It’s no longer an option, but a requirement that your company builds a presence online. Your business needs a website, and you’re getting cold calls every day from people offering to build you one – but who should you choose? And why?

First things first – what is the "true function" of a website?

To answer this question, consider two perspectives – that of the web designer and that of the marketer. 

From the expert web developer’s perspective:

A website is an interactive sales tool that businesses can use to leverage the massive amounts of traffic available online.  A website should focus on user experience and allow a visitor to gain an understanding of the products and services that your company offers easily and intuitively.

From the expert marketer’s perspective:

A website is a way to automate the sales process.  Through proper web development, a system can be put in place to automate relationship building and encapsulate your sales pitch.  With proper SEO, a website also becomes a client acquisition device, as it directs targeted traffic to a site that is optimized for conversion.

Now that you understand what your website could (and should) be doing for your company, it’s time to examine 3 ways to get up and running online and provide a review with the two previous perspectives as a guide.

Option 1:  Buy a site from Hibu, Dex, YP, etc.

As a business owner, you’ve undoubtedly been cold-called by one of the three companies mentioned above.  Well, technically two—as Hibu is just YP’s way of trying to compete in the world of websites under a new brand.

Take a step back and think critically about the business model of companies like these.  What is the “one thing” that their company is known for?  When I think of companies like these, I think of cold-calling.  I think of call centers, sales quotas and cubicles.  Companies like these build massive lists of potential prospects and play the numbers game.  These massive companies care much more about their numbers than their product.  To them, your company is simply a number on a spreadsheet.

What about the quality of product?  Here’s how you can take a look and judge for yourself.

Search Google for any of the following (with quotations) then start looking at page 2 and later (to get past their branded pages):

1. “Dex Media – All Rights Reserved” to view Dex sites.

2. “powered by hibu" to view Hibu sites

3. YP pages are really just Hibu pages that haven’t “upgraded”

If you did the search, do you know what you would find?  A bunch of low-quality websites that are designed to meet (or not) very minimal standards in product delivery.  There is minimal content on-site, they are generally not mobile responsive, and word around the internet is that canceling your services with some of these providers is an utter nightmare.

This option will cost you a couple hundred dollars per month to a couple of thousand dollars per month for a site that you are ultimately renting and will never own.

Option 2:  Build your own site with Wix, SquareSpace, Weebly, etc.

Technology has come a long way in terms of web development, and you’ve undoubtedly seen commercials for DIY website builders.

It looks so simple—just drag and drop your content onto the site and poof, you have a professionally designed website, right?  Generally, not the case.  Look, there’s a reason that quality web developers are able to charge what they do, and it’s because dealing with a website is a constantly evolving headache—it’s just that some people actually enjoy this kind of punishment.

In truth, building you own site is better than purchasing from one of the large companies cold-calling you every day.  With this option you have control over your site.  You can ensure the site looks nice, has sufficient content, and functions to convert visitors into buyers; however, you have a business to run, and building a site takes time, and the skills to do it right.

Another benefit of going this route is that you will actually own the site you’re paying for and nobody can hold it hostage—well, for the most part.  See, even though you will have control of your digital asset, you are still dependent on the provider of the web builder.  What would happen to your site should the worst happen and your provider goes out of business?

This option will generally cost you a modest amount per month (generally under $50), but will also cost you time in learning the interface and setting it up, as well as time spent researching how websites should function to convert visitors into buyers.

Option 3:  Find a web developer that understands marketing and sales.

Your website offers a way to communicate your brand and automate both your client acquisition and sales processes.  You need a web developer that understands that.

When you picture someone that builds websites for a living, what comes to mind?  I’m willing to guess that the person you’re thinking of is not the same person you would think of when asked to imagine what a savvy marketer looks like.

Building a website has its own language, marketing has its own language—your web designer needs to be bi-lingual.

While this option can be one of the most expensive, you will get what you pay for if you choose wisely.  Here are some great questions to ask potential candidates that are offering to build you a website:

Can you demonstrate to me that you understand who my ideal customer is?

How do you intend to tailor my website to convert my ideal customer from a visitor of my site into a buyer of my product or service?

What pages will you be including on my website?

What call to action will you be focusing on?

Can you demonstrate how my website will help to automate parts of my sales process?

Will you be driving traffic to my website?

What is your perspective on SEO and how does that relate to the site you’ve built for me?

Take your vetting process seriously and treat it like an interview.  Your website is your digital storefront and your brand depends on it.

Tammy Rimer is the founder of Element 212 LLC.

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