Transforming NAED: The Discovery Process
+Project & Client Summary
The National Association of Electrical Distributors (NAED) is the resource for education, networking, advocacy, and research within the electrical distributor industry. The association managers over 70k users in multiple platforms. Platforms affecting this project overall included the following and also were part of upgrade and migration projects happening simultaneously:
- Association Management System (AMS): iMIS
- Content Management System (CMS): RiSE
- Learning Management System (LMS): Skillsoft
- Community Forum: Higher Logic
- Event Management System: Migration to eTouches / Aventri
- Single Sign-on SSO: Okta
I consulted with NAED to understand their business goals overall, assess their current online situation. I then created plans for how to apply their goals to their digital marketing, search engine optimization and user experience. This project demonstrates the overall process I used to assess multiple organizational problems, deliver solutions that accomplished shared goals within budget and primarily to deliver a better user experience (UX) to their members.
Additional partners and vendors included:
- Front-end Development Team: ClickRay Agency
- Hubspot API Integration: High Road Solutions Agency
- NAED Marketing Technologist
- NAED IS & Database Manager
NAED knew their members were unhappy with their website experience and the search experience but struggled to find a solution or move forward. The entire organization had been handicapped by dated technology and easily fell into a consistent set of band-aid fixes that continually jeopardized their long-term marketing and technology goals. The overall marketing tech stack was a legacy system that had not been upgraded in over 7 years. NAED felt hopeless, defeated and had no idea how to formalize a plan to fix these problems.
Discovery: 3 – 4 Months
Implementation: 1.5+ years (with ongoing phases of optimization)
- Led workshops with product managers, member-facing employees and conducted interviews that uncovered a wealth of organizational problems that affected conversions, user experiences (UX) and customer experiences (CX)
- Utilized a deck of previously conducted market research from members and conducted market research with member-facing employees
- Initiated new research and feedback using Qualtrics, SurveyMonkey, heatmapping and Hotjar
- Shadowed employees selling products or working with members to understand member consultations on education products and the entire customer experience
- Conducted research on audience intent, purchase intent and product lifecycles
- Led whiteboard workshops with senior leadership and MarTech team to uncover and document the overall strategy for the technology stack, prioritize and set goals
- Uncovered 1-year and 5-year goals on the overall approach and direction of the business and industry
- Utilized existing Google Analytics to understand overall site traffic and most-accessed content and website functions
- Compared sales data with sales process and evaluated how products were typically purchased, identified online cross-selling opportunities and ways to easily track user behavior online
- Conducted a heuristic evaluation on the website and organic search presence
- Conducted a content evaluation, audit and content assessment
WHEW! ; )
+ Goals & KPIs
#1 Goal: Help users find the RIGHT information at the RIGHT time
#2 Goal: Increase online downloads and purchases
I worked with NAED to establish their business goals through 4 months of discovery and then formalized these goals for their online presence. Here’s some other smaller goals that were also tackled:
- Identify where members found value online
- Fix organic search, site search and overall SEO enabling the members to find the right information as the right time
- Create content and reporting that gave insights/data into KNOWN user behaviors
- Utilize marketing automation and content strategy for email campaigns and reduce incessant, unplanned, generalized email blasts that frustrated the membership
- Apply a UX and content strategy that made users want to engage, purchase and find value in their membership so more digital products based on behaviors and data could be built and offered in the future
- Create a custom engagement funnel rather than a lead generation funnel
- Convert all forms to real-time data collection, conversions and trigger CRM and sales activity
NAED’s problems were not specific to UX and SEO but that was what they thought they needed to solve immediately. Solving for the content and search with Hubspot platform implementation actually involved all touchpoints and departments within the organization. Since the website, UX and search were my focus I created assessments to identify and improve these areas. I worked closely with the Marketing Technologist to weave these plans into his overall decoupled infrastructure plans.
+SEO and Content Strategy: An initial SEO inventory was conducted using Google Analytics, Moz and Screaming Frog along with a content strategy that involved repurposing existing content, identifying content gaps, creating new, targeted SEO copy that increased organic search for member engagement online, simplified user journeys for purchase paths/resource downloads and made significant improvements on content-driven search words within the industry. NAED.org previously had over 6,000 pages indexed by Google from as early as 2014 with a bounce rate of 88% and a membership exceedingly frustrated by the online presence.
