then we wanted something we could use all year round for different purposes, including marketing, recruitment and staff engagement, so we moved to our own versions of great songs!
“The reaction has been overwhelming. We have so much fun doing it and receive hundreds of responses from clients and friends of the firm every year because they’re so taken with it.”
Interestingly, while the main initial objective of the videos was to showcase Cassons’ people to the outside world, the focus of the videos is now more inward facing. Jill explains: “Through creating the videos together as a team and having fun doing it, we’re building relationships within the firm.
“We know that relationships are more important than anything else. I’ve taken a number of calls from prospective clients who say that what comes across in our communications is the relationship we have with our clients – and that that is what they want. Our relationship with the client is so important and that’s why the relationships running throughout the firm are so important too – because one feeds off the other.”
And as managing partner Les says, the videos aren’t purely a marketing exercise: “A lot of it is about the team coming together and having fun. We’d probably do it even if we didn’t put them out publicly.”
Of course, not every employee wants to be dancing and lip-syncing in front of a camera and that’s something Les and Jill are very conscious of. “People aren’t cajoled into it if they don’t want to be. If people want to have a front-of-camera role and do the singing and dancing, that’s great, we’ve got a role for them. But if they don’t, we’ve got a role for them doing something else. Everybody has to feel safe and no one is ever put on the spot.”
Cassons is an example of a professional services firm that has dared to follow its nose, do something different and have fun. In so doing it has caught the imagination, made a name for itself and boosted its recruitment power. It has also led to unexpected benefits such as improved team bonding.
A comical karaoke video is clearly not the right route for every firm. However, if more firms were prepared to be brave and original with their marketing and have fun whilst doing it, the industry would have less of a beige problem. What’s more, creative individuals might think twice before dismissing the idea of working in professional services…
Les Nutter and Jill Murray are Managing Partner and Marketing Director of Cassons