How Much Does a Website Cost?

How much does a house cost? A new truck? A new piece of machinery? It depends, doesn’t it?

No doubt, these are all significant financial decisions, and the final price tag is something that affects the kind of item a consumer might decide on. But in all of these cases, the answer to the “cost” question depends on a lot of different things – mostly what the consumer wants included in the item. And more than likely, the first response to the “cost” question must be “well, how much do you want to spend?” or “what price range is in your budget?”.

Yet, when a website developer answers the “cost” question by asking what is in a potential customer’s budget, the potential customer invariably thinks the website developer is asking because he intends to gouge the customer for as much as possible. Why?

And consider this. If a consumer were to find a realtor that would answer the “how much does it cost” question without asking you for any more information, what would the consumer think when he told him a price that was more than he thought he could afford? What if this was you? If the realtor said, “well I can sell you a house that costs $300,000” and you knew it was about twice what you wanted to spend? You would probably respond with something like, “Well, that’s too expensive. Can you help me find a house around $150,000?” What you would NOT think is, “Wow…that realtor was trying to take advantage of me. I better go find another realtor that is willing to sell me a less expensive house.”

Here’s the difference in how most business owners look at the website in comparison to how most consumers look at the other financial decisions previously mentioned: when one goes to buy the house, he is a consumer who has already decided that he will likely make a purchase of some kind. With the website, however, many business owners ask the “cost” question with the intent of factoring the answer into whether or not he will continue considering. This is where the shift must occur. Some even ask how much something costs for the main purpose of saying “no thank you, that’s too much.” What they really ought to be asking at this point is, “What do you think a website can do to increase my business?” Followed by a discussion about what they want and need in a website and how much it will cost to create it, based on their desires. Eventually, like all other business purchases, a decision can be made on a cost/value basis.

You must first embrace the fact that you must have a website to continue to do business. Only after you have accepted this fact will you then be able to approach the decisions about a website from the proper perspective, only then will you be able to discuss the feature and benefits you want in a website in an effective way, and only then will a developer be able to provide you with the high-level of service – like what you receive from the realtor – and help you make the correct decisions about a website that will function for your business while also falling within the confines of your pocketbook.

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What You Should Know About the Internet

Are you a small business owner? Have you ever thought something like this?

 – I do not need a website because people do not look for what I do online.

 – I do not sell products online, so I don’t need a website.

 – Only teenagers use the Internet, and they are not my customers, so I do not need a website.

 – My neighborhood is not savvy with technology. No one uses computers around here.

 – We do not do any Internet business, so a website would be useless to us.

 – I’m older and not into computers, so a website would be a waste of money.

These are actual quotes from what business owners have told me when we discussed their need to develop a web presence. If you have said or thought something similar about your business, then I have some important information to share with you. Consider the following:

By The Numbers – the percentage of adults who use the Internet

76% of men     and      74% of women

92% of people ages 18 – 29
85% of people ages 30-49
72% of people ages 50-64
37% of people ages 65 plus

Source: Pew Internet American Life project http://www.pewinternet.org/

This information shows the massive segment of the population that are Internet users across the wide cross-section of age groups. And with such access to immediate information as is available at our fingertips online, do you believe it likely that these individuals will look for products and services in the yellow pages or on the Internet? Be it someone to cut their grass, do their taxes, fill their cavities, or provide legal advice, the reality is the Internet is where people go for everything.

It is truly irrelevant whether or not YOU use a computer…your CUSTOMERS do. It is irrelevant whether or not you choose to “conduct business online…” your business still needs to have a presence there! Your competition is there, and so are your customers. And, as I have often said, if you are not selling where your customers are buying, then they are buying from someone else.

So, let’s stop being afraid of the Internet and embrace it as the amazing tool that it is. The Internet is here to stay, so you better use it to stay in business before your choice to not be there puts you out of business.

The specifics of your website design are not important.

If the topic of this post sounds unbelievable, I hope to open your eyes by the time you finish reading. As with most of my posts, I was gripped by a recent experience I had with a potential customer who owns a car detailing shop. Since we started talking almost two months ago, each discussion he and I have had about considering a website for his business has been a discussion about colors and music. As I attempt to steer the direction of the conversation to more relevant topics, on which his decision should be based, he insists on discussing background music and how he wants “red and yellow everywhere.” Here’s the problem in a nutshell: this business owner is missing a very important point.

Don’t get me wrong. A good looking website is important, and I always intend to use the colors and design schemes that mirror what the client wants. But the truth is that his website is going to be a tool. Some businesses choose to use it primarily as a tool of credibility, an “online brochure,” if you will. But the true power behind a properly designed web presence is in the additional exposure that a properly optimized website can bring to your company…the new customers that your website can attract to your business who would not otherwise find you were it not for your web presence.

For the business owner who may be unfamiliar with these terms, “search engine optimization” simply means making a site search-engine-friendly.  Optimization occurs after the actual design of the site is complete, and involves making the site visible to the search-engines and their “spiders,” or their programs that crawl the web in search of sites with valuable information.  Optimizing a site is vital to properly market the site to Search Engines.

