I’ve got to hand it to my team here at Beacon. They wanted to redesign our website and asked me to give them some leeway, politely saying, ”Let us practice what we preach… and own it!” Okay, I’ll admit it. I tend to hover over the website. So I stayed out of it (for the most part) and they delivered – big time!
“Creative Design. Powerful Web Technology. Smarter Marketing.” That’s Beacon, and that’s exactly what the new site represents.
As a web technology & marketing firm, it’s always a challenge to redesign your own website when priorities rest with your existing clients and the new clients knocking on the door. But the Beacon Team (and I mean nearly the entire team) stepped up and made time to clearly take the Beacon website to the next level with…
- Looping Video for our home page impact area.
- More imagery and branding. Less content.
- Simplified, cleaner navigation to our services, products and who we serve.
- More examples of our work across a variety of specialty areas on the home page and in our portfolio.
- Cleaner integration of the Beacon Blog on our home page.
- Much more effective marketing approach incorporated into the website to lead visitors through the right information to various conversion points, or calls-to-action (contact form, audit requests, downloadable PDFs, etc).
- Full utilization of our SITEXPRESS product, coupled with more extensive tracking using Google Analytics Universal features.
After almost 20 years of business, with clients in ~45 U.S. states and 5 countries and a wide offering of services and products, there’s a lot of information to organize effectively so that it’s both manageable and easily digestible. To accomplish this, we stepped through the same process that we provide for our customers – first, by spending significant time in the Strategy Phase to evaluate all the underlying data, gathering insights to drive the new design. The Design & Development Phases were expedited thanks to the SITEXPRESS product, but still required ample time for designing all the creative elements to stay on brand and deliver the messaging. We then completed the process with some custom development and testing to ensure SEO-friendliness, Google Analytics tracking accuracy, 508 compliance, and cross browser & device compatibility (10 different browser/device combinations).
Quite an effort! We are already looking at some cool new features for Phase 2 to be delivered later this year!
Final exams for our Wake Forest MSBA students ended Wed. What a great opportunity. Posed with the question on how to improve the mobile marketing strategy for one of our top clients, the graduate students had to dig into our client’s live dataset in Google Analytics, produce a compelling executive level report and deliver a convincing, focused 5-minute presentation directly to the client and Beacon’s entire Digital Marketing Team. Yes, it was stressful. Nerves were apparent. But this was a real world scenario to get practice before they enter the job market. We evaluated 38 presentations over 2 days and were impressed (and proud) of what they had learned from our team during the intensive 7-week course, especially with their poise and the ideas they delivered. Afterward, our clients said they liked the variety and how the students made them think about their business, marketing and online strategy from new, different angles. They also planned to share many of the ideas (and the experience) with the company’s president.
Beacon’s DMS Team put in a lot of time to structure the class around live data sets (provided graciously by 3 of our clients) and critical thinking exercises using real-world approaches with Google Analytics, SEO and Paid Search. Beacon was also able to arrange for Deepak Aujla, Global Analytics Program Manager at Google, to give a 45 minute online presentation about the importance of analytics in the marketing industry and the increasing demand for analytics professionals. Another great learning opportunity, for everyone attending. (See previous post)
As I strolled through the Quad afterward, not only did the beauty of the campus consume me (again), but I was flooded with memories – especially of exam time and the relief when they were over. It was a similar feeling this time as I’m excited for the careers ahead of these students. They were certainly anxious to graduate and move on, as I was in 1983, but they will miss this place.
Last year, when I discovered that Wake Forest’s Business School was starting a Master’s Program in Business Analytics (MSBA), I had to see how I could help. After all, it’s my alma mater AND analytics – two of my favorite things! So I was thrilled when our many discussions and planning sessions led to Wake selecting Beacon to teach its graduate level course in Digital Marketing Analytics this Spring.