NAED’s blog and newsletter had a very low readership and subscription (less than 40 members) and the content did not reflect what members needed. I created a custom editorial content calendar for the in-house marketing team to schedule communications with consistent messaging and themes throughout the content so a cadence of new content could be established with members. Much of the existing content was still relevant to members so I conducted a content audit and helped revamp existing materials. Videos were repurposed in new website galleries relevant to subject matter and placed near products that involved more research before purchase leading to a direct increase in YouTube views from direct traffic from the website.
+Brand: NAED’s brand had not been updated in years leaving the website looking very dated in the early 2000s. The brand’s red accent color overpowered the visual hierarchy and became overutilized leaving the user confused and overwhelmed with too many competing visuals and screaming buttons. NAED could not complete a rebrand prior to the website migration so I worked with a front-end development company ClickRay to customize templates with a transitional brand design. This design was created to work alongside the existing offline brand. The NAED red was downgraded to an accent color online and used primarily for the top-level navigation so users had a consistent guide for the most-used sections. This red bar was a cost-effective transitional solution that tied all the different online platforms and out-of-the-box styles to look like one unified online presence as much as possible for the end user.
A dark grey became the primary color to add more weight to the brand presence so it still felt grounded to its roots in the manufacturing industry. The homepage aimed to be inclusive, highlight relationship and networking opportunities and remind members their industry had global impact touching many industries.
+UX: NAED had multiple disconnected platforms and lacked a cohesive UX strategy between all platforms. User frustrations and lack of search ability led to increased phone assistance and chat to meet online needs. Additionally, the user journeys to purchase or download popular reports online were incredibly chaotic and relied on manual email blasts to members. Conversions from organic search began steadily increasing proving that members were finding the right content on their own time.
+Marketing Automation and Behavior Programming: Some business processes were slowly transitioning to automation in Hubspot between the CRM and user behaviors for residual downloads, survey participation management and annual participation in campaigns or awards.
+CRM and Engagement Funnel: NAED knew their members and industry and did not need to generate new leads with a sales funnel. The association needed to know what their most valuable leads were doing on the website so they could provide more value and engagement with their membership. I developed a custom Engagement Funnel that considered all product offerings in research, education and events. I modified Hubspot’s lead lifecycle reporting and created this custom engagement funnel strategy offline then programmed it in Hubspot to measure the behaviors and conversions of known lead activity based on NAED’s existing, offline scorecard criteria. Now Hubspot was working for NAED’s needs too!
+Budget & Proposals
After the assessment phase, I presented NAED with 2 options to solve their UX and SEO problems. Below are the assessment and rational documents to explain WHY, HOW and WHAT the recommended deliverables were along with costs associated with each approach. I like to give clients 1-3 options that usually include ways to solve their problems in existing platforms, adding on priority products that will give them the most immediate impact for their budget and a best-case scenario if budget allotment is unknown but a client is willing to invest in whatever it takes to modernize their presence for their users and sales.
- Option 1: Utilize Existing Platforms Approach
- Option 2: Website Migration and New Software
- Visual Roadmaps: I also developed a visual roadmap of the MarTech infrastructure / decoupled technology stack that was in transition so all teams understood the year-long plans before beginning any work. Additionally I created a user experience overview of all the platform touchpoints and and logins for access within the decoupled system. This plan was designed in preparation for Okta single-sign-on to replace the iMIS login pages and functionality then eventually upgrade the AMS system to a new system.
The biggest smile for me personally was when internal employees at NAED voiced their happiness with the refreshed, modern design aesthetic applied to their association and brand. The association website had a new suit and an online swagger! External members immediately started finding and utilizing new valuable resources that were included in their membership they could not previously locate on the website.
SCORE ON WEBSITE.GRADER.COM
BLOG SUBSCRIPTION INCREASE
within 3 months
REDUCED SITE BOUNCE RATE
MONTHLY LOYALTY RATE INCREASE
INCREASED TIME ON SITE
from 2 minutes to 5 minutes
Upon launch in August 2018, the website delivered new and unknown leads through organic search that led to more online purchases; new referral partners discovered online through Hubspot; organic search became the leading source of sessions, engagement and conversion metrics over email, social, or traditional marketing efforts.
Post-launch, multiple sales and website analytics dashboards were created providing senior leadership easily viewable marketing and content efforts, predict incoming sales, discover new opportunities online for events and product sales, and track revenue for marketing budgets that led to purchases, engagement or downloads. An API integration with Hubspot allowed website analytics to show the behaviors of known members which increased content knowledge and actionable insights on every marketing campaign.
NAED is continuing to build upon this project and work towards an increasingly desirable online presence within their membership. The teams are now empowered with Hubspot’s free training and more seamless operations with customer-facing roles.
