A website project is not the time to bring all the bells and whistles your development and leadership teams can drum up—it’s time to make strategic decisions.
Websites as a Marketing Tool
When it comes to brand exposure and demand generation, your website is the sun that all other strategies orbit around. If you’re selling a B2B product or service, it’s hard to imagine a purchasing process that doesn’t include a website visit. And while you’ve heard that 70% of the buying process is done before customers reach out to you, there’s good evidence that the buyer’s journey is even more complex than that.
While your website might not be the first contact a customer has with your brand, it’s likely the main face — a key showcase of your messaging, a lead capture machine, filling the pipeline through forms, chatbots or other contact methods. It acts as a powerful sales enablement tool and helps poor-fit prospects self-select out of the buying process. It can show off your services, demo your products, and orient your customer to how you stand out from the competition. There’s no shortage of jobs for your site — and this brings plenty of opportunities to make mistakes.
None of these things require a significant investment in custom development. Wix (NASDAQ: WIX) the popular website-building SaaS company, runs their marketing site on, you guessed it, Wix.
But if you ask a professional developer to build you a site on that platform, they’re likely to balk at the suggestion. Instead, why don’t you consider one of the 1,936 other solutions out there? (No, I’m not making that number up.)
Great — there are plenty of reasons to select a content management system that aligns with your needs. But Wix earned over $1 Billion last year, so before you go all-in on a fancy custom solution, make sure that you’re solving the right problems with your investment.
Here are four areas you should be investing in:
Tools and Toys for Users
These may come in the form of calculators, configurators, lead magnets, etc. that provide additional value to customers. This is a great place to invest development dollars, and an easy place to see ROI.
Security and Resiliency
You’re making a large investment—make sure you protect it. Development operations (devops) and security functionality are key to the longevity of your site. Don’t skimp here.
Most organizations, even large ones, rely on a small team or an individual for all their web updates. They may not be a designer at heart, so make sure the tool you build for them has guardrails to keep it on brand.
Flexibility and Agility
6 months ago, we rebuilt a website for a multi-million-dollar organization that didn’t have a content management system (CMS). Every change made to the website required help from a professional web developer. Unsurprisingly, it was out-of-date and confusing. Don’t make the same mistake.
Don’t Waste Your Money
Please. Marketing dollars are hard enough to come by, we don’t want to see you throw yours away.
Three areas of no-return:
Building Features No One Wants
This one’s for you, C-Suite: the easiest way to waste web development dollars is trying to build something that you think is really neat, but none of your users need. The guilty party here is almost always someone with a lot of role power that the team wants to please. Ask your users what they want and trust them.
Reinventing the Wheel
Don’t let a developer talk you into a home-grown CMS. There are too many good off-the-shelf solutions to spend your money on solving the problem of how to get words to show up on a webpage. I don’t care if you pick WordPress, Hubspot, CraftCMS, or any equally good option – just don’t roll your own.
“Saving Money” by Under-Investing
Finding the right team is critical. There’s always a lower priced option, but the tradeoff is almost guaranteed to be either talent or timeline. Too little talent will usually show up in insecure or brittle infrastructure that is costly to maintain. Timeline woes mean your site is sitting half-done on a server somewhere that no one can see it, tying up your investment and generating no return.
Build What Works for Your Team
Made a slight change to your go-to-market messaging? Ensure that is reflected on the site. New changes to a product or service offering? Your website is the point of the spear for that information. From SEO and CRO, there’s a world of on-going effort that should be considered to meet the market and win. But whatever you do, don’t waste your money on the bells and whistles that don’t serve your business.
John Gough is Senior Director of Web and Digital Strategy at Element Three, a marketing consultancy.