“Deborah Fell has been this facilitator of change. She helped us to start using new technology, which means that marketing is now four times as effective to half of the cost.”
Jan Ryde, CEO, Hästens
A 170-year-old Swedish luxury bed manufacturer, Hästens, is on a mission to change the world through better sleep. In a period of transition, CEO Jan Ryde, sought to rebuild the company’s marketing function and pursue digital transformation. Bringing in Chief Outsiders Area Managing Partner & CMO, Deborah Fell, first as marketing coach, then as CMO to lead the digital marketing effort, he worked relentlessly to transform the business and achieve 50% growth and historic profitability even during the pandemic.
Making the World Better with the Best Beds
Hästens is a family-run Swedish bed company founded in 1852. CEO, Jan Ryde, represents the fifth generation of family leadership. He relentlessly pursues a mission to help the world sleep better by making highest-quality, hand-crafted beds from the best natural materials.
“We are here to make the world a happier, more peaceful and more loving world,” related Ryde. “And we do that with our beds.”
The company strives for true mastery. Nothing goes out the door that's not perfect. If you're an A-list celebrity, world leader, sports team owner, or a general manager, you want the best, and you can afford it.
“When we develop product, we always put the consumer first,” Ryde continued. “We want to make the best bed possible for consumers to own. And we truly make people's lives better, because when people sleep the best, we give them much better lives.”
Marketing in Transition
“We wanted to rebuild the marketing function,” reported Ryde. “And we wanted to ground the marketing with our soul or the spirit of the company. And then came the opportunity.”
Having worked with her 10 years before, Ryde reached out to Chief Outsiders Area Managing Partner & CMO, Deborah Fell. “We needed someone like Deborah,” related Ryde. “I brought her in as the Chief Marketing Officer and as a coach to help our team.”
At the time Ryde was also deploying retail technology initiatives with Apple, Deloitte, and Salesforce. He wanted a marketing leader who could interact with these partners to support, package, and communicate the company’s innovation progress.
The marketing staff faced a steep learning curve to be able to effectively utilize the digital marketing technologies. So, one of Fell’s key challenges was to help the team grow its capabilities and resources in this area.
Leading the Digital Marketing Transformation
After initially coaching the Hästens marketing staff for a month, Ryde invited Fell to take on the role of CMO. “I came in when leadership was creating an enterprise digital strategy,” reported Fell. “And they wanted me to take over the company digital marketing transformation.”
This also included broader CMO responsibilities such as:
- Integrated marketing strategy and go-to-market plan focused on supporting consumer research and buying journey
- Pilot and initial roll-out of Hästens first digital campaign activities and analysis
- Global Executive Team member
- Marketing organization, including store design, digital/web, creative/media, field marketing, PR, merchandising and budget
- Management of external marketing support resources
Persistence Through the Pandemic
Ryde successfully steered the company and its retail resellers through a global pandemic that tested the will and cash flow of many companies. Remarkably, the company grew revenue and profitability significantly year-over-year 2020 vs 2019 and is poised to improve on that in 2021.
With many markets doubling in growth while achieving historic profitability, Ryde championed the company’s enterprise digital transformation, including digital marketing, which was crucial.
“He was relentless as a leader guiding this company through a challenging time,” reported Fell. “He created the big OKR goal that each discipline leader translated for their team, yet balanced it with a daily goal, so that everyone was absolutely clear on what to focus on each day.”
While Ryde credits the leadership team, they in turn say it is his vision, leadership inspiration, sharp intuition and relentless focus that drives business success.
Adapted to Modern Consumers
Fell proceeded knowing that the way consumers research and buy starts online, requiring that marketing support sales much further down the funnel.
Thus, the customer journey and digital experience were handcrafted like Hästens’ products, with a relentless focus on supporting the consumer in the buying process.
Every step of the way when consumers are doing their research online, Hästens sought to be there with relevant messaging to engage the customer.
According to Fell, “the universe rewards speed” is commonly quoted by Ryde, and he encourages, admonishes, and requires his team to move quickly.
“In retail, you have to always be encouraging and inspiring the sales team with new tools and what's coming next,” related Fell. “We leveraged digital for that, developing new ideas and pumping them out, to include PR and virtual events.”
“We formed a team that works very closely with sales, listens, and is very supportive, but also leads from a marketing standpoint,” she added.
Spending Less for a Better Result
4X Marketing Effectiveness at Half the Cost
“Before Deborah came in, we had more than 10 years of no growth and now we are in rapid growth mode,” Ryde reported. “I expect us to keep making this world a better place because people need to sleep better.”
The digital marketing transformation led by Fell increased the marketing professionalism and leadership in this unique and successful family-run business. “She helped us to start using new technology, which means that marketing is now four times as effective to half of the cost,” related Ryde.
Marketing Staff Now World Class
Fell focused on helping more of the core staff understand and embrace modern digital marketing practices.
“They had the commitment, saw the vision, and sped up mightily,” she reported. “And while the company continues to refine and broaden its marketing mix, this is now a core component of how the company markets today.”
“Our people that hadn’t done this before [modern digital marketing] are world class today,” confirmed Ryde.
At one point, the staff queried two companies to learn about their marketing best practices. They responded, “You want to find out what we're doing—we want to know what you're doing!”
“Quite frankly,” added Fell. “This mid-sized company, located in a unique town in central Sweden, is doing more with digital marketing than many much larger companies.”
50% Pandemic Growth
Remarkably, in 2020 the company grew 50% over 2019. “That is amazing with supply disruptions and everything else!” related Fell. But they somehow managed to get product to sell and ship to customers.
Currently the company enjoys an overall 30% growth rate. “And they have countries that are at more than 100% growth,” added Fell.
Fell credits the CEO for relentless focus on goals, and for the commitment from each member of the executive team to achieve them. She is firm in saying that marketing effectiveness depends on leading and collaborating as part of the overall team in support of company goals.
Putting Pieces Together for Growth
What Fell accomplished is standard procedure for Chief Outsiders.
“This is what we do for clients,” she explained. “We partner with the CEO and team to put plans and programs together that generate growth. At Hästens, we worked side by side to help the business grow in the toughest of times.”
Ryde, the Hästens CEO who grew his company 50% during the pandemic after 10 years of no growth, shares this advice to other CEOs. “If you have something that needs to be solved, just reach out to Chief Outsiders and hire Deborah Fell immediately!”