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How Acquia Picked an Agency for Website Redesign

Previously in this series, Lynne Capozzi (Acquia’s CMO) explained why her team is building a new Acquia.com. Catch up and read Lynne’s post, here.

The redesign of Acquia.com has been a long time coming. As one colleague colorfully described it, “our website makes us look like we’re a ‘doctor who smokes.” Acquia supports some of the greatest digital experiences in the world, but our own site doesn’t reflect the caliber of our customers’. The last time we tackled a major redesign was six years ago, and we have needed an overhaul for some time.

This is the right time for us to kick off a redesign. Late in 2016, Lynne Capozzi re-joined Acquia as chief marketing officer (she was our first CMO in 2009). Upon her return, Lynne recognized that our website is our most underrated (but most important) marketing tool.

As Lynne recently wrote:

“The redesign is significant because Acquia.com is one of our company's most valuable marketing tools. Not only is our website the entryway to our products, but it also continues to serve as an important demand generation tool. We know we can create a bigger, better showcase for our products and services, and moving to Drupal 8 is going to get us there…. Some call it eating your own dog food, others prefer to drink their own Champagne. No matter how you spin it, the move to Drupal 8 gives us the unique opportunity to live the life of our own customers."

We need to rely more heavily on our blossoming product offerings. Currently, our website does not showcase those products nor does it give the site’s visitors a chance to experience them. So, new CMO, an executive team brimming with political will, and a stagnant site - it’s the perfect storm for a website redesign. As a creative director, I live for this.

Why it’s important for Acquia to partner with an agency

We’ve bellied up to the table, our bibs are on, and our own dog food is the only thing on the menu. Not only does this mean building a website with Acquia’s products and Drupal 8, but it also extends to experiencing how our customers approach a project of this scale. For the majority of our customers, reliance on a digital agency is a key part of the equation.

Digital agencies can range from brand strategy consultants to front-end development shops and system integrators. At Acquia, we know our partners to be builders and dreamers, doers and makers:

I hope that beyond a deeper understanding of our customer experience, we’ll also get the breakout digital experience we so badly need. Agencies help find that magic balance between creative storytelling and pushing product. They uncover the little truths that can escape the people in the trenches. They are the great simplifiers in a complex world. An experienced third-party can help an organization escape the echo chamber, and provide the objective feedback necessary to focus its goals.

For example, one of our primary goals is for the website to better communicate our brand. Over the years, our team has been busy pouring resources into engineering to support our own customer’s success. To make ends meet on the site, we’ve been following the pack. Today, our website has just about all of the same buzzwords, center-aligned responsive design style, cutesy icons, and stock images that every other B2B tech company is using.

While fast-following those that you admire is a common tactic, it’s not the right one. Sameness subverts a brand’s personality and reduces it to a commodity. We need the guts to make gut decisions. That’s a tall order for an engineering company, and it’s realistic that our priorities are not aligned with those of a marketing firm. That’s where the need for a best-in-the-world digital agency comes in. If we want to plant flags in headspace, if we want to own something beautiful, if we want to be a break-out brand, we need help.

How to choose an agency

Acquia has an amazing network of the world’s best digital agencies. We partner with creatives, creative technologists, and strategists to deliver incredibly ambitious digital experiences. We began by selecting four of these partners and sending them a pretty daring creative brief and RFP (we’ll share some tips on how to write a killer brief in a future post). In that brief, we outlined our vision, success imperatives, and our pain points. The major pain points we are trying to solve for include:

  • Overcoming flat growth on the site
  • Improving management and governance for our web team
  • Introducing the ability to demo products as part of the site experience
  • Making it easy for people to understand who we are and what we can offer them (this might be the most important)

We issued the challenge, and the feedback was stunning, sobering, and inspiring. We saw things that made us uncomfortable, things that surprised and delighted us, and things that made our neck hair stand on end (in a good way).

It was incredibly difficult to choose a final partner as we evaluated varying degrees of spec creative and gave due diligence against a scorecards we created. In the end it was really an equal mix of scoring and intuition that led us to our decision.

“When we began to think about who we wanted to work with on the acquia.com redesign, we looked at partners we had a long-standing and highly rewarding relationship with. These organizations also had a proven history of successful product deployments. The partners we engaged for this project were all well- known and highly regarded for their creative work, innovation and incredible vision. We were looking for partners who would not just deliver a website based on solely our requirements but who would challenge us” - Joe Wykes, SVP Global Channels & eCommerce at Acquia

A Huge Opportunity

As Lynne announced last week, we’ve tapped Huge to lead front-end design and development. Huge set themselves apart by showing us amazing spec creative that proved they were thinking about our problems and answering with interesting solutions. They came with a purchase path curated for the anonymous user that was fast, frictionless, and moved beyond the use of forms for lead generation. They also hacked the demo like we’ve never seen before. They came with hunger. Hunger and good mojo are table stakes for success.

“I think we were drawn to the geek appeal of Acquia. The idea that despite Acquia’s recent growth and A list roster of clients, it still has a bigger story to tell and views itself as outsiders trying to shake up a space with the usual corporate players. That edgy aspiration rooted in a strong tech heritage felt like a kindred spirit to us, and we’re now really excited to bring it to life.” - Jon Judah, VP Strategy, Huge DC

We knew when we chose Huge we needed to step our own game up. This project is a big investment for Acquia’s marketing team. The amount of institutional knowledge that has to be fed to the agency is immense. Our internal team has committed lots of time to stakeholder interviews, meetings, user sessions, meetings, testing, meetings, concept reviews, and the challenge of educating Huge about our brand. Working with an agency is not a hand-off; it’s a project that requires internal teams to be all-hands-on-deck.

That’s why it’s important for us to not be risk averse. We need to trust their gut as well as ours. Huge can do good work for anyone, but their best work happens when clients trust the gut. It’s going to be a wild ride. It will be fun to share as we go.

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