Case study


Selling to new sectors


Established in 1984, UK-based MHR provides integrated payroll and HR solutions.



At the time the MHR’s flagship product was iTrent, the leading payroll software it had developed in house. While retaining its existing subscriber base the company sought to move into new verticals in order to hit ambitious growth targets. Previous marketing left the product competing head-to-head on features with big name software providers, as well as making it difficult for corporate audiences to distinguish between MHR and iTrent. It also risked overshadowing what the company could offer in the wider realm of human resources – such as analytics and training services.


Emberson held a series of workshops with key stakeholders at MHR’s Nottingham HQ. The aim was to move beyond selling software benefits to end users, and instead draw out the company’s wider value to different organisations. The project also included on-site interviews with specialists across 14 industries ranging from construction to central government. By working with sales teams to understand the individual drivers of each sector MHR could identify specific issues to frame their offer; using psychological acumen to gain competitive advantage.


What emerged was that by supporting employees – the people at the heart of every company – MHR enabled a diverse range of customer organisations to achieve their specific aims. This idea of being an enabler and performance enhancer was captured in a new brand positioning for the MHR brand: “Strengthen the core”. In a relationship-based market Emberson Brand gave MHR a more human position.

Rather than giving the same blanket messages to police forces and private healthcare companies, a new area of the MHR website was created to address each industry individually and directly, focused around their priorities. Emberson Brand created a series of messaging matrices so that MHR could quickly create targeted content for each vertical.

“Together we’ve done some great work: creating brands, defining categories, provoking the market and pushing boundaries” – Tim Johnson

construction DPS

Higher Ed DPS


Following the positioning project MHR’s sales team increased sales by 20% between 2017 and 2018. Today the company is embracing its more human-centred ethos as it continues to grow into new sectors and internationally.

“Our focus is to resonate with people, not businesses. No one else in the industry is doing people-focused positioning. Instead of selling flashy functionality, we are putting the heart back into HR.” – MHR