My finest work… to date

On the 2nd of July 2013 I launched what is undoubtedly my finest work to date – the brand new website for Top 20 Chartered Accountants, Saffery Champness. This is the culmination of 18 months of hard work, taking a firm that had neglected their online presence to delivering a best in class website that is loved by partners, clients, prospects and intermediaries, and is the envy of the marketplace. It is engaging and stimulating, with clear direction and customer journey, designed to help all visitors to the website, find the information that they require as quickly and simply as possible.

To visit the website today, you wouldn’t believe the challenge that I faced. As you read this case study, you’ll see some examples of before and after pages on the website. This was not a website refresh – more a fundamental change in the way that the organisation positioned itself, and how it was viewed by both clients and prospects, and the competition.

Saffery Champness were founded by Joseph John Saffery in the city in 1855 and over the next 150 + years grew to be recognised as one of the top 20 accountancy practices in the UK, with International operations based out of Guernsey and Switzerland. If you’d like to know more about the firm, why not read more about the history of the firm on the brand new ‘About us’ section of the website. 

Now, back to the project itself; I began work with the firm at the tail end of 2011. The first task of a project of this magnitude is not to think about the look, feel and design of the website, but to undertake a website health check. I delved deep into Google Analytics, finding out how visitors to the site behaved, what they were looking for, how long they spent looking on the site, and identifying key exit points, and developing an understanding of why they were leaving the website. I also took a look at the site itself. A bespoke CMS was created that was frankly unwieldy and inefficient from the point of view that it was almost impossible to make changes to – without paying a fee to the agency that developed the site in the first place.

Around the same time that I joined the firm, the firm unveiled its new business plan for the next three years, outlining the vision of the firm its core values, and how the firm wished to be seen within its marketplace. I read the business plan over and over again and began sketching out visual representations of how the firm wished to be seen, based around the key words in the document, paying particular notice to the sectors the firm worked on behalf of, and the services they offered. From my initial review of the website stats it was clear that visitors to the website were interested in the sectors the firm worked on behalf of, and the services offered, however visitors were most interested in people – both our people but also our careers section (another key area of the business plan). At the start of February 2012 I presented an audit of the current website, featuring a number of customer journeys, looking at the key entry points to the website – people, sectors, services, offices and careers, and highlighted why these sections of the website were not performing to their potential. I made the presentation visually stimulating by presenting these journeys alongside similar journeys on other professional service, and ecommerce websites.

In my role prior to this, I developed the ecommerce platform for management consultancy Hay Group and, as a result, was well versed in customer behaviour on a professional services website. I took this insight and expertise into this project as whilst we were not selling off the shelf management consultancy tools, we were selling a partner led service. Now, I’m not going to name names but far too many professional services firms attempt to over complicate their site by cluttering their website with links, and the hope that they are creating some sort of customer journey. Yes, there should be complexity and intelligence on a professional services website, but it should not be complicated for the end user. If anything, it should be as simple as possible.

Perhaps the most exciting aspect of this project is that I had a blank canvas. It was accepted by the firm as a whole, that the previous website had served a purpose however it was no longer fit for purpose. With a new vision in place for how the website would look and feel, I could potentially tackle every aspect of web development – from the CMS to the photography, text, imagery and even the logo!

Think about the websites that you regularly visit and purchase from? Why do you visit those websites? It’s because they are simple and easy to use, and it’s actually a pleasurable experience to purchase. If it’s not simple and easy to use, what do you do? Leave! The end user is the most important person in the web purchase process. Make life difficult for them, they’ll leave and they will most certainly not come back! Bearing this in mind I began my research. Whom do Saffery Champness represent and wish to attract to their website? Specifically Private Clients, however across a range of sectors and interests including Entrepreneurs, Landed Estates and Rural Businesses, Professional and Consultancy Businesses, International Clients, Property, Not-for-Profit, Corporate and Sports and Entertainment. Generally speaking, the sectors in question are made of high net worth individuals who require the services of Saffery Champness. I think it’s fair to make an assumption that high net worth individuals are more likely to purchase premium goods, but whatever they buy, they will also expect a discretionary, personal service, tailored to their needs – a service offered by Saffery Champness. Quite simply, the solution was to produce an experience that fully represented the visions and values of the firm and positioned the firm, and its partner-led service, as a premium product.


As you can see from the homepage, it is now engaging and visually stimulating, with clear and crisp entry points for People, Sectors, Services, and Offices. It is representative of the Sectors the firm acts on behalf of, using powerful imagery on the central carousel; it also is client friendly with an obvious point of contact via the ‘Make an enquiry’ function. Marketing supports functions such as Press releases, Publications and ‘About us’ are also visible on the central portion of the website. The top right navigation offers additional links in a drop down to the firm’s International operations in Guernsey and Switzerland, as well as the relationship with Nexia International. There are also links to the ‘About us’, ‘News, Events and Publications’ and ‘Careers’ pages on the website.

