The old adage, ‘You get what you pay for…’ absolutely applies to website projects. The following is a summary list of the four types of website providers (The Agency, the Freelancer, the Website Factory and the ‘Free’ Website provider). This list is ordered from the full-service agency to the bare-bones free service provider.
Marketing agencies are usually led by those having seasoned experience within a local marketplace. Heeding advice from an agency can save you from project-creep and improve revenue growth. They’ll know which online business strategies do work and don’t work for a particular niche. Although agencies fall in the mid-range to high-end of the pricing spectrum, their insights are practical, and they can provide offerings that other website provider-types lack. These include:
- Aligning a website to achieve business goals. Of all website provider types, this is something an agency is most apt to execute. Unbelievably, many small business websites aren’t constructed with business goals in mind. Small-business owners typically publish websites just to achieve an on-line ‘presence’ without considering how a website can increase sales, improve customer experience, automate mundane tasks and set them apart from their competitors.
- Synchronizing offline and online marketing. By leveraging the strengths of traditional marketing and Internet campaign venues, a business owner can accurately measure which marketing campaigns work best. Agencies know how to tie an offline tactic with an online venue to produce greater results than either technique can do alone.
- Recommending the most effective on-line efforts for a particular market niche. Most agencies are driven by developing successful long-term client relationships. And unlike one-product marketing companies, agencies are pragmatic with their advice and more inclined to voice the hazards of pursuing certain marketing venues.
- Procuring original content for a website. What other website providers, such as website factories and freelancers, won’t tell you is that no matter how great a web design is, it’s the publishing of superior website content (such as written copy, photos and video) that makes a business stand out above the competitors. Of all the website provider types, only an Agency has the resources to produce exceptional content.
There are individuals, operating as website providers, who’ll design, develop and build websites for businesses. These providers are of two flavors; the designer and the developer. Although the designer and the developer are both very capable of producing great custom websites, they approach website projects from different perspectives. The designer usually has their business roots from a graphic arts or marketing background, while the developer’s pedigree originates from software engineering origins.
Many times, these website providers can produce a custom website for the same price, or less, than a Website Factory vendor (see Website Factory description below). More importantly for many business owners, a freelancer is capable of providing a service with a rich client-centric experience.
Although the freelancer has the ability to provide a good product, there are service-related ‘blindspots’ to watch out for.
- The experienced Freelancer knows vendor-client correspondence can quickly exhaust precious production time. To counter this, they exercise time-management techniques when corresponding with clients. Sometimes their methods can be perceived as curt or too brief. When expectations aren’t set properly, a customer may feel left out of the process or believe the freelancer has dropped the ball.
- Many Freelancers won’t provide content; such as written copy, photography or video. As a business owner, determine how you’ll source your content before initiating a website project with a Freelancer.
- Some Freelancers shun routine website maintenance; such as software upgrades, security updates, performing 3-2-1 backups and fixing broken links. Freelancers who shy away from providing long-term maintenance may become difficult to reach after a project’s completion.
Bottom-line: Most freelancers do produce a good product. However, many freelancers provide website services as a part-time gig for extra money. Frequently, they’ll dabble in the industry and then move on to other pursuits after a year or two. Consequently, many business owners find themselves having to hire another website provider when alterations are needed.
With the Website Factory, website costs are normally presented on charts, listing feature bundles and pricing. This type of website provider-type is upfront as to which features are chargeable before the sign-up process begins. They avoid the ‘Bait-and-Switch’ tactic that’s prevalent with the ‘Free Website Provider’ (see below).
The Bottom-line: The Website Factory provider may be a good starting point for a small business. There are many pre-fabricated themes and elements to make a business stand-out. Don’t expect this provider type to perform a custom website build-outs (colors and elements are frequently limited); and don’t expect good SEO. Website portability and scalability may also be limited (important to know if you plan to grow your online presence). As with most Freelancers, website factories solely provide design without content. Content is expected to be provided by the customer. Monthly costs can start as low as $50 per month; however, as elements are added, costs can quickly soar to $400+ per month – at which point, you should really pursue a custom site from an agency or freelancer.
The ‘Free Website’ Provider
Ah, the time-tested ‘Free’ marketing gimmick. When considering this type of website provider, common sense will make you wonder, ‘how does this outfit stay in business if they’re offering free website services?’
The answer is… They won’t stay in business.
Although these types of providers will tell you their web services are free, they stay in business with these sly business practices:
The “Free” service is a lost-leader. The goal is to get a customer signed up for the website service and then up-sell them on features for monthly premiums. Many times, monthly website charges will start out at $20 per month for the most basic functions; and as features are added, costs can rise to $400-$500 per month.
The “Free” website is the provider’s advertisement platform. Customers who visit websites hosted under this type of program are served ads in the header, footer, margins or even in the middle of the written copy. The ads are usually under an automated rotation, so you may expect some of these ads to be competitors – soliciting your customers.
The Bottom-line: If you’re truly looking for a ‘free’ basic brochure-type of website design for family- or club- use, this may be the way to go. However, the ‘free’ price-point will be hard to stay at when some of the most basic functions are chargeable. Don’t expect this type of service to be well-suited for business. Additionally, these outfits solely provide design layout. Content is expected to be provided by the customer.
To learn more about how a website can make your business stand out from the competition, contact My Internet Scout today! Our initial consultation is complimentary. We’ll help you build a solid local marketing strategy to get your business growing.