With a brand refresh just a few months prior, Continental Office, a customized workplace solution provider, needed to update its 6-year-old website. The team wanted to ensure they were integrating buyer personas to provide an engaging user experience complete with relevant content marketing.
Read how they increased traffic by 103% through the redesign strategy.
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“At Continental Office, we like to say we create great spaces. We do a lot of work with various industries and offer office furniture, commercial flooring, workplace services and prefabricated construction solutions,” said Rachel Iannarino, Vice President, Marketing for Continental Office. “We also have a branding division, which helps bring your story to life within your space through wall graphics or various other interactive experiential and creative projects.”
The prefabricated construction unit is a technology-driven approach to building better. Also, workplace services help clients manage inventory assets, among many other things.
“That’s why we say we create great spaces, because whatever you need, we can come in and help you create a space that's going to align to your business goals and organizational needs,” she said.
Creating workspaces with purpose and intent is at the heart of what they do, she said, adding that “we’re not going to come in and build something just because it's beautiful, cool or trendy. We really want to get to know you, your organizational goals and your culture, and help you bring that to life so you can work more efficiently.”
Continental Office works a lot with culture and making sure that a business, along with its associates and clients, have a balance of an attractive space and a great experience.
The company makes sure to understand associate’s work habits in order to build in practicality alongside aesthetics. For instance, looking at foot traffic in certain areas before choosing flooring options shows our understanding the need for ergonomic furniture solutions.
“We look at the future of your organization too,” Iannarino said. “How are you going to evolve and change? Do you need furniture, for instance, that flexes and grows with you, or do you need prefabricated construction that can allow you to have technology embedded in the walls?”
The design teams focus on bringing humanity back into the workplace and will hold sessions with companies that they work with, which are essentially workshops for understanding how the company is working and evolving.
With this purposeful approach to creating great spaces, Continental Office works with many different types of companies. The marketing team built their 16 different personas around the titles of people they typically work with.
“It could be a CEO, it could be a facilities manager; we might also work with the purchaser and buyer, and these are throughout all of [our clients]. But if you get into health care, we may work with health care facility planners, and they think about things a little differently than our corporate facility planner might,” she said.
The team also works a lot with the architect and design community who might seek insight about furniture or flooring during the planning phases, and even HR professionals, to help bring work culture to life in a space’s design.
At 78 years old, Iannarino said, it was time to take a look at the brand to see how it had evolved and grown in the form of a brand redesign.
“We looked at our brand and what we noticed was it was really hard to tell a succinct story,” she said. “We looked like separate brands; we didn't even really appear that we were under one umbrella. So, it could appear like we had a separate flooring brand and a separate furniture brand, for instance.”
“We might have had some clients who bought furniture from us but had no idea that we offer a branding capability or workplace services capability. So, our challenge was really to tell one succinct, clear story that would allow our associates and our clients to better understand who we were,” she said.
The marketing team spent six months doing quantitative and qualitative research, interviewing associates and some clients as well “to really see how people perceived us,” she said.
“Our website was one of our main challenges. We wanted to quickly grab that user’s attention and let them grasp who we are, why we do what we do and what we offer,” she said.
Even before finishing the rebrand, the marketing team did a lot of research into the current website, why it wasn’t working and why it’s performance metrics weren’t what they wanted them to be.
“Immediately, we noticed we didn't have proper analytics set up,” Iannarino said. “We needed to better understand who's coming to our site, how many people are coming to our site and what they are doing when they get to our site.”
The team decided to move to an inbound marketing strategy to get the foot traffic on the site to boost metrics and truly answer those questions.
Step #1. Keep website design simple and intuitive
“We try to make it really simple,” Iannarino said. “If you, as a user, come to our site and want to find something, we want you to find it. We don’t want it to be buried or confusing, and obviously, we also want it to be very aesthetically pleasing.”
The team simplified the website navigation so that if a visitor clicks on the hamburger menu in the top right, they would see furniture, floors, walls, branding and services.
The previous navigation made it difficult for visitors to get to the information they needed. Some options in the original menus were worded strangely, and it was poorly organized, overall.
“We create great spaces with beautiful work environments, so our website also had to reflect that as well. It needed to look very creative, forward-thinking and be visually pleasing. So, it was a balance; it really was a balance of that great user experience and, at the same time, really showcasing who we are as a brand and why we do what we do,” she said.
