Every company considering new products or services should know what alternatives are out there. That's especially true for a key area of business, like your online presence. When it comes to your website and presence, small businesses should consider the four following options.
1. Do Nothing
It may seem that every small business has a website, but in reality, more than half don't. Which leads to a fair question to ask yourself: Do I need a website? A website and well-managed Internet presence takes time, money and effort. Is it worth it? In today's digitally driven world, the answer is probably yes, But it’s never a bad idea to be clear on exactly why, or why not.
- No cost.
- No headache.
- No reason to change the way you do things.
- You might be losing business to competitors who have a website and well managed online presence.
- You don’t know how many potential customers aren't contacting you, because they can’t find and review your company on the Web.
- Advertising such as Yellow Pages might be working today, but will they be working tomorrow, or five years from now?
2. Do-It- Yourself Website
Many small businesses consider creating and managing their own website. This solution works great for website hobbyists and brand-new businesses without a set budget. If you’re not worried about driving leads, saving money is great. But you won't be saving time. Even the simplest sites require hours of routine upkeep. Let's look closer at the pros and cons:
- Low, fixed cost.
- No vendors or agencies to research, hire, and work with.
- Total control over the process.
- Time and effort required to learn the DIY website Content Management System (CMS).
- A professional look isn't simple to achieve. It may take specialized tools like Adobe Photoshop, or require skills involving HTML and CSS.
- Web design and development will take time away from important aspects of managing your business.
3. Custom website design and development
Most small businesses looking for a professional website work with a website design and development company or team. That works great for projects like e- commerce, which need dedicated engineering for many technical details. But you'll usually pay a high development cost to launch your site, then either spend time updating the live site yourself, or spend money paying your developer to handle that for you. Here's the details:
- Helps meet complex business and technical requirements through custom solutions.
- If your marketplace demands unique, cutting-edge design, working with a talented designer is a tremendous advantage.
- Personal attention will be at the highest level. You'll be attending meetings about your site and meeting the people who make it.
- Cost: typical projects range between $5,000 and $25,000. That's not including cost-overruns, which happen in many projects.
- Most web design and development agencies do not update sites. If you want to make future changes, you'll have to pay.
- At the lower end of the price range, the agencies usually aren't full service. You may need to find your own copywriter, or do this yourself.
- Time: you'll have to attend meetings, review work and ensure the project is on track and budget.
4. Total solution or industry specific agency
Another option is choosing one of the many companies like Pronto, that provide more complete services, and are designed to make it easy and affordable for a small business to improve their Web presence. Some companies focus on a specific industry, such as dentists or real estate, with tailored solutions. Others, like Pronto, cater to a broad range of businesses and organizations. When the website is completed, most provide ongoing support and updates. Many offer some or all of their services on a pay-as- you-go basis.
- Low, fixed cost.
- Full service from hosting, to design, to support.
- They update your site, and keep your content fresh.
- All the advantages of a one-stop shop.
- Might not be able to meet all of your custom requirements, or integrate unique software.
- Website templates might not be fully customizable.
- May not be a full-service marketing agency.
- Might require long contracts- it’s good to ask about that up front.
Which option is best?
There is no one answer for everyone. For some businesses, no site at all or a one page DIY website might be best. On the other hand, a company with more complex business or functional requirements might want to invest in a custom designed website. For the majority of businesses who fall in the middle, the best idea is finding a good turnkey agency, who builds and maintains your online presence for a fixed price.