Before Our Partnership
In May of 2016, I attended Christensen Computer Company’s (CCC) annual customer conference. During the opening session of the conference, several vendor presenters had the opportunity to share how they were collaborating with CCC to integrate their product(s) with the CCC software on behalf of their mutual clients. One of these vendors was Big Marlin Group, a full-service marketing company who also does web development. During the presentation, BMG CEO, John Allen, demonstrated how their Digital Counter product worked and explained how it, using CCCs full API set, could serve as a replacement for CCCs e-commerce product, WebTIME. Digital Counter allowed for drilling down, filtering, and carting program selections from one, simple-to-use screen. It had a clean, modern look that, best of all, was mobile friendly. In short, it was exactly what we had been dreaming of! The only problem was, we weren’t in the market…yet. The presentation continued with examples of complete marketing campaigns that BMG had done for other YMCAs around the country. The collateral they produced delivered a consistent look and messaging across all platforms were Y brand compliant and, most importantly, backed up by data. In short, it was exactly what we had been dreaming of! The only problem was, we weren’t in the market…yet.
Fast forward to later that same year…in pursuit of a key objective within our associations newly minted Strategic Plan, our Promotions and Marketing Committee was seeking to develop a comprehensive marketing plan, including engaging the services a professional marketing company. We needed help streamlining process to minimize overlap of effort amongst staff. We needed design production. We needed help tracking return on our advertising efforts. We needed a mobile-friendly website and an e-commerce experience that our users weren’t afraid of. We needed a web developer who was focused on search engine optimization. And paramount to me as IT Director, we needed a web developer who could make it all work with our comprehensive operations software, CCC.
The Start of Something Great
Fortunately, I was included in a preliminary conversation which gave me the opportunity to share what I had learned about what BMG was doing for other Ys. We scheduled a webinar for our team to meet the BMG team and get a presentation on the breadth of their services…and we looked no further. Our group came away confident that Big Marlin was a perfect fit for all of our needs. We signed in January 2017, committing to website development, Digital Counter development, and full marketing services. The first priority, the new website, wholly my project, and we set a launch date of mid-June. A target that would have easily been achieved had my 6-month medical leave not interrupted the timeline. Nonetheless, they pressed on to the extent they could without me, making it possible to still launch within 11 months of signing. Remarkable in light of the scope of work involved with little access to the project lead.
Focused On Design, Simplicity, And Usability
Big Marlin’s people are focused, efficient, cohesive, thorough, thoughtful and just plain good at what they do. During the development process, I appreciated the constant focus on keeping the site lean to promote loading speed which ultimately plays into search ranking. This sometimes meant they couldn’t/wouldn’t do what I asked, but again, I appreciated knowing it was in the best interest of our goals. And I can’t say enough about just how gorgeous the site is. They heard us when we talked about maintaining an emphasis on the Green/Blue branding theme because we had used those colors for years before the Y adopted them into the brand. But we also felt some of the other colors should be incorporated to give it some pop. They came up with a perfect balance in graphic elements and photo use. It’s beautiful, and it makes sense. The navigation, both on the main site and Digital Counter is easy to follow and provides for different thought processes on the part of the user ensuring that everyone will find what they are looking for. We chose to introduce our new site with an announcement email blast that offered previews of some of the new screens but we did not attempt to educate with step-by-step instructions in hopes the site would prove its intuitiveness. We’re thrilled to report that the evening of our first major program registration on the new website was one of our lightest ever in terms of phones calls for web support, while the level of activity/transactions was equal to a typical opening night.
Wondering what our users think? Here are some of their comments:
- At least one of my boys have been enrolled in swim for the past four years. This was absolutely the easiest and fastest experience I have had. Thank you so much for improving the process!
- Love the new website. Had so many problems registering with the old one. This new one is a breeze
- The other site I had a lot of troubles with using & finding things. This time I was done in less than a minute registering my daughter for vacation camp. Thank you for the changes made!
Did I mention that the users shared these comments via the survey link on their e-receipt when they were done with the transaction? Yep! Big Marlin thought of that too!
Even though Big Marlin was already working with several other CCC customers, there were some integrations that had not yet been developed. They have embraced the depth of our use of CCC and pressed to add to the Digital Counter product to accommodate us and ultimately make Counter even more feature full. I would be remiss if I didn’t credit the efforts and talent of Alyssa, Clare, Kaitlin, and Derek. We really do feel we are in such good hands. I know our staff in charge of the Marketing Committee is very happy with the things they’ve worked on with BMG and I believe we all agree that we were correct in our assessment that Big Marlin would be the perfect fit for all of our needs. We are all looking forward to continuing our collaboration with them!