So, you’re building your marketing strategy and you figure, hey – I need a website. Well the truth is, just like every decisions you make in building marketing strategy, maybe you do and maybe you don’t. Never assume you should do ANYTHING when building marketing strategy. The strategic question is — does it fit with the rest of my marketing strategy?
1. They’re expensive
Sure, I know. You have a friend, relative, etc who can build a website for $500. But what will a site like that look like? Will it fairly represent your business? And, isn’t that money that could be put into something else that would have a higher payback?
Costs for developing a small business website vary dramatically, but you can expect to pay at least $3500 for a functional, reasonably attractive website. More in a larger city. A nicer site with more functionality, more pages, and some nice visual impact can easily cost over $100,000. You can use offshore developers to save money, but you’ll have more hassles and it takes longer.
Website proponents will argue you can build a WordPress blog for next to nothing. While that’s technically true, is that the image you want for your company? Take a look at some blogs, especially the free WordPress themes, and you’ll see these aren’t particularly attractive. And, to get the functionality you need, you’ll have to pay for a theme and customize it heavily. Do you know how to do that?
And, don’t forget, your website will have to be updated periodically to reflect changes in your business, like your product line. You may also want to add promotional elements, such as sales catalogs to your site. Thus, there’s an ongoing cost associated with having a website. So, you’ll need to allocate money every month or every quarter to keep your website fresh.
Does your marketing plan allow for these expenses? What marketing strategies will you have to cut to make room for a website in your budget?
2. Build it and they will come
People have this “Field of Dreams” notion when it comes to websites — all you have to do is put one up there and folks will flock to your website. Estimates from early 2008 suggest there are nearly 1.6 BILLION websites with about 30 BILLION webpages. And that number only reflects ACTIVE website. The number is much larger if you include dormant websites. A staggering number of websites are NEVER VISITED AT ALL. In fact, 40% of the time people spend online is devoted to just 20 websites.
Driving traffic to your site takes a concentrated effort combining SEO (search engine optimization) and social network marketing. It also takes traditional advertising and promotions to bring eyeballs to your site.
If customers and potential customers don’t find your website, why have one in the first place? Do you know how to optimize your website for search engine traffic? Do you know how to engage consumers on social networks to build traffic?
3. It takes time
Setting up and maintaining a website will take time — time that might be better spent managing your business. Static websites, ones that don’t change very often, don’t build traffic to your website. So, it takes time to build traffic on your site. You’ll have to add material to your blog, if that’s the route you go, every day or at least several times a week in order to get some traffic. You’ll have to become a fixture in at least 3 social networks to gain some visibility there.
Of course, you can hire an employee or a consultant to manage your website, but that will increase your costs.
4. You customers might not be there.
Its true that internet use is increasing dramatically and spreading throughout the world. Its true that the internet is replacing TV viewing for many people — especially young adults and teens. But, let’s look at what they’re doing online.
Internet usage falls into 4 categories. Roughly on order of time spent, these categories are:
- social networks – like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube
- entertainment and news sites- such as Hulu, Wall Street Journal
- Gaming sites – such as Farmville
- Shopping sites – such as Craigslist, EBay, and Amazon, as well as coupon aggregaters such as Groupon.
Online product search and e-commerce are still somewhat anemic, although growing. Moreover, much of this search occurs at well known sites, such as Target, or for specialty products that are hard to find. Broad product categories are almost never searched online, especially utilitarian products and food products.
Does your target market search for businesses and products in your industry online? Will your website provide some value-added services to encourage your target market to use the website?
5. Does a website FIT into your overall marketing strategy?
A bad website is worse than no website at all. Your website is an extension of your brand and should reflect the same brand image as the rest of your marketing efforts.
A website also consumers scarce resources of time and money, so that these resources are NOT available for other projects that are important for your marketing strategy.
What are your goals for your website? Is achieving these goals realistic? Will your website support your other marketing strategies? In a cost/ benefit analysis, does developing and maintaining a website make sense? Is there a better use for the resources you will commit to developing and maintaining a website — ones that have a higher cost/ benefit?
A website MAY be a valuable addition to your marketing strategy, but there are 5 issues you should consider before embarking on a website: 1) they are expensive; 2) the internet is cluttered with websites, so yours will be hard to find; 3) they take time; 4) your target market may NOT be searching for you online; 5) a website may not FIT your marketing strategy.