Location, location, location may be the mantra of British property. Recently, however, adaptation to the challenges of the digital world has been a key to survival, let alone success, for commercial property businesses. That’s where a long partnership with digital agency iconnet has paid dividends for Gloucestershire’s Ash Chartered Surveyors (‘ASH’). And enabled them to harness the internet’s power as the practice grows…
Now the company is on its third generation website. This fact alone speaks volumes for the relationship between the businesses.
As Simon McKeag, one of the ASH partners, explains: ‘iconnet got us into the digital world. Since then they’ve made sure we're not left behind as technology and client expectations change. In 2017, our online presence, combined with personal client relationships, is our main business platform. To meet clients’ expectations, you need a strong online presence. Thanks to James Chance and his team at iconnet we have one.’
The latest version of the ASH website went live in 2016. Simon McKeag again: ‘Technology moves quickly and we felt the previous site wasn’t as user-friendly as it could be, or in line with market demands and client expectations.’
What we’ve always liked about iconnet, is how they’re genuinely interested in us and our business. They’ve always had a very personal involvement in our success and are very keen for what they do for us to work well. I’ve always felt that they identified closely with our culture and objectives. We’re similarly sized organisations, with strong local focus. In 2001 we found them their current business premises in Gloucester – that undoubtedly helped our relationship too.’
As Simon describes the working relationship, a consistent theme is the ease of working with iconnet: ‘We’re in regular remote contact and have twice-yearly meetings to review the site’s success, discuss potential enhancements and generally ensure it’s working as effectively as possible for us. As with all aspects of our relationship, these meetings are informal-yet-professional. We sometimes go off at a tangent as we explore common interests, both in and out of work. That’s good because it reinforces our relationship, builds trust and understanding, and undoubtedly means we get even more from working with iconnet.’
A strong working relationship is important, but the website’s performance is the real proof of iconnet’s capability. Simon describes the major change with the second-generation website: ‘Looking back, that second site gave us a huge boost and, I felt, a noticeable advantage over other competing websites in Gloucestershire commercial property.’
iconnet’s sophisticated bespoke app behind the website’s uncluttered front end was particularly important. That addition to the website made it incredibly easy for prospective clients to search, find property details and download information. As anyone who visits the site will see, it’s simple, functional and effective.
‘It looks good, is clutter-free and gets to the point. That’s vital as browsers want information quickly and get frustrated if it is not readily available,’ adds McKeag.
The second-generation website (2012) was bespoke, but the latest version takes performance to another level with a refined property search capability. Again, nothing’s off-the-shelf.
It’s the same for the responsiveness of the site, using three individually designed viewports for desktop, tablet and mobile phone users. As well as making it fully responsive across devices, iconnet improved users’ experiences with design variations for each platform. The team’s skills make life faster and easier for site visitors, wherever they are and whatever their preferred device.
Asked whether the new website (or the earlier versions) experienced teething problems, Simon McKeag struggles to recall anything significant.
‘As with any new website, there may have been the odd minor coding error; there was a wee glitch with rental quotes, but that might have been down to us! We only had to report any issues and Ben had them resolved in minutes.’
Simon recalls the website’s history and the relationship with iconnet and remembers another supplier suggesting that they take over the site’s management. The offer was politely but categorically declined.
‘Similar to having a trusted property partner, keeping a digital agency like iconnet is incredibly valuable to any business. As I said, we work together really well and can talk directly to their technical team, which is invaluable. Their fees are sensible too, and we get excellent value for money. They even help us with related incidentals, such as email templates. That’s another problem solved.’
‘We’re not in a position to talk measurable benefits beyond saying we’re confident iconnet’s involvement has been good for our business.’
‘As for non-quantifiable benefits, we know our website has brought business from outside our usual Gloucestershire catchment. We also get regular feedback from clients telling us that the website is straightforward to use.
‘The fast, easy-to-use site search is always popular and the consistent message is that our website performs well compared to competitors. Even though we’re predominantly Gloucestershire-focused, the site’s appearance and performance enables us to reach a wider audience.’
The platform that iconnet built for ASH is easy to upgrade, which future-proofs their online presence. It also delivers consistently good search engine results.
‘iconnet work hard to make sure we perform well in an area that’s constantly changing. They’re proactive about monitoring our performance, analysing analytics and recommending improvements. We’ve always done well with the search engines, so they’re obviously doing something right! That’s reassuring because it means we can get on with what we do best – commercial property – while knowing our website is in capable hands.’
Simon goes on to describe how clients often notice and comment favourably when the site has been upgraded: ‘In our business, easy-to-use is good; complicated and time-consuming isn’t. We’re told our site is one of the easiest to use in the business. That’s more kudos for iconnet.’
So what does the future hold for ASH and iconnet? With such a strong relationship, Simon does not intend to change his digital agency. Not surprisingly, he’d recommend iconnet without hesitation and has already done so.
The future looks bright for Ash Chartered Surveyors. And based on nearly two decades’ proven support for the commercial property professionals and their website, iconnet looks set to be part of that future.
The last word goes to Simon McKeag: ‘iconnet is technically sound, we love their creativity, have a great working relationship and trust them implicitly. Working with them is straightforward and they’ve consistently delivered the web presence we want. We’re very pleased.’
They’ve consistently delivered the web presence we want. We’re very pleased.