How a brand strategy and design firm designs and builds its own website. And lives to tell about it. (Seven principles of good communications to guide any site redo)By Joe Walsh
February 16, 2016
And you thought your professional service firm was complex?
We're pleased to have launched our new website last week and hope you will find it as freshing, inviting and compelling as we aimed to make it. We're certainly very proud (and tired). Here are seven principles we applied to our work that preserved our sanity and guided our progress. These tenets of good communications kept us all focused and aligned. They are the same philosophies we recommend to you if you are considering your own website makeover.
1. Design around business goals. Sounds simple, right? Every site needs business goals, yet the goals we are talking about are our clients' and prospects' goals, not to be confused with our own. The best marketing is about the market, not the firm. Right? Our new site is organized around the four things people who hire us are trying to achieve. They wish to "get clear" about what they are promising, "get noticed" in a field of competitors, "get chosen" among that same field, and, ultimately, "get results." Beyond the customary "about us" and where-to-find-things navigation, we've made those four goals the centerpiece of our new site. Our services—all we do—have been mapped to these objectives.
2. Position yourself as a leader. When seeking professional help, people hire experts. In the consideration process they assess what you know, how you think and who you've helped. This is no time to be modest or vague—you need to look, sound and deliver the responsibilities of leadership in your field. In our new site, our solutions to this challenge take many forms like a novel gallery of case studies, a robust and searchable thought leadership center and clear articulation of the industries where we excel.
3. Preview what it is like to work with you. Many of our clients say their buyers hire people not firms. The truth is that buyers of services hire both. So your site—and ours—needs to help professionals and their talents shine. A module in our site invites visitors to meet the right and left brains of our outfit—strategy and creative. More importantly, new biographies and animated biography photos are designed to be a window into the personalities of our people. Many of these personalities are conveyed in video. Every bio ends with a list of recent engagements and links to those success stories.
4. Humanize your offering. Ahh, the human thing. The hot new term is that we are not B2C or B2B marketers; instead, we are B2H or business to human marketers. The human element can be captured in many ways, like number three above. But it can also be done creatively with well done video (our careers pages), smart animations (see about us) or in the choice of imagery and copy styles. No, a pig next to a lipstick is not human, but the notion of strategy before design ties to the old, very human, saying about putting lipstick on a pig. Plus it's fun. What's more human than a laugh or a smile.
5. Tell stories and deliver proof. Here we have it easier than some of our accounting, law, consulting and association clients. We not only have good stories to tell but they are visual by definition. Close to 80 case studies form the backbone of our new website. Visitors can scroll through them without reading to see what they like. They can also sort the case studies by type of firm (industry), type of project or size of organization.
6. Balance visual and verbal communications. Frequent readers of our thought leadership know we advocate delivering substantive information graphically. Why? We have no readers in modern communications, we only have scanners. The new gbltd.com honors this reality. There is a place for words—much to the delight of our writers—but the primary advice we share is to find a way to balance visual and verbal. Speaking of balance, SEO (with its words counts and keyword demands) is handled in our own unique way. On every page of our new site we have the SEO recommended 250 words; however, that volume is hidden behind "read more" and "read less" buttons.
7. Break from convention in design. OK, we get it, this is what you might expect to hear from a brand strategy and design firm. Differentiation and originality mean a lot to us—perhaps it means everything given what we do. Breaking from convention in your organization's web design and content should mean a lot to you, too. We often hear from buyers of professional service firms and members of associations that it's hard to tell one enterprise from the next—because they look, feel and sound the same. You can make your own assessment about differentiation by checking out the sites of your competitors on sitevisits.com, our thought leadership catalog of websites. Meanwhile, we set out to create a design and content that we've not seen previously. We hope you agree we achieved that goal.