Associate Manager, Marketing

How We Did It: Redesigning a B2B Digital Identity (Our Own!)

At the end of an eventful year, Rise has debuted a new digital identity, notably reflected in the fresh look and feel of the website you’re reading right now. For many marketers, launching a new website is an all-consuming, but rewarding, project to take on.

In a very special Q&A, I’m pulling back the curtain on Rise’s Marketing team, my team. Natalie Scherer (VP, Marketing at Rise) and Jen Pino (Director, Marketing at Rise) share the process of rebranding and redesigning Rise’s digital identity.

How did we know it was the right time to update Rise’s website?

NS: We have aggressive growth goals as a company, and an accelerating portion of the B2B customer journey is happening online. Our website is our digital storefront; it’s where we introduce ourselves to brands. We have extensive marketing programs in place to reach our target audience, and when we successfully catch the attention of the right decision makers and get them to visit our website, the experience has to be flawless. The site needs to immediately communicate to potential customers that we’re industry leaders that understand their challenges and can uniquely solve their business problems.

Let’s talk about the elephant in the room: 2020 was a difficult year, and it would have been totally reasonable to push this to a time when our industry was more stable. Why such a huge investment right now?

NS: Indeed a difficult year. Rise’s leadership team, with CEO Larry Fisher at the helm, has made careful decisions throughout the year to accomplish two goals: (1) protect our people, and (2) help clients accelerate out of this time. Alongside our clients, we chose to be among the bold brands leading the way and taking advantage of this time by taking a step back to “get the house in order,” digitally speaking. It’s on us to show by example how that can happen.

JP: But, of course, we’re still a business operating during this time and had to map out this project in a way that kept us on track while continuing to crush results for clients. Following our own best practices and data-driven prioritization strategies, we took a phased approach to designing and rolling out the new brand and site.

Jen, you had me at “data-driven prioritization.” How did we map that out?

JP: We had to prioritize which elements would come first based on business impact. This required upfront alignment that the primary performance goal of the website is for potential customers to submit a Contact Us form. We then completed a quantitative analysis of the pages and elements that most impacted the conversion process—the homepage, service line pages, and blogs showed the strongest association with visitors opting to contact Rise. Those insights informed the priority items to tackle in our first phase; we wanted to maximize the experience on each of those pages for our target audience in both design and content.

NS: We balanced the same tradeoffs as our clients: time-to-market vs. thoroughness. There were other projects and improvements we knew were important, but we wanted an improved experience in-market as soon as possible. This meant pushing certain items to a second phase. This approach sets us up for what will ultimately be an ongoing web development strategy with more frequent releases that are smaller in scope, rather than major launches every few years.

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You mentioned alignment on project goals with key stakeholders, which can be a sticky step for organizations. Was this a smooth process for you? Any advice for marketers who are navigating challenging stakeholder conversations?

JP: While tackling this project within a marketing organization made the alignment process more straightforward, we still needed buy-in on certain project “north stars,” such as establishing a prospective Rise client as the main persona the site would be built for. The implications of this decision may not always be obvious. For example, we determined that our primary navigation was too crowded and that we could streamline it for prospective clients by moving the Careers section to a less prominent area of the site header. This decision required thoughtful stakeholder partnership. We shared data showing typical conversion behavior of career seekers with our talent acquisition team to make them comfortable with the change. Having upfront alignment of the site’s primary persona made that conversation easier and more efficient.

NS: As far as advice on stakeholder buy-in: don’t start work on a website project until you have it. This step is hard, but you can work through it by bringing objectivity to what can be an emotions- or opinions-driven conversation. Getting the right people in the room may take a couple of attempts. Some of the usual suspects include finance, IT, human resources, service line or product leadership, marketing, and sales. Bring data to support your recommendations, and guide stakeholders through the process of force-ranking priorities. Facilitate that discussion with example trade-offs and implications of different decisions to work through as many messy conversations up front as possible.

I am seeing the importance of the “prep work” of using data to prioritize project scope and aligning on goals with stakeholders. Now let’s get to the fun part. How did you approach the visual redesign strategy?

NS: We had the unique advantage of using our own award-winning customer experience team to revisit Rise’s visual identity. Our brand aesthetic needed to better communicate our agency’s sophistication while enabling a frictionless customer experience. This translated to design concepts that exude confidence and expertise while maintaining a light, open, and modern feel. The subtle animations and design elements built by our team surprise and delight users as they scroll while enhancing the primary goal of demonstrating to our target audience that we understand their marketing challenges and can uniquely solve them.

JP: But a site needs to be more than pretty; it needs to function according to business KPIs. We improved compliance standards with keyboard-enabled navigation, alt-text, and new brand colors. We also made a significant update to the technology behind our website by moving to Kentico Xperience, which includes a new Page Builder tool for more user-friendly editing of our website content. Oh, and ask us about SEO!

We’ve talked a lot about the strategy of the onsite experience. Was organic visibility or SEO a priority in this project?

JP: Natalie mentioned some of the tradeoffs we made in our project scoping. While user experience was central to our go-live timeline, we fast-tracked some of our SEO strategy improvements for phase one. Our highest intent search queries tend to be about our services, so we redesigned all of our service pages to be easier to read while also using more header tags to feature important SEO keywords. We also completed a major Keep, Combine, Delete (KCD) exercise during our migration—re-assessing over 4,800 pages and automating the combination/deletion of over 500 pages to improve SEO performance.

NS: I am passionate about the importance of hiring a performance marketing agency to build a high performance website. At Rise, this comes to life through our cross-functional process. Our SEO, Analytics, Content, Design, UX, Development, and QA teams sit side-by-side (albeit virtually right now). Template and navigation decisions, messaging, measurement plans, design choices, migration strategies, and testing & deployment plans all benefit from cross-team collaboration. This integrated expertise is what makes our approach to customer experience so inimitable and award-winning.

The week before launch, our SEO lead identified an opportunity to improve our page performance by cleaning up our GTM container. Analytics and SEO were on the phone within hours to make a game plan that puts our site in an even better position prior to Google’s May Core Web Vitals algorithm update.

Looking ahead, how will we on the Marketing team track success with this new site?

JP: Get your post-launch strategy set in the pre-launch phase. For the days and weeks following launch, we made a plan to know our alarm bells: what level of deviation is cause for alarm? Which metrics need to be stable for the site to work?

From a standpoint of measuring success in the months to come, what will be the key indicators for growth? We’ll be tracking the site’s performance for users and for conversions: Page Load Speed, Conversion Rate, and Conversion Volume are just a few examples. We look forward to being our own case study in early 2021!

Learn more about Rise’s approach to customer experience.

12/14/2020 at 11:10