Case Studies

PWL Capital

Online branding, content strategy, content development, web site development, social media strategy

The client

PWL Capital a boutique Wealth Management Firm based in Montreal, with offices in Toronto, Ottawa, Rivière-du-Loup (and now in Waterloo -2010). It specializes in passive investment strategies to grow clients’ wealth through generations. In January 2007, their marketing director approached O-Media with questions about the direction of the online strategy and how best to proceed with updating their 7 year old site.

O-Media worked with r42 to build a new generation site that would leverage current techniques and create a site that could enhance their brand awareness and engagement for PWL.

We were given some basic criteria to meet:

  • Build trust and showcase the PWL Capital difference – investment philosophy and transparency
  • Alignment with offline branding
  • Raise company profile within the industry
  • SEO (though they didn’t really understand anything beyond keywords)
  • Balance the master brand with the individual advisor brands
  • Content management for non-technical in-house marketing staff
  • Don’t overwhelm the less technically inclined advisors with gadgets
  • Bilingual – with some exceptions
  • Include relevant content from old site.

And added a few of our own:

  • Comprehensive SEO strategy and deployment
  • Flexibility site-wide – design grid, templates, content
  • Maximum ease-of-use with CMS
  • Use audio and video and the PWL media connections
  • Show personality of advisors
  • Only use proven ROI techniques

A Strategy for trust, show ‘em what you got!

Building trust can be a difficult task in an online world with the absence of personal contact. When you have a group of experts, the smartest thing that you can do is give them tools to show off their talents and then just get out of the way. This was the plan: blog, news, media, video, publish papers, and other frequently updated content.

This strategy required a commitment from the organization to publication marketing. We worked with them to examine the pros and cons, requirements and benefits that this strategy would require. It was an immediate fit for some members of the PWL team. We were convinced that it would only take the success of one to convince the others that they were already doing most of the work required but in a customized manner – one-on-one with clients.

Challenges are just doors to be opened

To start with we were faced with these challenges:

  • 1 master brand, 11 individual advisor brands, and 4 cities, each with its own set of demands both client and target user.
  • Multiple levels of comfort and appreciation for technology
  • A tradition of reticence to talk about money matters
  • A diverse yet not clearly self-identified “wealthy client” end-user
  • A traditionally conservative industry
  • Very few links back to old site
  • time

To counter-balance those challenges we were fortunate to have more than one asset:

  • Knowledgeable and focused in-house marketing team
  • Technology champions within the team and company management
  • Seriously documented and academically supported investment philosophy
  • A group of great communicators
  • Access to talented collaborators

Of course, that alone wouldn’t work without showing that behind all those words, were real human beings that understand a client’s daily struggles and choices. We worked with each advisor to customize their minisite. A blog if they need a blog, discussions and evaluation for those uncertain of the commitment it required. In essence, we crafted a very flexible format that was an all-you-can-eat buffet where they could pick and choose what they felt would work best for them.

PWL Capital - minisite

Content is key

Individual interviews were conducted with each advisor and the other key in-house experts, and group workshops were held to flesh out the key differentiating points of the PWL Capital investment philosophy and management process. The content development process what a rather hefty undertaking. 1) A unifying voice of the master brand – company pages – to be matched in all the advisor sites. 2) Each of those sites needed to appear unique.

The beauty of the process came in listening. The truth was that all the advisors believe in the same philosophy – one voice, check. Yet each advisor from the very nature of their own personality caters to a unique audience and brings a unique perspective to their own target market.

Still, twelve websites on the same topic is admittedly a challenge that requires great collaborators in addition to a good thesaurus. A serious effort was required to avoid being redundant or repetitive. We created a content template and a matrix of keyword phrases. These templates were used for the original drafts of the site’s new content and we worked from there to ensure that the layers of personalization for the advisor sites remained in synch with the master brand yet conveyed the originality and personality of each advisor.

Photography: Adding the personal touch

Imagery… tells the rest of the story. Who are these people to whom you’re thinking of entrusting your life’s savings? Custom photography rounded out the presentation of the advisors. Each advisor was photographed; individually, with the other advisors in a given city and with other team members in action. All photos were shot by the same photographer with art direction from o-media, r42 and the internal marketing team. The decision to use custom photography was not difficult. While custom photography can be an expensive undertaking; photographer and the team and the time advisors spent away from their clients, it was essential to put a face to each name. Money is personal.

PWL Capital custom photography - putting a face there to trust.

Information Architecture

The site information architecture included in-depth wireframing of site, its sections and template pages. This process helped validate our flexible site structure but also to organize content. The real buy in for the client came when we presented the site map and some wireframed pages. Once they could visualize how things would work, they felt more at ease and began making it their own.

Flexible structure on a solid foundation

We deployed the site on the Kentico Content Management System which offers all the bells and whistles built in and affords relatively painless customization. Apart from the technical benefits of this CMS there are three major end-user benefits:

  • Ease-of-use
  • SEO meta data
  • workflow

The client’s wish list included the ability for non-technical editors and marketing personnel to manage the site. Navigation within the CMS is one of the simplest of enterprise-level systems. With a short four hour tutorial, most users are comfortable within the system which uses the very common FCK editor and a familiar site tree structure.

Custom search engine meta data can be included at the site-wide, section, page and even item level. This flexibility allows the client to expend the resources for this very important feature in key areas as required.

When working with financial services such as investment portfolios, all communication about these services is strictly followed by industry and the company’s own compliance rules. As such, the company’s compliance officer must review all website content. The CMS’s built in workflow feature assists the company in getting content through this potential bottleneck and meeting the compliance requirements.

The site is almost exclusively maintained by the non-technical in-house staff. We are called on intermittently to assist with additional features or higher than normal workloads.

Ongoing collaboration – making the social leap

Since the launch O-Media has continued to work with PWL Capital to develop a sustainable social media presence and increase the depth of engagement with potential clients. In addition to the blogs which are now used by most of the advisors on a regular basis, LinkedIn and Twitter have proven to be very effective tools for the company. New clients and many prospects have been developed through the social and content strategies.