The first decision that a small business has to make when planning to get online is should I outsource, or do it myself. It’s fair to say that most would opt to outsource and for obvious reasons.
Many self proclaimed experts would have you believe that you should always hire a professional and again, this would on the face of it seem to make good sense. This in my opinion is incredibly bad advice, because like so many things, it just isn’t so black and white. My personal opinion is that deciding who will build your website is by far the most important decision that you have to make. This is especially true if you are a start up business.
It is easy to say that you should always hire a web developer but for the average small local business, the cost of a long term marketing investment can be risky.
Any kind of expert should know that developing a good web presence is not an overnight job. That’s why it makes me a little angry that they give, what is in my opinion bad advice, so freely. So often people are mislead into believing that all you need to do is get a nice website built and put online.
The business then points all their advertising to the website and hopes for the best. In essence what is happening is the business is advertising it’s advertising. Of course you should add your web address to everything. Your website is a huge advertising space and you want to direct people to it but there is so much more to be had and much of it is free.
NEEDS DIVIDED BY BUDGET = WHO?
The things that you need to consider first are needs and budget. Your budget should play a major part in deciding who and how. Your website will need ongoing investment of either time or money, perhaps both. It’s all very well having a website but it has to be cost effective to be an asset. In other words it should bring in a lot more than it costs.
Businesses budget and website needs vary a great deal. It is simply not reasonable to suggest that as a business you should pay someone else, if it was never going to be cost effective to do so.
Let’s take a small local tradesmen who is happy to operate as a sole trader. His needs are very different to those of a security company that are looking to expand. His needs would be different to a jeweller with aspirations to go global.
The next thing to decide is how can your budget meet your needs. Not “will your budget“, “how can your budget”. Remember that, because it’s important. You don’t have to or want to jump online in one big step.
Many times I have read that your website should be regarded as the hub of the business. I think that this is very true but does not go far enough to stress it’s importance or power as a marketing medium. Your website itself has many characteristics of a business and should be treated as such.
A small business website requires maintenance, testing, brand development, even marketing. Just like a business. The one big benefit is that, once it’s right, it’s right. The customers just keep coming and with much less effort.
Just like the business itself, a website should be developed using growth, profit and re-investment. In other words, use your budget cost effectively to begin with and concentrate on the things that will pay for development.
If you have a limited budget or want to reduce risk, you should consider using your budget to develop your marketing and not on design. Being from a small business background as opposed to web development, this makes perfect sense to me. For that and one other main reason I tend to recommend that you run your own project at first, even if it’s a temporary measure.
Unfortunately it does not seem to be generally excepted that you should build a website yourself. I would agree with this but in the 21st century you can get a simple one off the shelf. A small business that has simple website needs can be online, easily, in a matter of hours and at very low cost. Using a content management system makes very light work of building a professional looking website and is my own prefered choice, these days.
Do not listen to these so called experts who know everything about websites and nothing about your business. It is better to have a website than no website at all. It’s better to have a cost effective starting point and above all it is going to give you two very valuable things.
Understanding and Data.
I’m sure that many web designers may disagree with me on many things but one thing that I know that they will agree with is this. A client that has even a basic understanding of online marketing is a god send. When you turn up to meet your designer with an understanding and some data, you may just see a little tear of joy form. They will know that their job is going to be a lot easier. They know that you are aware that it’s a long term relationship with ups and downs.
Good web designers have a pretty tough job getting people to understand why their website costs several hundreds or even thousands of pounds a year. The fact is that you can get a website built for peanuts and too many designers are happy to do half the job for a quick buck. Despite my rants, I actually have a lot of respect for the designers who have managed to stay true to their industry rather than chase the quick buck. It must be very tough and very frustrating.
Running a website even for a short time will allow you to communicate your needs and your objectives in a way that he/she fully understands. You will understand how your website fits with your business, probably better than they will. More importantly, you will be able to see if his/her skills extend beyond that of being able to create a pretty template and some clever code.