Wednesday, 24 September 2008
"Our first CMS system was quite a bad experience for us; we couldn’t get important information up and working on the site in time, and we had to keep getting our own IT team in Wellington to re-write parts of the program for us. The search engine didn’t work for four months until we sent the provider some of our own code, and still software seemed to grow in incompatibility with our system with each week. Eventually the support dried up," says Sharon van der Merwe, web marketing specialist for Spicers.
Spicers has more than 60 advisors nationwide managing $1.5 billion worth of investment and requires a web platform that will both increase its online presence and provide a flexible tool for communicating with clients, says van der Merwe. The company has to be responsive to new regulatory changes and post related information onto its website quickly, and these new links and documents need to open easily. van der Merwe says because Spicers provides individual financial planning advice through trained consultants, it’s also important the Spicers website is not information intensive but able to point potential customers in the right direction.
The company began by researching the CMS systems used by successful websites and particularly, those of competitors. That, together with word of mouth recommendations led the company to Labyrinth Solutions, developers of the Contegro CMS system.
Vaughan Reed, managing director for Labyrinth Solutions, says Contegro, now on version 3.0, was developed because Labyrinth’s founders saw a gap in market for high level CMS product. The product is modular in nature, can be tailored to suit different businesses and online strategies and is designed to deliver clients complete control of their website. “Most CMS systems manage content only, but few give clients complete control of building functionality into the pages of their own website. For example, if you want to build in an enquiry form or add in third party Web 2.0 functions Contegro lets you add this functionality without having to go back to the web designer,” says Reed.
He says Contegro makes the best use of website budgets and avoids high development costs. There are no ongoing costs, and Labyrinth does not tie customers into expensive hosting or maintenance contracts.
van der Merwe says Labyrinth was given a broad brief to deliver a CMS system that was both user-friendly and powerful.
“I have been exposed to a number of CMS systems of varying quality over the years, and was looking for ease of use. It does take a while to learn what you can do with Contegro, but that’s just because there are just so many features available – a new person with some CMS experience would be able to use the basics of it after a day’s training.”
She says while the learning process for Contegro’s extra functions and features is “hands-on” and some pages have specific style sheets, the software is intuitive enough that “you can’t break it”.
Spicers highest recommendation though, is for the customer service provided by Labyrinth Solutions. van der Merwe says promises are kept, the system is always being upgraded and updated, and Labyrinth staff are good listeners.
“We recently had our first TV campaign and the website had to dovetail precisely with the advertising going out, but it took time to have the campaign approved. As a result, Labyrinth had a very short turnaround time – only two weeks. Yet they developed a new site under budget and on time. We are just so pleased with them as a supplier and we intend to grow the relationship with them,” says van der Merwe.
As well as using Contegro, Spicers host their public website with Labyrinth Solutions, and will move a large internal intranet with extranet links from the previous CMS system to Contegro next year. For security reasons, this second site will remain internally hosted. Into the future, van der Merwe says Spicers will leverage Contegro to enhance online customer interactivity. Some clients will be able to access their financial portfolios online via a user name and password and Spicers will also offer pod casting to make its regular Newstalk ZB talks available on the site. However, she says the company is less keen on blogging due to the time and staff effort required to monitor and adequately respond to postings. “I don’t know if we will go down that route. But we are going to go down other interactive routes,” says van der Merwe.
She says using Contegro has “definitely” increased the number of people accessing and interacting with the Spicer’s website. “We have been looking at the source of our leads and how people are choosing to contact us. Our TV campaign pushed visitors to the site but also more people have been finding us via Google because of improved search engine optimisation – I would say web leads have quadrupled in the last year.”
With twenty years' experience, a network of 60 financial advisers nationwide and with $1.5b funds under management, Spicers solutions encompass cash management, borrowing and debt reduction (including mortgage solutions), tax planning and advice, investment strategies, retirement planning, personal risk management (ill health, loss of income, death and disability), asset risk management (home and contents), estate planning (wills and trusts).