Transforming NAED: The UX Strategy
NAED.org had not been maintained properly for over 7 years due to employee turnover, no UX, web design or content marketing capabilities, lack of cohesive direction and product managers managing each section’s content and design separately causing the overall website’s appearance and user experience to be very frustrating and confusing.
The website was originally built to serve 3 different audiences but due to budget constraints certain sections suffered and their user journeys to purchase products had to be retrofitted into poor usability solutions based on functionality catered towards event purchases. The website became a source of contention internally and externally as most members struggled to find resources or information. The website was also not mobile-responsive or mobile friendly. With all of these problems the best solution was to audit the content, migrate the necessary information and start over.
The UX strategy focused primarily on these problems:
- UX architecture for all domains and decoupled platforms to appear more cohesive
- A new design aesthetic that gently transitioned away from the old, dysfunctional website and dated brand while slowly transitioning into better usability and modern aesthetic.
- Mobile-responsiveness and mobile UX considerations
- The education section needed to offer content for users researching and comparing different products
- The education section needed “purchase” buttons next to each product
- Each section landing page needed to highlight resources and offer some taxonomy for content types
- Multiple audiences using the website for different needs and functions
- Repurposing existing media and resources that were in-demand but hard to find
- Homepage automation for calendar updates and new content to surface automatically reducing manual edits
- Simplified product purchases, resource download and registration user journeys
+ Proposed Wireframes and Solutions
Option 1: These were proposed for reskinning the education section utilizing
the existing RiSE iMIS CMS templates.
Option 2: These were proposed for a new website design in Hubspot CMS
+Lead Page for Ad Traffic and Data Analysis
+Final Website Before & After
The new homepage focused on a more impactful, emotional video to increase search rank while also representing the expansiveness of the industry, an immediate call-to-action to join, highlight tiles that focused on timely events and product promotions, a featured blog post and automated calendar updates with an option to add the events calendar to your device. The original NAED brand red was used as a top-level navigation bar to sync the same menu style across all disconnected/decoupled platforms (forum, LMS, eStore and Account).
Section Landing Pages: Before
This layout was chosen to give search engines and users more information about each product offering, browsing options to view all products for comparison and also offered new sorting options to view based on different audience needs and criteria.
Section Landing Pages: After
Product Overview and Individual Pages: Before
The separate registration form and disconnected eStore purchase/registration experience were both part of a larger platform and eStore project scheduled for a later phase. This new layout allowed the user to conduct research, learn more about the course and then take action to register and purchase from the same page.
Product Overview and Individual Pages: After
Event Page: Before
Event Page: After
New Content and Repurposed Media Pages
The Market Data microsite was created to inform and capture interested leads for the NAED Market Data Data Intelligence Software. Users self-selected their interest level in the program based on three tiers of commitment so the sales team knew how to approach the lead based on this selection. The lead capture form had automation programmed with Hubspot CRM to notify account managers when leads submitted forms and what types of content the lead interacted with prior to submission. A sales CRM pipeline was built in Hubspot to manage the relationship lifecycle and subscription process.
NAED originally had a 1-page website with little information about the program for online researchers and did not believe a microsite or any additional online presence was needed. I strongly advocated to develop a microsite to help inform, educate and especially help the sales reps to collect interested leads through form conversions and browsing activity. Upon launch, the microsite delivered over 40 leads in the first few weeks through event app promotions, on-site demonstrations and organic search. Newly discovered leads who found the program through organic search and were not sales targets became 40K+ in closed product subscription sales.
Decantery is a boutique digital marketing agency in St. Louis offering a range of web marketing tools. theCuriosity+Lab worked with Decantery to understand their goals for a new identity and style guide. Decantery needed a fresh style that fit their modern, young approach to digital marketing. They were specifically targeting search/SEO clients and their identity rested in analogous comparison to a wine decanter working much like a filtered search result.
primary and secondary color palette
font and typography
PPT presentation deck
business cards and letterhead
+Siteman Cancer Center
+Citi Broker Lending Conference
+Army Racing Event
+Banquet Racing Event
+Powerade Racing Event
Website reskins are redesigning over the existing HTML template so the template structure remains intact but the page design is enhanced. This is a cost-effective way to give a CMS-based or corporate compliant website a facelift by changing the CSS styles and content but keeping the ‘bones’ of the site in place. Learning to design web pages creatively within the constraints of corporate or global CMS templates is a unique skill that can save companies time, money and make their marketing / creative departments extremely satisfied with the investment on better design!
theCuriosity+Lab works seamlessly with content editors, developers, web designers and content strategist to work creatively around existing site functionality and builds.