The website, in an effort to be a better representation of the brand as well as aesthetically pleasing, also integrated these new elements:
The brand’s tone on the website also became more informal as well. The team wanted to strike a conversational, yet still professional, tone, Iannarino said.
“We've made an effort to be more conversational in tone and to be very approachable — because we're in this together. We want our clients to have a great experience — a great memorable experience — and we want to build those long-lasting relationships,” she said.
Another element that Iannarino and her team incorporated this year was a pop-up, or lightbox, that appears to users the first time they visit the site and promotes new content like the brand magazine or a case study.
“You're always worried that you're going to annoy somebody coming to your site with a pop-up or a form to fill out, but I haven't found that to be the case,” she said.
Adding the pop-up has been worth the risk, she added, because they have gotten a lot of leads from it.
“You can always change it … we've learned a lot just by testing. Everybody has different customers, and you just need to understand what is going to resonate with your customers.”
If, through testing, the team realizes that a website element is not working, they try to understand why it’s not working and fix it before simply abandoning it.
“It may not be that it's a bad idea; maybe we're just not going about it in the right way,” she said. “Everything we do is a test since all of it is pretty new to our organization. We're constantly just looking at what's working and what's not working for us.”
Step #2. Set up the customer journey
Previously, the team had no way of tracking and scoring prospects. With this overhaul of the website, they decided to integrate lead scoring capabilities. The team set up a series of actions that would, combined with metrics, quantify a marketing qualified lead.
“I went in and manually assigned point values to different things that people do. So, whether that is opening in an email or clicking on a social link or downloading a piece of content, those are things we assign positive numbers [point values] to. Now if somebody unsubscribes from our blog or something like that, we'll assign a negative number,” Iannarino said.
That way, the team could go into the contact database, see that a person has a score of 30 and understand that they are a marketing qualified lead. Whereas someone who has a score of eight, for example, is clearly not ready to be passed on to the sales team.
“We really worked hard to identify [these prospects]. That was something new for us … But so far this year, we have identified more than 600 marketing qualified leads. So, what that tells us is that people are engaging on the site,” she said.
Part of ranking up points as a marketing qualified lead is following along the consumer journey. Within each email campaign, Iannarino said, there are downloadable content offers as well as nurturing emails.
Alternately, if someone downloads a piece of content from the website, the team has their email address. That person will get a follow-up email a day or so after that download to thank them as well as offer them another piece of relevant content.
“For instance, they could download, let's just say, a white paper. Well, they're at that far end of the journey where the next step might be to do a follow-up email with, ‘Hey, here's a great checklist,’ and that checklist takes them further into their buyer journey,” she said.
Adding in this nurturing aspect was incredibly important, she said, especially understanding the right time to turn that prospect over to the sales team for follow up.
Step #3. Build an inbound marketing infrastructure
From 2015 to 2016, Iannarino and her team focused on building up inbound marketing efforts by creating a lot of relevant content.
“We want people to see us as value-added, and we want to be known as thought leaders because we have a great team of associates with a lot of years of knowledge and expertise. That's a big part of who we are too. In addition to creating these great spaces that are purposeful and intentional for our clients and their associates, we also want to change the way they work and think,” she said.
For instance, she added, a client or their associates might not understand why the Continental Office designers are lowering cubical walls, making open spaces, or why the company culture and history is displayed on the wall.
“So we create a lot of content, and whether it's a case study, a white paper, video or our newly launched magazine … , we create all this value-added content and blog once a week to help our clients. We want to be a resource for them,” she said.
The ‘Great Spaces’ magazine is produced twice a year with a winter/fall edition and a spring/summer. Since launching, it has “probably brought in 100 leads for us that we can then hand over to Sales,” Iannarino said.
‘Great Spaces’ answers questions, interviews Continental Office experts and even offers video content, since the magazine is digital.
Since the team was new to aggressively creating this level of value-added content, Iannarino said they felt some nervousness when they put up an information gate for customers to download content.
“We had some anecdotes too, where even our team was saying, ‘People aren't going to do that. I don't do that. I don't fill out anything,’” she said.
The team tested the addition of the information gate, and in the first year, they saw an increase of 645% in new contacts “just from having that type of content on our website that people could download in exchange for entering their email address. And what that did is it allowed us to capture them in our database so we can reach them with future communication and value-added information that's relevant to them.”
Because of that success, the team has scaled up content production immensely.
