The most effective businesses are constantly evolving to meet the needs of their customers. Just as fashion changes so do your customers’ habits, not to mention technology. No longer happy to see static pages of content on a website, customers want more variety; they want bigger and better sites; they want something that is new and different; and most of all, they want truly engaging online experiences.
By the same token, technology and innovation is moving at a breakneck pace encouraging websites to be smarter, more effective, more targeted. As we think about the future of websites, it's becoming more and more evident that we need to take the steps today to impress potential customers tomorrow, finding new, more creative ways to present information through content and design, and building websites that truly convert visitors into leads, and leads into customers.
So, to the drawing board we went. Many doodles, diagrams and discussions later, we ended up with something completely new. The following interview with Derek Brown, Managing Director here at Pronto sums up our new direction for 2014.
We have seen a lot of activity in the digital marketing world recently. What does Pronto have in store for its customers in 2014?
In recent months, we have taken steps to form a well-rounded creative team, which will be in charge of Pronto's creative evolution. With a creative team in place comes a new direction - Pronto's websites will experience exhilarating changes that will be more distinct, but nevertheless, we will still stay true to our personality. We can’t wait to show our clients what we have in store for them!
What triggered the decision to put together a creative team and develop a new creative process?
Frankly, we believed that we could raise the bar on our website quality. To do this, we built a fantastic new WordPress platform we call Phoenix that gives us more design and creative flexibility, really at the level you'd expect with very expensive custom development projects. While developing this platform we knew we needed to change to deliver better websites, design and content - and more importantly, websites that offer more effective conversion.
In the past, we tended to have teams working in silos - Editorial, Graphic Design, and so on. We wanted to bring more collaboration to these teams, and a more unified approach to realizing the business objectives of the website for our clients.
One of the things we did was bring in some new people with cross-functional experience. In the past, roles were more specific: copywriter and graphic designer for example. These new people are helpful because they have a less narrow view on building great websites, and with their broad experience can build these principles into the team's DNA. They also bring a healthy level of creative abrasion and fresh thinking.
We have also completely reinvented, redesigned and reengineered the way we take our websites from concept to launch. Our new process includes a deeper survey of our new clients' businesses; target audience, value proposition, competition, what their secret sauce is, and so on. We take this and develop an internal Creative Brief that informs the extended creative and project team on how the website needs to be developed to support the business. As we get more thoughtful and detailed in this area, clients get better websites.
What are the advantages of having a creative team in place?
This change has really forced the whole company to think more holistically about each project. You are not a just a writer putting words in a document to be added to a website, you're part of a team trying to build a really effective website that's at the center of our client's Internet presence. That's good development for our people - to think more, to be creative and to share ideas.
We are big believers in strong processes - with over 1,000 clients and thousands of support requests a month, we have to be! As we built the new creative team we also tackled processes so that we can deliver a consistent level of quality in an efficient and cost-effective way.
What impact will this have on Pronto's future websites?
We are of course very proud to build great looking websites - clean, modern design and great copy that project a professional image for our clients - which is really important because the website is the foundation and center of any Internet presence strategy.
Beyond that a website needs to convert visitors into leads. We now spend more time up front understanding our client's target market, value proposition and business objectives so that we can design and build a website optimized for that audience and objectives. We are also spending a lot of time on the science of conversion - what copy works, what buttons get clicked, how much copy is enough, so that the websites really perform for our clients. The right home page design, for example, can convert 10-20% of new visitors, while a poorly designed home page converts just 0-1%.
I am looking forward to a very exciting 2014. We recently celebrated our 5th anniversary, so we are implementing changes that will be very exciting and new, to say the least. Beyond a new creative strategy for our websites, we have other exciting things lined up for our customers. Be sure to stay tuned for future announcements from us, 2014 is going to be an exciting year!