Analytics has been a critical component of Beacon’s offering since almost the day the company started back in 1998. It’s why Beacon is one of the longest active Google Analytics Certified Partners in the country. The entire Beacon Digital Marketing Team is involved with this class, led by Gus Kroustalis, Beacon’s Lead Analytics Strategist and Andrea Cole, Beacon’s Director of Digital Marketing. The team meets regularly internally to carefully plan each class around important topics, crafting in-class and homework assignments that expose the students to real world tools and thinking. For most companies nowadays, their website is the centerpiece of their marketing strategy. So this course emphasizes Google Analytics and walks the students through 7 intense weeks that includes
- Key Metrics for the Web
- Consumer Targeting
- Engagement Analysis
- Channel Analysis (SEO & Paid Search)
- Attribution Models
- Conversion Testing
The demand for critical thinking skills with respect to analytics data is enormous in today’s business world. Students that have tangible experience will hit the ground running and be able to provide immediate value to their employers. Certainly, technology and the widespread availability of data are drivers, but it’s also about “brain-power”, the ability to analyze data with all the available tools to gain insights, formulate strategy and communicate well-founded recommendations that will improve ROI and/or decision-making.
Companies are clamoring for critical and creative thinkers. Graduates of Wake Forest’s MSBA program will certainly fill this demand. The students will experience a rigorous, hands-on course that exposes them to actual live data from several of Beacon’s clients that have graciously agreed to participate. Although they will learn many different tools, the emphasis will be on stimulating their business minds to develop intelligent insights, drive creative ideas and improve business.
It’s exciting that Wake’s MSBA students have the opportunity to work alongside Beacon’s recognized experts in Digital Marketing to get first-hand experience and knowledge. It will certainly make their resumes stand out. Likewise, my DMS Team is equally excited to collaborate with, and learn from, the high-caliber students for which Wake Forest University is known.
We are thrilled to announce that Michigan State University has selected Beacon for a 3-year web services contract (w/ 2-year extension option) that includes the University’s web development (Cascade CMS Support), web hosting and analytics. Beacon will support over 30 different organizations within the Michigan State University system. Due to the recent significant increase in web demand from these organizations, MSU is partnering with Beacon to support expected continued demand over the next 3-5 years in order to increase the continuity, quality, accessibility and security of MSU websites.
Managing brand, quality, accessibility and the sheer demand for web services is causing colleges and universities to consider longer-term, dedicated web partnerships. The Beacon Team is excited about supporting Michigan State’s web projects over the next several years, but also appreciative that such a prominent university recognizes our deep experience in Higher Ed for integrated web services. Emily Ledbetter, Account Executive at Beacon, worked on the contract and will now be focused on all the various campus organizations to build relationships as well as the work queue for the Beacon Team.
Burton and Burton, the world’s largest balloon and coordinating gift distributor (~15,000 products), has contracted with Beacon to overhaul their online store. While many websites change every couple of years, Burton and Burton’s current site has experienced a solid 6 year run that has seen continuous year-over-year growth. Based on deep studies of the underlying analytics, the new website will not only upgrade to new, leading edge ecommerce features, but also facilitate expedited growth through greater reach and engagement.
We are big believers in data-driven decision-making, our digital marketing team did an extensive analysis of the website data within Google Analytics. They then collaborated with our design and technical teams to lay out a strategy based on insights from the data that will drive the new design and technical improvements.
The new site will be constructed to align with current SEO protocol, which has changed dramatically over the last year… especially as Google moved to heavier emphasis on content relevance. The new website will also bring more visual appeal to the wide range of products offered by Burton and Burton, coupled with new features that improve usability and the entire online shopping experience. The primary technical platform will be basically the same with Beacon’s BeCommerce product wrapped with Cascade CMS, combining the best of both products – flexible product/order management and flexible, easy-to-use content management that is also search-engine friendly.
Today is Gary Synan’s last day at Beacon. Retirement and the beach have wooed him away after 12 years of dedicated service with my company. It’s bittersweet. He has played an important role as a web application developer, serving hundreds of Beacon’s clients over the years, but especially with the many Bassett Furniture projects. His technical expertise will be missed.
Gary has also been one of those people that contributes to the culture of Beacon – the unique and extensive holiday decorations, especially around Christmas (much of which has been passed to other employees), the pumpkin bread, the sports discussions and his involvement in a wide range of office hijinks and events. During his retirement celebration yesterday, as people shared “Gary Stories”, it was interesting that very few were work-related. That’s the way it should be. His office-fun will be missed.
