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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.

You can’t.

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.

Not sure what type of website you need?

We should chat!