Digital Strategy for Education Management Organization
- Digital Strategy
- $200,000 to $999,999
- Sep. 2009 - Ongoing
- Willing to Refer
“[The Berndt Group is] invested in helping our company.”
- New York City, New York
- 11-50 Employees
- Phone Interview
Having led a branding initiative and a first website redesign, The Berndt Group is currently engaged in a second iteration involving CMS integration, UX research, and content strategy, amongst other services.
The first redesign yielded a 400% increase in traffic and a significant boost in search engine rankings; the second redesign shows promise for similar results. TBG meets deadlines and provides scrupulous project management, all while maintaining a customer-centric mindset.
A Clutch analyst personally interviewed this client over the phone. Below is an edited transcript.
Introduce your business and what you do there.
I’m the director of marketing of the American Montessori Society (AMS). We’re a nonprofit association organization made up of 15,000 members worldwide. Our organization strives to be the foremost advocate for quality Montessori education not just in the U.S., but around the world.
I oversee our entire web presence: the main AMS website, social media channels, third-party integration websites, job boards, message boards, etc. I also manage all of the organization’s marketing communications (e.g., advertisements, video production, visual and written brand).
OPPORTUNITY / CHALLENGE
What challenge were you trying to address with The Berndt Group?
We have a diverse group of stakeholders, so not only are we trying to inform the public about Montessori education, but we’re also trying to provide services to Montessori educators. We give teachers and school leaders the professional development they need while informing academic researchers and policymakers about the efficacy of Montessori education. This can make for a cluttered website, so we engaged The Berndt Group (TBG) to help us communicate to each stakeholder group the value of our services.
What was the scope of their involvement?
We look at TBG not just as a web developer, but also a thinking partner. They’re a full-blown digital agency. They work with us on template design and integration with our CMS and Sitecore, and also help us on UX and in creating our current branding.
After eight years of partnership with them, we’re expanding our brand and opening up to new ideas, communication strategies, and visual identities. Currently, they’re doing a full redesign of our website. This will be the second time they’ve helped us with that.
For this design, they're building over three dozen mobile-responsive templates for us. They’re taking an exhaustive look at each user function and the way that web pages live and breathe to ultimately deliver a very high quality, interactive, and exciting web experience.
When we first started working with TBG on our current project, we began by expressing the challenges of the various stakeholder groups. We also talked about our interest in opening our brand up and taking it in new directions to become more accessible.
TBG did a couple of strategic analysis of our various stakeholders. They conducted many stakeholder interviews and engaged us in a lot of conversations about the voice, messaging of the company, and value we provide to our members. Over the course of 4–5 months, we created a strategy brief to inform what our new website would look like, what its functions would be, what message it would be attempting to convey, and how we would deliver that message.
From there, we crafted a site map and a content management plan, then began to develop wireframes and new web template designs simultaneously. This has been an ongoing design study that involves UX, graphic design, site architecture, and content strategy. Now, we're beginning to scope out work on the Sitecore development of our site (i.e., the actual building of the product in our CMS).
How did you come to work with The Berndt Group?
They were chosen from a dozen web developers because of the level of care that they took in listening to what our company wanted. They’ve shown that they are very willing to go beyond just web development.
We did scope out the current website redesign with other Sitecore vendors because it was important to us that we stay with that CMS. TBG is one of the strongest vendors for Sitecore integration, and mid- to small-level nonprofits can certainly afford them. We have such a strong working relationship that we felt like we didn't want to lose that with our web partners.
How much have you invested with them?
We're planning to spend between $200,000–$350,000 for the multi-site launch. This includes hosting, ongoing maintenance via retainer hours, and the website redesign.
What is the status of this engagement?
We've been working with them since September 2009 and plan to launch our new site in January 2019. We're going to have a multi-site approach with a microsite for our company's conference, which is a large global Montessori event. We’ll launch that in September 2018.
RESULTS & FEEDBACK
What evidence can you share that demonstrates the impact of the engagement?
They’re meeting every deadline and completing every milestone for the website redesign, which are both important while we're in the process.
We're one of the largest companies within our niche market. We went straight to the top of the search engine rankings as soon as we launched the website. They took us from a very unhealthy web presence to a very healthy one, and we're expecting similar results with the launch of our new website. We expect to see even more improved metrics and increased site visitors, as well as real satisfaction from users as they experience our website.
We’ve seen a 400% increase in web traffic and a 200% increase within one year of returning visitors compared to the old website. The amount of time people are spending on our site reading the content and exploring has more than doubled. The number of pages per visit is also up.
How did The Berndt Group perform from a project management standpoint?
Our current project manager is meticulous and communicates with us constantly. It's not uncommon for me to have several email exchanges with her in a given day. She’s always willing to jump on the phone, answer questions, clarify information, and explain their thought process behind every design/functional choice they recommend. She keeps extremely detailed timelines, documentation, and meeting notes. One of their strongest points is delivering what they promise.
One of the most difficult things for us is figuring out how to handle the integration of website pieces with our association management system. They’re very willing to brainstorm, work out technical issues, and provide feedback and advice when we’re working with association management systems or any other third-party vendor (e.g., email service providers, communication platforms, community messaging platforms). They’re very engaged partners who help provide our message to the public.
What did you find most impressive about them?
TBG doesn't just look at their relationship with us as a transaction of money, which is unique compared to a lot of digital agencies and web support vendors. They’re invested in helping our company. There's a real human touch there.
They may not always recommend the best option for them financially because they’re always thinking about the best option for our company. They’re not afraid to tell us that they don't feel comfortable designing something if there's a vendor who can do it better or at a vastly better cost for us. We value that honesty.
Are there any areas they could improve?
They might improve on the way they explain detailed functional requirements of a website by boiling down technical jargon into layman's terms.
Do you have any advice for potential customers?
Customers should always invest effort as much as TBG does. TBG offers very high-quality digital consultation, so clients need to effectively communicate what their thought processes are behind each business function.
This company isn’t satisfied with you just telling them to build something. They want to intimately understand their client’s business, so you have to communicate with them to help them understand.
Service & Deliverables
On time / deadlines
Value / within estimates
"They offer high-quality services, but you pay for what you get, which, as a small, cost-conscious nonprofit, can sometimes be a little too much."
Willing to Refer5.0