The real ROI on paying for professional web development.
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We’ve written a number of articles on the pitfalls of believing that you can cut costs by doing your design and marketing on your own, but we haven’t written an article specifically discussing what the actual return on investment (ROI) for professional design and web development is. Read on as we explain what may be currently holding you back, why professional design and web development is an investment (and not just an expense), and of course, what the return on that investment is.
Are you in a position to turn down more business?
There are companies out there that are doing quite well, but not even many of those would turn down additional business. You may be getting traffic on your website, your website might show up well in search engines (for certain phrases), you may be getting orders here and there, or perhaps a new customer or client now and then. You think to yourself, my website works! This is actually one of those most common things I hear from people. If I even suggest that their website might not be working as well for them as they think (or could be working even better), the defenses come up. They explain how they did their site themselves (or someone they knew did), or that they paid a lot of money to company-x to do their site, that they receive compliments all the time on their site, etc. etc. I’ve pretty much heard them all at this point.
The ROI on DIY
I suppose it’s easy to color your view of what your ROI is if you’re the one who built your website. You didn’t pay out any money to anyone else to develop it, after all. How long did it take you, by the way, to completely create a website and get it live on the web? How many hours did you spend trying to learn software, searching the web, taking tutorials or classes, and making updates to your site? So you pick up a few orders or a few customers or clients and you think all that work paid off. The reality is, you’re probably not a professional designer or marketing person, but you may very well be a professional in your chosen business. There is a big difference.
What is your time worth?
Let’s say you’re a personal trainer and you charge your clients $50 an hour and you spent an initial 64 hours (basically 16 hours for 4 weekends) learning to create your website. That’s $3200 at your hourly rate of $50 (and that’s also being generous with time – I’ve heard from many others that they spent a lot more time than that trying to create their own website and marketing materials). Say you spend 4 hours a week making updates to your site, or updating things like social media. That’s another $800 month of your time. You’ll probably need other marketing materials too – business cards, brochures, maybe a banner. How long will that take you to create and find printing for each piece? You see where I’m going with this. You may think you’re, “saving money”, but what you’re doing is keeping yourself from doing what you do best, and what you went into business to do in the first place. Are the few new customers that might be coming in off your website enough to compensate for all the time you’re spending on the website? If not, then your return on that investment is not that great.
What is your image worth?
Let’s say you discovered on your own what a time sink trying to DIY your web design, development, and marketing is and you rounded up someone else to do that for you, cheaply. Care to guess how many new clients have approached me over the years with a story such as, “I hired this girl to do our website and she disappeared!” There’s many variations on this one that include things like: the person or company you hired ran off with your files, your website address was registered in your designer’s name and they won’t release it to you now, you went with an offshore designer because they were the least expensive and you never even received a finished website, etc. All of these scenarios have one thing in common – you didn’t actually hire a professional.
We’ve covered the topic of how to make sure you’re choosing a professional in previous articles such as, When It’s Not A Good Fit, but the other thing scenarios like this all have in common is they almost always damage your image. Remember that old saying, “first impressions are lasting impressions”? It certainly rings true when it comes to the image of your business as presented through your web design and marketing. If your URL has had a “coming soon” page up for months now, what type of impression is that sending to people? If you have a site up that you did yourself or you paid an “armchair designer” (not a professional) to do, how does that compare to competitor’s websites in your industry? Are these types of things really giving the impression you want new potential customers or clients to see?
Granted, not every DIY or inexpensive website is a disaster, but a high percentage are. It’s more like, risk to reward, at that point rather than return on investment. The bottom line is, you want to be as successful as possible with your business, right? Hire a pro, then concentrate on what you do best.
In order to figure out ROI, you have to have measuring tools.
Let’s say you’ve done your homework, you’re convinced that image is everything and hiring a professional designer to develop your website is a marketing tool you don’t want to cut corners on. That professional will:
- Have you sign an agreement before beginning work.
- Take the time to get to know you and your business.
- Take the time to understand your business goals and your target market(s).
- Have a solid process for designing and developing your website and any other marketing materials you may need.
- Be available during regular business hours and be responsive to any and all questions or concerns you have during the process.
- Explain components in the design, user-interface, etc. and why they meet your goals and will connect with your market(s).
- Handle any additions or delays professionally.
- Install tools to help measure site statistics.
- And in the end, deliver a website that either creates an excellent image for you or enhances an existing one, functions properly, and meets your goals.
Revisit your goals.
The first step after your new, high-quality, professional website is complete, is to start measuring for success. I mentioned above that your website should have goals. These goals can be things like:
- Present a new or improved image for your business.
- Expand your marketing (reach a new or larger audience).
- Have people download a white paper or ebook.
- Have people sign up for a newsletter or seminar.
- Increase business inquiries and/or gain new clients.
- Increase traffic to the website.
- Increase sales.
If you’re just starting out, it makes things easier because you have no history. You start accumulating data right away, however, and it’s important to understand and pay attention to that data in order to make adjustments. If you already have a history, that data is invaluable to both you and your professional web developer even before they start building your awesome new website. That data can show where improvements can be made, what has been working, what has not been working, and more.
How you obtain the data.
By far the most popular data gathering tool is Google Analytics. When this is added to your website, a whole array of statistics will be available to you. There are similar tools out there, but the results are what counts. You need tools to measure how visitors are using and interacting with your website.
You can also gain data through A/B testing. This is something your developer can set up for you and it includes testing two or more designs/layouts to see which converts (reaches a specific goal or goals) for you.
A third way of gathering data is listen to feedback. When you launch a new website, listen to your target audience. Are you getting new reviews? Are you getting more calls coming into your store or office? Are you selling more product? These observations can happen through a variety of channels: in person, via email, via phone, via other sites on the web (such as review websites), and via social media.
As you’re reviewing all of your new collective data, keep your goals in mind. Use these measuring tools and methods to determine how well your website is doing to reach those goals. Some designers and web developers can also help you gather and review the data.
Let’s talk numbers.
You’ve got a great website, you know what your goals are, and you’ve got a good set of tools to measure how well you’re reaching those goals. Let’s say you paid $6000 to completely develop your new website. The most basic ROI is when you eclipse that cost you paid for the site with new business you’ve generated from the site. But let me reiterate some of the long term value that makes your investment invaluable.
Why is this invaluable? Image is everything! The first point of contact for many of your customers or clients is going to be what they find on your website. Professional design insures that you are presenting the right image to your target market(s).
Why it’s invaluable? Your conversions will not be as high if your design is not tailored to your goals and market(s). A professional will tie in the visual design with marketing (and even copywriting) to make the message you want to convey to your visitors an effective one.
Why it’s invaluable? The top reasons why people leave a website boils down to appearances and usability. Usability is not just how your site technically functions, but how easy it is for visitors to get around and find the information they need. If they have a hard time using your site (or viewing it on their device of choice), you’re losing potential business.
The wrap up…
All the data gathering, testing and tracking can get a lot more complex than I’ve laid out here, but these are the basics. The important things to take away from this article are: your time is also valuable, be sure you’re actually hiring a professional when you do, and the return on the investment you make on professional web development and design can go well beyond the initial cost.
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