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A graphic of the Darley logo.

Darley: Website Consolidation & Elevating an Innovative Brand

Illinois-based defense and first responder provider Darley is focused on integrity and relationships they’ve built directly with their customers. They passionately serve the world’s first responder and tactical communities by providing high quality, safe, and innovative products with unmatched commitment and service.
A graphic showcasing the layout design of Darley's website, with the words "Trusted Solutions for First Responders and Tactical Teams" at the center of the page.
blue element web design agency

Background

The 113-year-old company founded (and still run) by the Darley Family needed some strategy, organization, and a plan for digital marketing, along with a partner to help them get it done. Darley (for first responders) and Darley Defense (for military) had been serving multiple audiences through multiple websites and needed to better show their modern technical knowledge of the industries they serve (and numerous products and services within them) while maintaining the branding and messaging around their hard-fought values.

Darley had come a long way from their humble beginnings in 1908—but their website and digital strategy didn’t reflect the modern and advanced technologies their long-standing and loyal customers were familiar with:

  • Darley didn’t have a defined marketing plan or digital marketing leader
  • They were unsure what whether to continue to address divisions separately
  • Marketing resources couldn’t support all Darley divisions
  • The website was outdated and confusing to users/customers

To answer the call, Solid Digital recognized that Darley would need:

  • To find a partner to help organize, strategize, and plan their digital marketing and online presence
  • To have accountability, assistance with execution, and quantifiable success
  • To establish goals and determine priorities for their three core divisions
  • To showcase to the leadership team how marketing is driving business value
  • To have recommendations for increasing the digital value of their brand, including optimizing the website(s)

Strategic Approach

Before starting the project, Solid Digital encouraged Darley to hire a marketing leader so their website redesign could go smoothly and successfully. Solid Digital helped prioritize the website redesign the way it needed to be done: hosting stakeholder interviews to identify what needed to happen first, and initial customer interviews that uncovered the pride and integrity of a family business in a global market. To address that dichotomy and connect with multiple audiences across spaces, Solid Digital identified their audiences’ commonality: people who work selflessly to help others.

Darley knew they needed to address their three core sites but was unsure which direction to take—Darley, dedicated to fire equipment, Darley Defense, for army supplies, and equipment through an e-commerce site needed to get realigned. Solid Digital’s team looked at their most important audiences. Though the company began with firefighter and first responder supplies (and pumps for fire trucks) Darley Defense is a rapidly growing portion of their business. In order to boost Darley for firefighting and first responders, they focused on Darley.com and rolled Darley Defense into it, effectively consolidating the two websites to allow more efficient coverage and better SEO.

Darley was aware that they weren’t doing all they could yet digitally, with little results from paid campaigns. The teams worked to target and engage site visitors instead. Their internal processes needed guidance. With a website being central to those goals, Solid Digital worked in tandem with their newly hired marketing lead, and talked through the company’s history and goals. Solid was able to show Darley how their site could help them expand their business into a different space. The new site needed to reflect their expertise for all first responders and defense, and drum up new business with refreshed copy that spoke to a larger audience.

A graphic of showcasing three pages from the Darley website that feature their homepage, examples of the fonts, colors, and layouts being used on the page.

Process

Each subset of customers knew the brand as just “Darley”—so Solid Digital took that starting point, and helped bring it all together under one site (while keeping the e-commerce portion on its own domain) allowing Darley to merge their audiences without confusing them. It took extra attention and time and plenty of collaborative sessions to ensure the site was structured and rebuilt to reflect the mission that remains for every department at Darley: quality products and trustworthy service for those who serve others, whether through the military or as first responders. 

Solid Digital also ensured that the website showcased the legacy content which was carried over from their podcasts, newsletters, and blog posts, giving more insight into Darley’s technical expertise and thought leadership in the space. The new website also allowed easy publication of new content.

