Behind the Redesign: Great Design + Smart Marketing

In the evolution of creative agency websites, the simple portfolio site is the embryonic stage. Sites with real, client-oriented content—like white papers, webinars, a regularly updated blog—represent a higher life form. Big Duck’s newly launched website takes the species to a whole new level.

The site doesn’t just look good. It’s not just responsive. It’s not just easy to navigate. Those are all givens. What elevates the website for this Brooklyn, NY-based firm lies in the background.

Big Duck homepage

This 17-person agency is exceptionally well positioned as experts in communication for nonprofits. They offer a focused suite of services: brandraising (their hybrid term for the brand awareness and fundraising activities essential to nonprofits), campaign development and training.

That pinpoint targeting is the foundation for a newly launched website that’s built for business development. Big Duck principal Sarah Durham called in Mark O’Brien of Newfangled (the two are longtime friends) to facilitate the overhaul. The old site, Durham says, was functioning well enough. But she needed a better marketing tool. “For the past four years, we’ve had a very good problem,” she says. “In a typical week, we have about six new business opportunities come in. Only about 30% are prospects that are a good fit for us. We needed a tool that would help us sort through those prospects.”

Big Duck team

This emphasis on converting visitors to clients means that Big Duck’s website has to do more than showcase their work and explain their capabilities. “A website’s primary role is to attract, inform and engage qualified prospects,” O’Brien says.

That engagement leads to conversion. Behind the scenes, Newfangled’s customer relationship management system and marketing automation tools help Big Duck nurture new sales leads. “Once we have people involved in the site, nurturing is about three things,” O’Brien says—scoring them (based on demographics and site traffic patterns), segmenting them (determining where they are in the buying cycle by how they interact with the content), then messaging them based on who they are and what they’ve done.

Big Duck workshops

For example, site analytics might show that a visitor browsed through the foundations segment of Big Duck’s portfolio, then read about brandraising on the Services page, then signed up for an upcoming brandraising webinar. CRM and marketing automation tools might conclude that this visitor works for a foundation, needs a new identity for her organization and is a well-qualified lead. “The new site is going to make us much, much better at determining which people are the ones we should be spending time with,” Durham says.

While major B2B and B2C companies have deployed these kinds of CRM and marketing automation strategies for years, investing millions of dollars in proprietary systems, technology now makes it easier (and cheaper) for small companies to adopt a marketing-oriented mindset about their websites. Durham notes that it took a) having a focused business niche and b) employing staffers dedicated to marketing and business development, to reach the point where Big Duck was ready for a conversion-focused website.

O’Brien calls this the beginning of a “Golden Age” of agency websites. “A lot of agencies thought they could either have a site that looks good or one that works… But you can have both.”

A Website that Works

Learn how you can have an engaging, hard-hitting website in Mark O’Brien’s book A Website that Works. You’ll have access to O’Brien’s “9 Step Process to Planning a Marketing Website,” content strategy tools and SEO tips.