Thursday 10 November 2016, London

Professional services firms have traditionally avoided advertising, seeing it as ideal for B2C, but not right for B2B. This stigma has existed for a number of reasons including different buying decisions for B2B, making it harder to measure campaign success;  lacking an understanding of what advertising is; a fear of being seen as desperate; and a reluctance to be bold, just to name a few.

However, as competition continues to increase among professional services, it is becoming more and more difficult to ignore the benefits of advertising. David Nelson (PwC) and Kristina Oliver (Keystone Law) shared with us their keys to success for advertising (in?) professional services firms:

  • Create a compelling story
  • Make it measurable
  • Advertising alone isn’t enough

The campaigns

To aid the discussion and provide real life examples both David and Kristina focused their discussion on recent campaigns run by their respective companies: 

Create a compelling story

Both David and Kristina demonstrated the importance of ensuring your advertising campaign has a clear story that resonates with your target audience. Emphasising the age old adage that message is king. 

The only way to ensure this story resonates with your target audience is through research, research and more research. This research should come from a combination of sources: 

  • The market – What are their perceptions of you? What are their frustrations? What are they looking for? What do they want?
  • Your clients – Not just via client feedback data but first-hand where possible to get to the heart of what they like, don’t like and want from you.
  • Your own people – What are their perceptions of the company culture? What do they like about the company? What do they value? 

Kristina stated that it is integral that the story you build comes from what you are hearing from your stakeholders, and using this to showcase your companies values and culture in a compelling and different way. 

Both the Be fearless and It’s time to set law free campaigns challenged the misconception that it isn’t possible to bring emotion into professional services messaging. Through the research conducted by both campaigns they were able to develop a story that as David stated, spoke to people’s hearts and minds. Lee Grunnell (the facilitator) also stated that Grant Thornton Spain’s A different view of the Spanish crisis was another campaign that has successfully created an emotional connection.  By focusing on people, rather than the technical components of professional services, both were able to deliver compelling stories to their target audiences. 

Make it measurable

It is important to set clear objectives at the beginning of your campaign to measure against. The ability to demonstrate a return on investment will improve your chances on being able to increase buy in within the firm, for both current and future campaigns. 

David’s key piece of advice was to bring partners into this process. Make sure key internal stakeholders are involved in the development of KPI’s (as well as developing the creative itself) so, that they have ‘skin in the game’, and as a result help deliver on the success of the campaign. 

Kristina highlighted the importance of working out what the desired return on investment is at the beginning. This will ensure your campaign is run in a way that enables this to be delivered. Setting KPI’s up from the start and then measuring their success will help improve both current and future campaign success. 

Advertising alone isn’t enough

Advertising is just one channel within the integrated marketing communication mix, and it is important not to forget this point. 

David highlighted the importance of considering the different levels of content required from campaigns to extend the value of the initial investment. PwC’s campaign used the increasingly popular YouTube – hero, hub, hygiene pyramid to drive this development. This resulted in the use of multiple channels – OOH; website content in the form of case studies and videos; and social media activation both internally and externally. One of the biggest successes of the campaign showcased by David, was its ability to be seen as more than ‘just’ a marketing campaign by people internally. The partners were key drivers in this ensuring their people took on board the campaign’s ethos – living and breathing it in their day-to-day work lives. This comes back to the importance of getting key stakeholder buy in early. 

Kristina highlighted the importance of ensuring that when people engage with your campaign, they can be driven somewhere with a call to action. In the case of Keystone Law this was through a number of tools on their website that encouraged further engagement and action, which led to an increase in recruitment for the company, as well as a positive change in perception of the company within the legal community. 

In summary, both David and Kristina demonstrated the real return on investment that can be achieved as a result of embracing advertising in professional services.

Karen Kalkaus, Senior Executive - Global Brand Marketing  
Grant Thornton International