“We went from zero content in 2014 to … now we probably have 300 to 400 pieces of content out there, and those range from videos to case studies, to checklists, white papers and our biannual magazine,” she said.
To promote all of that content, this year to date the team has sent over 41,000 emails, which is up 770% compared to the previous year. To support the increased content and email marketing output, Iannarino said they went from a team of two, to a team of four.
“It's always a challenge, of course, because we do so much of it, and I'm sure any organization feels that stress — trying to organize it all, making sure you're not sending too many emails, making sure your social is coordinating back to it and that your email campaigns are purposeful” she said.
They use their inbound marketing platform to schedule everything out in advance, to lighten the load on their small team and to ensure that it all is telling a complicit story.
In order to come up with topics, the team often looks to the company’s manufacturing partners. Many of whom do a lot of their own content and research, which helps the marketing team know what some of the trends and concerns of the industry are.
As a 78-year-old company, they also have a lot of internal expertise to draw from.
“We're really fortunate and we have a lot of people who have been here … some 40 plus years. So, we take a lot of that internal knowledge; that's why you'll see blogs from a lot of our different associates as well,” she said.
“The response has been so worth it … just this year to date, we've had over 170 new contacts who came in as a result of this online marketing. Those are all potential leads for Sales and potential people who we can help,” she said.
Build up search engine marketing
A lot of the new contacts are from organic search, Iannarino said, perhaps even most of them.
“That tells us that the content we're creating and the keyword research that we're doing to understand what our audience is searching for is really working. It seems to be a good strategy for us,” she said.
Once the team had put this focus on content, they also began seeing the importance of search engine marketing.
“We really took a hard look at our SEO … did we have meta tags, did we have keywords in there at all? … So we started implementing that,” she said.
In the first year of moving to an inbound marketing model, including the increased SEO efforts, they saw a web traffic increase of 1,395% between 2014 to 2015. With the focus on building up this infrastructure for helping people find Continental Office, organic search also increased by 926%.
“[Inbound marketing] works. It works in ways I never even imagined … honestly, it's a great way to align your sales and marketing team, which, for a lot organizations — every one I've ever been in — is a struggle. But it’s accomplishable by doing this sort of content marketing, optimizing your website and by having a consistent and great brand story; it draws people in,” she said.
Step #4. Create experiences for customers — online and offline
Continental Office has decided to expand its customer experience beyond just the website, Iannarino said.
Headquarters is in Columbus, Ohio, but the company is getting ready to create a second location downtown that will act as a creative studio.
“Again, it ties back to the brand. We can digitally show you all these great photographs, but we're also going to build out a space that's really modern and creative with a very design-focused feel, so that our clients can come in and they can experience it too,” she said.
It’s a place where clients could come visit to not only visualize the kind of spaces that Continental Office creates, but actually work out of one.
“There'll be embedded technology, ergonomic furniture, flexible spaces that feel almost residential —there will be lots of really great features. Providing associates with choices as to how they work is key. We've even gone high-tech with our conference room bookings and have iPads on the outside of every conference room,” she said.
The whole goal is to create a complete and cohesive brand experience for clients, she added, from website to an in-person studio visit.
“We want to be a destination where they can come in, check it out, get to know us and even drop in to work from our location,” she said. “That's how we work, and we want to help our clients work in that environment as well.”
“You have to know what story you want to tell,” Iannarino said.
The old website was fine at the time, she said, but it wasn’t built around telling that whole story while understanding the customer journey.
“In creating that great user experience, you have to stay relevant with what people are looking for and then build your website around that, which I believe is what we did and has allowed us to have these successful results,” she said.
The results of getting to know customers and building a website around that information were:
“Even though we had such great results last year, it's already up — the number of new contacts is up over 80% from last year already. And I can't lie; I keep waiting for these numbers to kind of plateau, but fortunately for us, the results just keep trending in a positive way,” she said.
The first couple of years of this journey was about getting people to the website and then engaging with it. Last year and this year, they’ve focused on the sales and marketing alignment.
“We call it ‘smarketing,’” she said. “That's defining those marketing-qualified leads — or MQLs — and then the sales-qualified leads — SQL. So, that's the process we're at right now.”
Right now, she said, the marketing content is doing “a great job at getting people interested and engaged with us, [and] really helping them with their decision-making process — to ultimately help them achieve their goals with their organizations.”
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