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From the Idearc Media project that produced over 200 websites during Q1 to the doubling of its Web Marketing Services Team by year-end, Beacon Technologies was busy from wire to wire. There was a steady stream of web-related projects and notable customers being carefully scheduled and managed week-to-week and month-to-month. As a result, the successes weren’t published on our website regularly, being pushed to the back burner in order to move on to the next exciting project. After all, our focus was on what Beacon’s staff has done consistently since 1998 – delivering high quality products and services that automate, grow and showcase our clients’ businesses.
It was quite a year! Some people may view the lack of news articles as a sign of little achievement. However, this was certainly not the case here at Beacon. Yes, it was busy, but here are just a few of the highlights that were lost during the storm of activities in 2009.
Trailways (VA): Beacon’s web development team launched a new site design under Cascade Server CMS, uniquely integrating flash capabilities such that the client can update images themselves. The new website also provided multiple online forms, an interactive map of bus routes (controlled entirely through the CMS), and an interactive list of member companies which was important to the customer in driving visitors to its member companies. The site also included a member-only login to allow access to announcements, photos, documents and a fully functional message board. Beacon’s web marketing team also ensured that the site was search engine friendly – increasing traffic by over 150% and driving Google Page Rank to a 7. Trailways is North America’s oldest independent group of privately owned motorcoach companies, operating over 2,000 luxury-styled motorcoaches, serving more than 1,000+ destinations throughout North America and parts of Europe; and safely carrying more than 16 million passengers annually.
Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (NC): Beacon produced yet another custom website design that is now an immensely popular multimedia site. The new design added some social networking components, including one that embeds the video on another site, while linking to seven different social networking sites. The SEBTS website contains hundreds of videos. These videos are quickly and easily uploaded through an Administrative section and automatically converted to Flash for immediate display on the public website. The public site also contains its own internal search functionality with tabbed and categorized listing pages – all custom-developed by Beacon’s web development team – integrated under Beacon’s CMS industrial strength software of choice, Cascade Server. Annette Fowler, Senior Project Manager at Beacon, states, “This is one of the most flexible CMS designs we’ve ever done.” Home page flash modules can be updated directly by the client through Cascade Server. Emergency status messages are displayed site-wide by just a simple single change by an Administrator. Microsites can be created by the client quickly and easily for any department of the university that wants its own look-and-feel (no involvement by Beacon is required). A low-bandwidth template is published automatically through the CMS from the main site’s content. And lastly, given the deep software development and integration experience of Beacon’s staff, “iFramed” pages were developed in CMS that allows the client to build their own dynamic pages (in ColdFusion) and display them on the live Production site – with seamless integration with the design and navigational schema. With over 50 large videos consuming 250-300 MB each, it is another testament to Beacon’s capabilities in providing high-end, state-of-the-art web hosting via TW Telecom’s co-location facility.
NMEDA (FL): The National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association is an association for dealers that sell or manufacture mobility equipment. With a custom website design by Beacon’s creative team, the website utilizes Cascade Server CMS, allowing the client extensive flexibility to maintain text and images. Since the site caters to different audiences (consumers, members, and prospective members), the information architecture and web design required special attention. Along with a dealer locator application, Beacon also added a feature within CMS to allow visitors to enlarge the print on any given page (without impacting the design).
Higher Education / University Projects: Over the years, Higher Education and University-related projects have been a staple for Beacon. In the early days, Beacon landed major projects with Texas Southern University, Duke University, NC State University, the U.S. Department of Education (FAFSA development as a sub to Accenture), UNC-Greensboro, NC A&T University and many others. Beacon’s Cascade Server CMS experience was in high demand during 2009 from the many universities that use it around the country, including the following:
- Rollins University (FL)
- St. Mary’s (MD)
- Framingham State College (MA)
- University of Houston (TX)
- George Brown College (Toronto)
- University of Hartford (CT)
Silverpop (GA): Silverpop, one of the leading permission-based email marketing solution companies, now operates some of its business through dedicated servers managed by Beacon’s Hosting Team in its Greensboro-based data center. With its corporate headquarters in Atlanta, GA, Silverpop also contracted with Beacon to redesign/develop its corporate website under Cascade Server CMS. With several of Beacon’s clients using Silverpop for their email marketing, this is another great example of the breadth and depth of services provided by Beacon’s technical staff as well as the power of partnerships. This particular installation of Cascade Server publishes to two different production servers at the same time to balance the load on their live website. Beacon is currently working with the client to create multilingual sites using Cascade (with up to 10 languages planned).
RF Micro Devices (NC): Beacon completed a new graphical design under Cascade Server CMS for RF Micro Devices’ new public website. The new site includes multi-language functionality and the conversion of several applications to .NET, coupled with an effective SEO structure that has strengthened the site’s visibility in the major search engines. RF Micro Devices, Inc. (RFMD®) is a global leader in the design and manufacture of high-performance semiconductor components. RFMD’s products enable worldwide mobility, provide enhanced connectivity and support advanced functionality in the cellular handset, wireless infrastructure, wireless local area network (WLAN), CATV/broadband and aerospace and defense markets.
New Bridge Bank (NC): New Bridge Bank, a well-known NC community bank extended its web marketing services engagement with Beacon after seeing steady growth in its web traffic since the relationship began in early 2008. Since then, online traffic has nearly doubled as a result of the techniques practiced by Beacon’s web marketing staff, a collaborative relationship with the client and effective configuration and usage of Google Analytics. Beacon also designed and developed the New Bridge Bank Jamboree website (under Cascade Server) to assist in its annual fundraising events for local high schools, The NewBridge Bank Invitational Football and Cheerleading Jamboree.