When Beacon opened in 1998, the thought of employees retiring from Beacon never crossed my mind. Gary is our second retiree. Prior to Beacon, Gary and I worked together at AT&T and were teammates on softball and basketball teams. And for the last 12 years, day-in and day-out, Gary has worked alongside me and the entire Beacon Team to help our customers…and make Beacon what it is today. That’s a long time! For that, I am very thankful! He will be missed, but we wish him the best as he now focuses his time on golf, beach, family and friends. Enjoy retirement, Gary!
We are proud to announce the launch of the new Lees McRae College website. The college is truly brought to life through the new highly visual design and unique features that are inviting and engaging to students, parents, faculty and alumni, especially when you compare it to the old site (see below). While emphasizing Lees McRae’s brand and messaging consistently throughout, the new website also has a firm foundation on best practices for higher education, accessibility and high performance across multiple devices and browsers.
The home page is full of fantastic imagery that engages and informs visitors, especially the “Find Your Place” feature that shows an aerial view of the campus, allowing you to click on various areas to learn more. Once again, teamwork was the key as Beacon and Lees McRae worked together closely through the analysis, design, development, content migration, testing and launch of this incredible new website in only 9 months!
Built with Cascade CMS, the underlying templates are extremely flexible to support a variety of content requirements. They allow Lees McRae content owners to easily manage the content while keeping the site SEO friendly. Here are a few of these creative features:
- The home page impact image loads randomly along with an information box that stays with the image, allowing each image to link to different pages.
- The home page impact image can be used for a video rather than static images, if/when the content owner desires.
- The ‘Your Future Elevated’ section on the home page transforms nicely from 10 boxes on the desktop to 5 on mobile – allowing content owners to specify which boxes they want displayed on mobile devices.
- Interior/landing pages have full width background color options. The color bands can optionally include a faded image behind the color. Both examples seen here in gray and here in green.
- Content boxes can be framed with different colors within a page. Lees McRae uses a lot of gray and dark green – you can see an example here.
- Impact images on interior pages can be content width or full width and can optionally include an inset line which is a part of LMC’s brand. Example here.
Lastly, and probably most importantly, all of the pages and features were packed into a small number of templates that facilitate modularity. This allows each page to be somewhat unique by turning various features on, or off, based on need. For example, users can choose to use (or not use) right navigation, full-width banners (mentioned above), and custom right-column widgets that can be changed and published to apply to all pages where they are included.
From our client: “Thank you ALL so much for your hard work and patience with us on this project! We’re very happy with the finished product!”
We hope you all enjoyed our April Fool’s fun last Friday. We certainly did. Members of my digital marketing team had the idea about a year ago, so incredibly funny concepts have been tossed around for a long time. Got to give lots of credit to Jordan Burleson (Digital Marketing Strategist), Logan Ray (Digital Marketing Specialist) and Keana Lynch (Lead UI Developer) for pulling this off. Also special thanks to Christy Joyce (graphics), Jordan Lowry (social media) and our Tech Support Group.
As a business owner, it’s always a little scary to push the envelope on things like this, particularly spoofing a company name change. However, it’s who we are. It’s our culture, and we like (need) to have a little fun to keep us creative as a team. Plus, with all the brilliant minds here at Beacon, collectively, this whole process was hysterical.
So, we are back to being Beacon again. Our website is back to normal, but we saved Bacon Technologies in case you missed it. Of course, as marketers, we had to assess the results for Makin’ Bacon as an April Fool’s joke. On Friday, we experienced the SECOND largest volume of traffic to our website in our 18 year history. It says a lot about the power of marketing that is either shocking, funny or drives curiosity. We had an overwhelming number of direct responses via email too. My three favorites were “stands up and does the slow clap”, “That’s funny fools ~ we do love Bacon and Beacon!”, and “You guys win the Internet today. Dare I say…Well done!” Thanks to everyone who chimed in.
And yes, we did catch a few people off guard. One asked for us to send a new W-9 with the new company name. And another asked for the Bacon logo so they could replace our Beacon logo on their website.
Now I just wonder (and am a bit concerned) about how the Beacon gang is going to raise the bar next year.