In the worldwide web of site design, no two pages are just alike. The same can be said for web design firms in South Carolina, a range of small and larger businesses that vary from companies that only design websites to those that specialize in full-service digital marketing. Few offer template sites, most design from scratch, and some cutting-edge firms offer additional services like video development, content creation — even campaign planning. Despite the diversity in services they offer, South Carolina companies are collectively making their mark on a sector long believed to only reside in the nation’s largest metropolis areas, state officials say.
“It’s an important sector, and a company’s digital brand is often a consumer’s first interaction with the business,” says Otis Rawl, president and CEO of the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce. Few companies have capitalized on the growing importance of websites like Midlands-based firms Cyberwoven and Splash Omnimedia, two all-encompassing and well-known digital marketing companies that have expanded their brand immensely in the past few years.
“The goal of the website is to drive leads or to interact with customers, help with operations, reduce costs and increase traffic. There are hundreds of different motivators for why businesses must invest in web infrastructures,” says Cyberwoven CEO Ben Rex.
Splash Omnimedia senior partner Matt Thompson adds, “We call ourselves strategic marketing planners. We believe that we can compete with companies in New York and other areas if we are given the opportunity. I’m really proud of where we are as a firm and as a state.”
Just how successful are these companies? They won’t give specific figures, but in looking at the bottom of many well-known company’s websites, many might read: “Website by Cyberwoven” or “Splash Omnimedia.”
Together with a handful of other companies pocketed throughout South Carolina’s digital sector landscape, they are making their contribution to the state’s knowledge based economy.
Splash: “We offer everything under the sun.”
As its name suggests, Splash Omnimedia has its sights and goals set on being “all encompassing” and ubiquitous.
“Marketing has to be all encompassing,” says Matt. “What we have and what we offer is a wide variety. We have web development, video production, graphic design and social media. We offer everything under the sun that exists in digital marketing under one roof as opposed to other companies that are either web companies or web agencies. We are all encompassing because there is no one thing that is the right fit for everybody.”
Unlike firms that started as web design companies then added on services, Splash Omnimedia was founded nearly a decade ago as a company that offered a variety of web-based marketing services. All Splash sites are custom designed and begin with market research. Websites are often initially hand-sketched, and an anonymous third party is brought in for user testing.
According to Matt, although all encompassing services are the latest trends in what web marketing firms offer today, web design remains a large and integral part of what the company offers. “It all starts with the web,” Matt says. “No matter what plan we create — whether we’re going to use T.V., radio or print marketing — no matter what we’re going to do for people, we’re always going to use different calls to action and drive them back to the website. So, the website development piece is the most important piece in our theory as well.”
With a clientele list that includes law firms, mortgage and banking companies and well-known large Midlands businesses, Splash has much to tout about South Carolina’s growing web marketing sector. But like the web — constantly moving, growing and changing — there is little time to rest on laurels. Matt assures that Splash will continue to change with the times.
“Some people believe that if you build it, they will come. Well, that’s not the case with web design,” says Matt. “In our opinion, it’s time for businesses to stop doing all the talking and build an engaging and interactive website that will allow people to tell them what they actually want. It all comes down to making business better for our clients. If it doesn’t do that, then it just flat out doesn’t work.”
Cyberwoven: “Not your momma’s websites.”
At Cyberwoven, a Columbia based digital firm, few things are stagnant: not the workers, a diverse mix of tech and creative experts; not Ben, its civic-minded CEO; and definitely not its websites, which have come to be known for their moving parts and forward-thinking designs. “These are not your momma’s websites,” Ben says.
In the past few decades, websites and digital communications have become integral parts of any business’s marketing plan as more consumers seek, research and buy products via the web. Since its inception in 2001, Cyberwoven has become one of South Carolina’s most dynamic companies for building and managing public-facing websites — providing such services as branding, marketing, social media management and content creation. Over the past dozen years, Cyberwoven has designed and developed more than 500 websites for more than 200 different clients, ranging from small businesses and non-profits such as BCI Lending and United Way of the Midlands to large corporate entities like BlueCross BlueShield of SC, Sonoco and Colonial Life.
“One of the things we pride ourselves on is that we remain relevant to web-centered small businesses,” Rex says. “Some of our clients have 20,000 or 30,000 employees, and some of our clients have 12. And the fact that we’re relevant to both is exciting.”
Businesses in South Carolina and their leadership are taking notice. As the value of having a website increases, Cyberwoven continues to develop its client base and its reputation. “Ben and his team create a positive and lasting impact, and it shows as they continue to grow Cyberwoven,” Otis says.
Changes in the web design and management field have been massive and fast-moving. Today’s websites are the business in many cases, replacing the sites of yesteryear that served “basically as billboards on the web,” says Ben. “Basically, the website is where a business or organizations’ culture, operation and marketing come together,” he explains, “Our job is to make that platform work for the business.”
When Central Carolina Community Foundation began looking for a company to update its website a few years ago, it sought its long term web design partner, Cyberwoven, for help. The nonprofit organization, which serves 11 counties in the Midlands, wanted a site that could be adapted as it grew. “Cyberwoven has a reputation for creativity and developing sites that can expand and grow over time,” says Central Carolina Community Foundation President and CEO JoAnn Turnquist. “Our website is informative and engaging. It is easy to navigate and helps us connect with our fund holders and broad array of constituents. Our website clearly reflects our culture and our brand.”
Several hands touch each project, and web design at the level that Cyberwoven operates is a very social, team-oriented undertaking. “Everything we do is team oriented,” Ben says. “The typical web project here at Cyberwoven has an interdisciplinary team of seven to 12 unique professionals who are very specialized in what they do. A team may consist of an account executive, a project manager, a designer, a front end developer, a back end developer, a writer, and sometimes a photographer or a videographer. It becomes a very specialized field we are pulling all these folks together to achieve a goal.”