Pumps and corresponding details and categories are a big part of the business. Solid worked with Darley to get the old database synced up with updated images and all the corresponding documentation—the previous information management of pump products was completely manual. On the other hand, for most other individual products, it made sense to keep those all together in one place to sell via a separate e-commerce site.

UX & Design

In order to get the right information distilled down and formed around the separate divisions, Solid Digital and Darley had to get back to the basics. After gathering good ideas around the audience, the strategy could be created, and the site could be structured effectively. The new site has clear user pathways and Google Analytics has been set up to track successes and areas for growth. After helping redefine their divisions through multiple sessions with the client, Solid Digital started clarifying language around how products were organized, and who they served. This helped inform better audience and sub-audience-focused landing pages that could showcase the offerings and brand culture throughout. 

Outside of the firefighting market, many didn’t know the tech-savvy, innovative side of Darley because their focus was on sales and support staff for firefighter clientele (who would call rather than use the website). In order to showcase their new products and branding, the teams worked collaboratively to bring out the intensity of their more current, innovative brand using dark gray, black, and red colors with brightly colored photos. The brand design was elevated by avoiding hyper-technical branding, and filtering in more youthful, bright, modern touches to give an air of approachability while still keeping the weight of the history and leadership. A subtle background topographical pattern brought in a fun element but kept things clean and professional, perfect for their primary audiences. The sans serif font choice was also a bit more rounded to reflect a balance between serious and friendly.

To continue reaching each of their audiences, Solid Digital supplied a content writer to work with Darley directly, and this helped bring consistency to the overall tone of voice across the website pages. The separate eCommerce site is now called out with a “Shop online at eDarley.com” CTA at the top of Darley.com. 

Working Together

As a company dedicated to meaningful relationships and top-notch products, Darley was equally dedicated to getting the project right, even hiring a marketing lead at Solid Digital’s recommendation. This ensured communication was efficient and effective, and both teams enjoyed the project.

The strategy phase of the project was extremely important in order to get to the ultimate outcome. Darley came with high-level ideas, but needed help organizing the tasks to accomplish those goals. After Solid dug in, they helped prioritize what needed to be done, helping consult around strategy, and guide the main focus, becoming the ideal project partner.

Through looking at client metrics, holding customer and stakeholder interviews, and examining future goals, Solid understood the pride in history and solutions, especially after meeting in person with the Darley team. Partnership and expertise between the two teams helped create more than the website—the marketing, branding, and positioning to elevate the new brand were able to shine through the new website, thanks to the strategy and prioritization that was laid at the foundation of the project.

A graphic showcasing Darley's homepage that says "Your One-Stop-Shop for Technology, Safety, Training, Decon and More".

Challenges

Despite a handful of challenges in the project, both teams managed to keep good communication and complete the project goals. The previous site was difficult to manage and tough to update. The outdated site platform (hosted through Expression Engine) was filled to the brim with content, the pump information taking up a lot of space, in particular. It took a significant amount of time and diligence to carefully transfer data from one CMS to another. The content was distilled down where it could be, allowing website visitors to take in information at a regular pace—rather than drinking from a fire hose. Changes are now easy to make and the site is organized and easier to manage. To prepare for launch, Solid Digital focused on client education and guidance, so that the busy Darley team could absorb the training around the new CMS and be empowered to add content and make updates. To ensure the website was completely ready, Solid’s team continued to make small changes to make sure Darley’s massive and dynamic site was fully ready to roll.
A graphic showcasing vaious pages of the Darley website in a white, black, and red color theme.

Outcome

With plenty of positive internal feedback from the C-Suite all the way down to clients, Darley’s new website is fully functional and speaks to the right audiences with intentional journeys. The extra time that Solid’s team spent within discovery and strategy was integral to the success of the project, helping inform the site structure and keeping Darley’s team confident in every choice being made. Now instead of putting out daily fires, Darley can look ahead to a future filled with structure, strategy, and success.

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