American University of Antigua (NY): Over the last few years, as Beacon’s web marketing expertise has become more recognized nationwide, businesses throughout the U.S. are seeking Beacon’s SEO, PPC and Google Analytics services. Headquartered in New York City, AUA is the first and only hospital-integrated US modeled medical program in the Caribbean where clinical experience starts in the first semester. Beacon was hired in 2009 to provide significantly more visibility across the internet to prospective students. Since the inception of Beacon’s services, traffic from search engines has grown by over 600% and conversion rates have steadily climbed to an all-time high in Jan 2010 (250% improvement). Beacon configured Google Analytics to effectively track AUA’s marketing objectives and constructed a web marketing strategy that attracts highly qualified visitors (cost-effectively).
Woodworker’s Supply (NM): As one of the leading suppliers of woodworking products for expert woodworkers, Woodworker’s Supply contracted with Beacon to improve its organic rankings (SEO) and provide Google Analytics consulting with regard to tracking business metrics such that their web marketing strategy can be managed effectively. With more than 25,000 products for the expert woodworker, including woodworking tools, hard-to-find hardware, abrasives, adhesives, wood clamps, finishing supplies and hundreds of other categories (and subcategories), this project offered a quite a challenge to Beacon’s internet marketing staff. Regular and close collaboration with the client’s marketing and development staff has been a primary key to success. Initial emphasis was placed on identifying on-page and structural modifications to improve search engine friendliness while using the client’s complex, home-grown dynamic ecommerce platform. This approach has resulted in a much higher number of qualified visitors as evidenced by an increase in conversion rate of over 250% and a 50% drop in bounce rate. Woodworker’s Supply is based in New Mexico with offices in Wyoming and North Carolina.
Grandover Resort (NC): As one of Beacon’s first clients in the late 90’s, Grandover Resort contracted with Beacon to design and develop a new totally unique website that utilized flash with high resolution imagery to deliver a user experience that truly showcases the beauty and richness of Grandover Resort. The site integrated Flash technology with HTML pages for content data such that the content could be modified easily without requiring changes to the Flash interface. The new site contains background music, print functionality (with Flash!) and a dynamic navigation structure that is based on which area of the site the user is in at the time. The unique navigational structure was certainly a departure from the traditional inverted “L” concept and with Beacon’s SEO expertise, a fully functional static site was included to allow the search engines to effectively index pertinent information about Grandover Resort.
Team Connection (NC): Beacon was brought on board to assist Team Connection’s IT needs for in several areas. Essentially, Team Connection hired Beacon to stabilize its existing business systems, primarily addressing system fixes resulting from a recent upgrade, enhancements required to support daily business functions, the resurrection of MAS90 to further facilitate the data validation plan, and the launch of the client’s new website. Beacon’s deep experience in software development processes and methodology set the stage for a very structured approach to this 4-month project. Keep in mind that Team Connection’s systems were NOT developed by Beacon, so there was a short ramp-up period to quickly understand the underlying technology, business rules and process flows. With an experienced team, led by Tracy Dirks (Senior Project Manager / Engineer) with several Senior Software Engineers and Developers, the project was very successful, being completed on time and within budget.
Smith Millwork (NC): Smith Millwork is a NC-based, two-step distributor of quality door slabs, door unit components, lineal mouldings, S-4-S square boards, step treads and other various millwork products – primarily to door pre-hanging shops and retail lumber yards. Beacon was contracted to provide its Beacon Express eCommerce solution for this project, which included a basic design, product database setup, site map, site search function, a set of static pages along with a self-managed ecommerce engine. Beacon’s express product also includes hosting, email, spam filtering, domain management, Google Analytics setup, local search engine setup and unlimited updates for a low setup fee and a fixed monthly fee. This particular project is a great example of a website that showcases its products through an ecommerce engine (online catalog), but does not contain a shopping cart. This allows the owner to update his product offering as needed (in contrast to a print catalog solution).
Davie County (NC): Beacon was contracted to develop a set of websites for Davie County, essentially providing a common look and feel stemming from the main Davie County website. As part of this project, Beacon also developed similar websites for the Davie County Chamber of Commerce and the Davie County Economic Development Commission. A significant amount of time was spent on the front end of this project, developing a layout that would meet the requirements for all of the stakeholders. This collaborative effort was time well spent as a standard model kept the overall cost down for the three entities, allowing all three sites to be setup under Cascade Server CMS so that the websites could be maintained directly by each of the client groups. This Davie County “portal” also links to independent websites for the Towns of Mocksville, Cooleemee and Bermuda Run.
When the 2009 Holiday Season was winding down, Beacon announced that two NC firms have selected Beacon to re-design and develop their new websites in early 2010. After completing the Analysis & Design Phase during Q4 2009, Robert H Ham has contracted with Beacon to produce a new ecommerce website with several unique functions and integration directly with their existing backoffice systems (product upload, order download). In addition, Beacon will provide full-service web marketing going forward to grow qualified web traffic, visibility and online sales. Robert H Ham has been providing America’s retailers with quality merchandising, display, and packaging solutions for 55 years. Ham’s partnerships with overseas manufacturers have enabled it to offer garment racks, mannequins, showcases, gondolas, packaging products and many other items at advantageous prices by buying in vast quantities to fill each of its warehouses. The new website is expected to be launched during the first quarter of 2010.
Montgomery Family Law, located in Cary NC, has also contracted with Beacon Technologies to redesign its website in order to bring it current, make it easier to update on a regular basis and make it search engine friendly.