Catenion: Website development
The Bloom Group has helped a number of professional services firms revamp their websites over the last three years. Most of them came to us after reading our study on how to organize the content of professional services websites. (See the article here.) We had publicized the study through our website and an article for Consulting magazine ("Out of Site," which you can find here.)
Since publishing the study in 2005, we have received dozens of inquiries from U.S. and Canadian professional firms on how we could improve their websites. But we didn’t expect to be asked to help redo the website of a consulting firm an ocean away, Catenion Strategies, based in Berlin, Germany. "Together we built a fantastic website," says Dr. Matthias Krings, a partner at the firm who spearheaded the development of the new site (see www.catenion.com).
How Catenion found us demonstrates how the Web has created a global market for a professional firm’s services. It also shows the power of a point of view. Catenion was founded in Berlin in 2003 by ex–partners from Mercer Management Consulting. Their focus was on helping to transform the R&D organizations of pharmaceutical and medical product companies. Based in the old East Berlin part of the city near Checkpoint Charlie (one of the three old crossing points from West to East Berlin), the firm has grown to 15 people with offices in Berlin and London, and has worked for a number of global life sciences firms.
By the summer of 2007, Catenion partners Dr. Krings, Christian Elze, Dr. Markus Thunecke and Arno Heuermann decided the firm had outgrown its original website. "Our service offerings had become broader and deeper, and we had moved beyond our original focus on personalized medicine to broader aspects of pharma R&D, strategy development and asset valuation beyond R&D," says Dr. Krings. "But the overall look and feel of the old website did not convey what we were about. We also wanted the content to more clearly communicate what we had become as a firm."
The old website did little to generate leads, a complaint we have heard from many professional firms about their own sites. (In a survey of 37 professional firms that we conducted in 2006, on average they said their websites were mediocre at generating leads but expected them to become much more important sources of leads by 2011.) Krings believes one reason the old Catenion site was not a robust lead generator was that it gave viewers few opportunities to interact online with the firm. For example, visitors could not register for or download the firm’s publications. "We felt we never really used the site to create new prospects, and thus it fell short of its potential," Krings says.
By July of last year, the Catenion partners decided they needed a new website. They came across our article on designing professional firm websites in Consulting magazine. They checked out our website and gave us a call. "We hadn’t known about your firm before we read the article," Krings said, which underscores the need for professional firms to put "samples" of their expertise into the marketplace (articles, conference speeches, books, etc.). "I was able to understand how you think through your article, your website and white papers. Then in our initial phone call, after two sentences my impression was that we spoke the same language from the start. You immediately understood where I was coming from and what our organization was about. And you had a process for redoing websites of professional services firms."
Catenion placed The Bloom Group on its list of candidates and asked all of them to submit proposals for how they’d do a new website, for Catenion’s core consulting business and its new executive education business. The other candidates were from Europe, half of which were from Berlin, which has a thriving community of Web designers and developers.
Soon after submitting the proposal, we heard from Catenion that we won the work. The project began with a day–long workshop at Catenion’s Berlin office on Sept. 20 with all of Catenion’s partners. Bloom Group partner Bob Buday led the workshop, and Bloom Group affiliate Web designer Lynn Cyr participated by phone. All the firm’s partners participated in a methodical but lively discussion to get them to:
- Create a clear and compelling "market positioning" for their firm — their input on the firm’s target clients and the problems that Catenion solves, the firm’s core offerings and their value to clients, and what differentiates Catenion. Over the next few weeks, we worked with Catenion to craft and wordsmith its market positioning statement (and one for its Academy), the content of which was used on the website.
- Determine the brand attributes of their market positioning statement — the emotional and intellectual images the Catenion partners wanted to convey about their firm through the new website. In the workshop, we brainstormed how Catenion could communicate both graphically and through copy the key elements of the market positioning statement. For example, one of the firm’s key differentiators is its deep expertise in pharmaceutical R&D. The group decided that the best way to communicate that on the home page was to have graphics that immediately communicated "pharmaceuticals" (pills) and "the financial impact of R&D" (a stock price graph), as well as text that immediately displayed Catenion’s knowledge of pharma R&D (a rotating set of provocative questions about R&D for senior pharma executives). For every section of the new website, the group generated ideas on how Catenion could communicate its brand attributes through graphics and writing.
- Develop a "client–in" website information architecture — i.e., a structure for organizing the pages of the new site (and determining what links should be on each page) in a way that lets clients and prospects quickly learn about whether Catenion can address their issue and view all the firm’s expertise and client work on that specific problem.
In addition to generating numerous ideas, the workshop helped to get the partners quickly on the same page about the graphic look, structure and content of their new site. "The workshop was critical to the success of the project," says Dr. Krings. "Coming over here, holding our hand and working face to face with us let us ’get under your skin’ and vice versa. And the upfront market positioning work really aligned the graphics with the writing style and content. It has made a big difference in communicating who we are and how we work."
Strong planning and coordination on both sides was instrumental. As the point person on the Catenion side, Dr. Krings drove the project forward and got his partners to reach quick consensus on a myriad of details that followed the workshop. On The Bloom Group side, the teamwork and skills of Lynn Cyr in graphic design (Lynn Cyr Design) and Web developer John Tarvardian (another Bloom Group affiliate, who runs The Legato Group) was also important. (By the way, their collaboration was "virtual": Buday is in Massachusetts, Cyr is in Canada and Tarvardian is in Ohio.)
The new Catenion websites went live just before Christmas, three months after the kick–off workshop. The early signs are positive. For example, one prospect used the site to get up to speed on Catenion and its expertise before two Catenion partners visited them. The prospect’s executives brought printouts of Catenion’s web pages to the meeting and used them as points of reference for the discussion. "It informed them about what we were about" and accelerated the meeting discussion about how Catenion could help them, Krings says.
"Everyone is really happy with and excited about our new site," Dr. Krings says. "There are requests for small changes but overall the internal view is extremely positive." Dr. Krings is convinced that the external view — how clients and prospects view the site — will be strong as well. And he’s absolutely sure that catenion.com and its sister site for The Catenion Academy will be important factors in the growth of the firm from here on.