Professional websites can seem like big investments to small business owners. Online marketing is such a huge topic that it can be hard to work out where to begin.
So why do small businesses need professionally designed websites? Here’s an analogy that may help.
Professional Websites Are Marketing Vehicles
Your website is your main marketing vehicle in the non-stop race for sales. To extend that analogy, hosting is the garage you rent for it, and your domain is the address of that garage. Site visitors are passengers that you pick up briefly, and some of them convert into customers.
However, your vehicle won’t get far without regular maintenance (support and updates) and good driving (active marketing). Leaving it in the garage achieves nothing, no matter how pretty it is or how much work you put into it.
Do Small Businesses Need Them, Though?
Small businesses sometimes think it’s enough to live entirely in Facebook-town, with no more than a Facebook Page to promote their business. They get a standard vehicle in a standard garage, all provided for “free” by the local authority. That’s enough, right?
Not once you start driving. Because eventually you’ll see that Facebook-town is actually a set of gated communities connected by toll-roads. You’ll have to pay to get far, and your standard vehicle has little chance of pulling ahead of the pack in that race to reach potential passengers.
Other social media communities are similar, but provide more limited vehicles. Twitter, for instance, gives you a skateboard a public park, whilst LinkedIn is more like a golf cart at a business club and recruitment centre.
The Tempting Shortcut
Of course, you can choose to pay the tolls. Paid ads can work — as long as you keep paying. It isn’t quite as simple as that, though.
The catch is that you may have to pay a lot of tolls before you make a sale. That can be crippling without decent profit margins and conversion rates.
For instance, say you make £50 profit on an average sale, and 1% of your passengers convert into customers. Clearly, you’ll make a loss if those tolls cost you any more than 50p per passenger on average. However…
- Well-targeted visitors tend to cost more than that
- Poorly-targeted visitors aren’t likely to convert that well
- Cheap websites don’t tend to convert customers very well anyway
Worse, if you get that wrong, it can be hard to stop paying, because then you’ll reach even fewer potential customers. Of course, you can quit any time you want to, but… just one more month, right? Maybe the next one will be better. Or the next… until you realise that there’s no way to recoup what you’ve lost.
Why Professional Websites Work
By comparison, a secure professional website with professional maintenance avoids those problems. It can travel far beyond those gated communities and toll roads. So with a bit of cost-effective SEO to tune the engine, it can reach much wider audiences. Because almost everyone who visits those gated communities wanders outside them, too.
Professional websites can also achieve higher conversion rates. Because customers want to see a long-term commitment to quality.
Whilst quality doesn’t come cheap, that’s not just because it takes more effort. It’s also because it makes money. Quality is an investment, not a cost.
In short, investing in professional web design helps you avoid the far bigger costs of missed sales and wasted ad spend.
A Common Microbusiness Mistake
Some small businesses still struggle to afford that investment, though. Especially microbusinesses like sole traders and firms with under 10 employees.
After all, until your payroll runs to thousands each month, investing in professional help can seem expensive. Especially if you think professional web design must be quick and easy when you know how.
So it’s tempting to believe the hype that you can get a professional website without time, skill, effort or investment.
No, not even if celebrity sponsors claim otherwise. When they succeed, it’s because they already have an established brand and dedicated fans. Oh, and you know most DIY site builder reviews aren’t written by professional website designers, right? They’re mostly by paid copywriters or bloggers promoting the platforms that offer them the best affiliate deals.
So how can you get a site that’s both affordable on a microbusiness budget, and cost-effective?
Affordable Professional Websites For Microbusinesses
What you can do is focus on business performance factors first. Then address less critical aspects later. A professionally-tuned engine will do you more good than a custom chassis and upholstery. Those will matter when you get potential customers on board, but you have to reach them first.
That’s what my “Affordable Sites” packages do, for a few common types of site. They provide an affordable, professional alternative to inexperienced and/or moonlighting designers who sell pretty but underperforming sites cheaply and then disappear.
Visitors often appreciate more unique, comfortable customer experiences, though. So a bespoke professional website is still a more cost-effective approach if you can afford it. It may also be your only real option if you need non-standard features. Standard vehicles can only serve standard needs, after all.
Professional Website Design Pays For Itself
Professional web design costs less than cheap web design in the long run. That’s because it offers a far higher return on investment. Still, it can be affordable in the short term too, if you only need a simple website.