As business owners we have to weigh up the choices we make about our marketing budgets. Getting a return on the advertising dollar is all important in these tough financial times.

So as a small business, can you justify spending 8-10K on a website?

Well it depends on what you really need. If the extra functionality is needed and financially justifiable then there is a business case for spending that kind of money. However, I often come across quite small companies who are just spending too much on their website for far too little return.

Sometimes the website investment is done to ‘keep up with the big boys’ in their industry. Or sometimes they are convinced that they’ll only get new business if they have ‘xyz’ feature on their website. Their experience has been a big website investment, a struggle to get the site developed on time and then once the site is launched and online for a while they realise they are not getting any new business from it. The end result is a large online ‘white elephant’ and sadly no return on their website investment. That’s a fairly unpleasant situation to be in as a small struggling business (and let’s face it, doing business as the ‘small fry’ is always a bit of a struggle).

As for keeping up with the bigger companies, you’ve got to wonder if the ‘big boy’ websites are any better. Sometimes they are just a bit too clever for their own good and their direction has been driven by media agencies intent on all of the bells and whistles.

Do you really need all the Bells & Whistles?

Though it’s tempting to get all of those ‘bells and whistles’, adding that additional level of complexity and functionality to your website can add just add another barrier between you and your prospective client. For example, having an automated quote generator can stop people ringing you, as they ‘self eliminate’ themselves based on cost. You’ve instantly lost the opportunity to sharpen the pencil for what could be a great new client. Or, perhaps your new automated quote feature can’t take into account all of the factors – so if you actually had a chance to find out the full story the price would be quite different.

There are exceptions of course. Paying for customised website functionality is justifiable in a number of situations – for example if your website IS your business (such as a social media site or auction site) or if you want to do complex e-commerce.

For most other business situations, you can probably get away with a well designed and professional ‘brochure’ website. That’s not to say you can’t have some bells and whistles with it such as slideshows and image carousels. Just be careful how much you pay for them.

Using ‘Open Source’ Web Software Can Keep Costs Down

There is now a plethora of Open Source website software that can ‘plug and play’ straight into your website – so no additional web development is required. The system we use (WordPress), is an excellent example.

Before open source website systems were widely available, it was fairly necessary to have a whole team of web professionals to put together a website with content management and even some of the most basic bells and whistles stuff. Most website firms needed their own content management or e-commerce system, so hired web programmers to develop these. As a web client you were not only paying for the time to build your website, but you were contributing in some part financially to the ongoing enhancement of the content management system. You can now avoid those costs by using Open Source software.

Many web companies still develop their own proprietary systems, as it is part of their business model to have software that contributes to the value of the business and provides them a residual income via support fees. However, many web firms have switched to using Open Source, as the base functionality is already there and if needed they can customise it.

So before committing to that large website budget, check what sort of system you are getting, how much additional work is really being done on it, and most vitally, is it really necessary? At the end of the day, if you just want people to pick up the phone and call you, then a reasonably priced website will do the trick.

Already spent the money? Here’s what to do…

If you’ve already gone down the track and have a website that is not performing well for you but don’t want to undo all that hard work and money, you could look at doing a very focused niche website that is purely marketing focused. Stay tuned, as we will be blogging about these types of sites in the very near future.

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