When making the initial decision to possibly invest in a website for your business, the important questions to be asking are NOT questions about design details. Instead, here are a few important examples of questions to ask when you begin this process:

  • How long will it take to have a properly optimized site online?
  • How do you optimize my site after design is complete?
  • Do I have the ability to submit the site regularly to search engines? Or can you provide this service every 4-5 weeks, and at what additional cost?
  • Can I control the addition of new and fresh content at my discretion to attract ongoing Search Engine attention?

Certainly, a poor-looking website that attracts new customers is not what you want either, but recognize the priorities in the appropriate order of importance. Determine a developer’s ability to provide your business with proper visibility first, then worry about making the site look the way you want it. In reality, the latter objective is the easy part that most any developer can accomplish for you.

Getting the traffic to your site is the vital skill that not all site designers possess.

Reading the Signs of a Changing Economy

After writing my last post, I realized that there is a wealth of information that I can examine and share by looking at my experiences with small business owners. This post is the second, in a series of a yet undetermined number to come, regarding small business owners and the Internet. I call the series “Small Business Owner Web Phobia: Do you have it and can you get over it?”

I recently met with an owner of a rather large garage door company. During the entire conversation, he kept referring to the large amount of money he was spending on traditional advertising, yet he was not getting results. Frustrated, he listened as I explained how the economy is changing and people are moving more and more to the Internet to find the things they want and to research companies they might do business with. At the end of the meeting, he said he would consider my proposal and get back to me. Now, two months later, he has contacted me twice to tell me how busy he is and how he can not move forward yet, because he is spending so much money on traditional advertising and none of it is working.

As a website developer and Internet marketing consultant, one potential answer seems very obvious: develop a strong online presence. Yet, the business owner seems to almost miss this point entirely. He continues dumping money into traditional advertising with admitted poor results, yet hesitates to begin developing his online marketing effort, even after our initial meeting which seemed to impress him. There is something about the way this owner has conducted his business in the past that is getting in the way of him seeing a solution to his problems.

Traditional advertising, for a very long time, was the only game in town. Ten years ago the only options this owner had to promote his business were phonebooks, newspaper ads, and flyers. Yet, as we see paper directories fast becoming almost extinct as more and more consumers look to the Internet and “Google” everything, a change in the business owner’s way of thinking needs to happen.

Are you doing the same disservice to your business, perhaps without realizing it? Here’s a way to find out.

Take a good and long hard look at your business. Where are you spending money to grow or market your business that is not paying off? Do you even know for sure what DOES deliver a return on your investment? If you don’t know, why continue to invest in a mystery? It’s likely that you could invest 50% of your budget online and be sure of the results. Then you could use the remaining 50% in traditional advertising to support your online presence. Online is where searchers are looking; so isn’t it wise to be there?

The reality is that we are in an Internet economy. Everyday, more and more consumers look for products and services online. Many want to gather as much information as possible, even before they are willing to call or walk into a business. If you are not there when they go to the Internet, someone else is answering their questions and fulfilling their needs.

The bottom line: if you are not selling where your customers are buying, they are buying from someone else.

Why working ON your business yields more results than working IN it.

I started discussions with an owner of a window installation company, just before Thanksgiving. His company is a two-man shop, and he is very hands-on, as many small business owners are. This particular business owner claims to see the value of a website and the need to conduct business online. However, shortly after reviewing the proposal, he claimed that he was entirely too busy to undertake the project of developing his Internet presence and online marketing strategy. He had no time to meet with me for a follow-up appointment, because he was too busy working IN his business, and “could not” find the time to work ON his business.

Of course, working IN your business is important, isn’t it? After all, we can confidently say that it is what you must do to make money, right? But is it actually costing you money in the long run?

I run into this everyday. The Heating contractor, who cancels several appointments to fix thermostats. The restaurant owner who just can’t make the time. There are countless examples of small business owners who seem to miss the bigger picture. Or perhaps they see it but don’t think there is anything they can do about it. These business owners place so much value on the short-term that they fail to see the importance of developing long-term strategies to keep their business strong and stable.

I wonder: how could a small business owner, who needs to work IN his business for short-term financial gains, still give enough attention to working ON his business to help it prosper long-term?

This relates directly to the third habit of Stephen Covey’s (http://www.stephencovey.com/) Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. The idea Covey embraces is that putting first things first is, above all, the key to prioritizing work. As Covey explains, some things are very important but, because they aren’t urgent; they get ignored. The window company owner knows his website is important, but because he’s so overwhelmed with day to day work, the website never makes it to the top of his list.

Interestingly, now in March, the window installation company has almost no work. And the owner, who still claims to see the value in a website, is afraid to spend any money. His online presence, although key to his success, remains one of those things he hopes he will get to one day.

If you know and understand that you need to be working ON your business now, here are three suggestions that may work well.

  • Make a commitment to look at the big picture and see where you would like your business to be 2-3 years down the road. Make business decisions based on that long-term vision.
  • Schedule just two hours (at the same day and time) each week to examine where your business is and where you would like it to be. Make this time sacred, without exception, to make important decisions about your business.
  • Look back over the last 12 months and the hours you spent “installing windows” when you could have been developing an online presence to bring in dozens of high-income projects. Ask yourself…. do I wish I had installed a strong online presence instead?

If you do, it’s not too late to make an important decision today. Get help and get moving! The Internet is not going away!

To the business owner who doesn’t understand that he needs to work ON his business, I hope you are still in business 5 years from now when 95% of your competition has an online presence and you are wondering why your phone is not ringing.