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Whom does the firm represent?

The firm represents a wide cross-section of Sectors, from Landed Estates to Sports stars and thus, this section of the site needed to feel welcoming and engaging to attract a wide market. The old Sector landing page was staid, dull, and unengaging, with a peculiar image of the Clifton suspension bridge representing the Sector landing page. The page was cleaned up considerably with the introduction of a carousel representing the Sectors, with powerful visual, relevant imagery to represent the client Sectors.

The repositioning, and increased prominence of the Sectors on both the Sector landing page, and the homepage, resulted in a 300% increase in traffic to the Private Wealth landing page in the first month following launch.

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What does the firm offer to its clients?

Quite simply, the Services landing page follows exactly the same formula as the Sector landing page. Again, powerful, relevant visual imagery has been used to represent the Services that the firm offers. In addition, specific local Services are offered out of the Guernsey and Swiss offices, which have been illustrated by local images to engage with the local market.

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Who are we?

With over 60 partners and directors, it can be hard to know who is the best person to help you with your enquiry. All profiles have been coded by location, Sector and Service, which, by using the filter on the left hand navigation, helps visitors to the site identify the most natural person to assist with their enquiry.

In order to improve engagement and better position people in a more visually stimulating engaging, business focused manner, I commissioned a complete overhaul of the firm’s photography.

The old photography was shot with the partners straight backed with a white background and a camera pointed in their face. They look terrified! Now, look at the new photography. Shot in ‘meeting room situation’, across from the client or prospect, and visually representing the knowledge, gravitas, passion, energy and expertise that they all possess. All the photos were shot in colour and amended to greyscale to give a more classic, timeless look.

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The old website profiles looked and felt like a CV. Long, drawn out, required spending time reading in order to establish whether the individual was the right person to help a client or a prospect with a particular issue.

Profile pages were tagged with Sectors and Services that the partners and directors represented and offered respectively, which fed through the filters on the ‘People’ landing page however the profiles themselves provided a more engaging visual way of presenting their profiles. On the left hand side navigation you’ll see a clear business focused profile photograph, with links to location, Sectors and Services. The upper central part of the page features all contact details, as well as downloadable V-card information, and a link to their LinkedIn profile.

 The real genius of this page is how measurable it is. Thanks to Google Analytics, customer journey can be tracked – how did visitors land on the page? Where did they go next? What did they click on; interests, key experience, email address, sector or service? This will enable marketing to understand more about how visitors engage online, and also begin to track enquiries.

The text on the individual profile pages is written in the third person as Saffery Champness are one united firm, however on LinkedIn, the text is written in the first person as LinkedIn requires a more personal, individual touch, yet littered with content rich keywords to ensure that the partners are found for their respective skill set . The profile photo on LinkedIn has been kept in colour to offer more vibrancy to their LinkedIn profile page.

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Who are the firm? Who are their people? And how do you know they can do a job?

One of the key areas of development for the firm was to improve its recruitment, ensuring that it continued to recruit the very best candidates for future roles. In order to do this, an engaging and stimulating Careers page was required to demonstrate to prospective employees that there was no better place to work than Saffery Champness.

Awards say a lot but nothing says more about a people focused business than the staff themselves, talking about how much they love their work.

Following some research in my previous role, I noticed that our clients spent a lot of time reviewing content on our Careers page. Why? Well to find out what sort of calibre of people we were recruiting, who would ultimately be working on behalf of those clients.

Therefore, to engage with visitors to these pages, as well as prospective employees, I commissioned two ‘Careers’ videos, highlighting members of staff from a variety of roles and backgrounds and locations, who all shared the same visions and values as the firm itself. I’m sure you’ll agree, it’s pretty powerful, engaging stuff.

But who are the firm?

Who better to introduce the firm to the world, highlighting its visions and values, history and culture and people than the managing partner of the firm? Rather than me tell you more, why not click the below link to meet Jonathan Fox and view his introduction to the firm.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this case study. It’s truly been a pleasure working for Saffery Champness. It’s certainly not been an easy project however it has been ultimately incredibly rewarding.

I wish Saffery Champness all the very best for the future however the time has come for me to move on to a fresh and exciting project that engages and stimulates a firm with its audience via digital channels.

If this is you or your organisation, please get in touch and we can kick off the conversation. It’s about engagement first and foremost right?


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