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Why We 'Overspent' on Our Website (And You Should, Too)

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As you plan a new website -- or updates to an existing one -- you may wish the sky was the limit. Unfortunately, we are all faced with the same monetary Catch-22. There is a limit to what can be spent, even if there is no limit on what can be done.

As you contemplate the development of your website, you’ll have to ask the familiar question, “How much should we spend?”

The answer to that timeless question is never easy. There are always trade-offs, as we discovered at my firm, Hinge, when redesigning our website not too long ago.

We could have gone with an off-the-shelf system, but we knew that every change down the road would require more assistance from a developer. So we made the very deliberate decision to invest in optimizing our site from the start. We developed a modular system of templates that allow significant flexibility without the need for constant help from our web developers. We also took advantage of filtering and content categorization tools to dynamically link different data sets (lists of authors, topics, etc.) in a variety of places on the site.

But perhaps the most important investment was integrating our website with our customer relationship management (CRM) platform -- as well as a host of other online platforms. This integration ensures we get the most out of every online interaction and allows us to maximize the relationship with prospects and qualified leads.

Some may think we overspent, but when you look at the rationale and return, it makes perfect business sense.

The Reason for a Redesign

There are many reasons to redesign a website. The aesthetics may be dated. It may not have the most recent mobile-friendly, responsive design features. It may lack a few must-have features, like a blog, landing pages with lead generation offers, or integration with your CRM or marketing automation software. And your content may no longer reflect changes in your services.

Newer technology may also make it much easier to maintain your site and keep the design looking fresh. Most importantly, there are always opportunities to improve your site’s user experience.

But the real reason for a redesign is ROI.

A company website -- even in the professional services -- can attract a significant amount of new business. In our case, more than 80% of our new business comes through our website.

If you consider your website investment in this light, it is easy to see the fault in our earlier question, “How much should we spend?” The question you really should be asking is, “How much can we productively spend?”

What do we mean by “productively”? Well, if you earn $10 for every $1 you invest, you will want to invest as much as you possibly can. What you need to know is when does the incremental investment no longer generate a positive return. Be bold, but plan carefully.

Making a Poor Impression

It takes courage to invest heavily in your website. So it is not surprising that most B2B companies are drawn to a seemingly more conservative approach: Reduce the risk by spending less.

Great, you saved a few thousand dollars. But what have you lost? According to Hinge’s recent Referral Marketing Study, more than 50% of people who are referred to a B2B services firm will rule out that provider because their website reflected poorly on them. Cheap websites almost always make poor impressions.

How many new clients do you need to lose before the savings start to feel like a liability?

Planning Your Budget

Most firms have only a vague notion of what a new website should cost. They tend to think only about the direct expenses. They overlook the value of research and message development, for example. How can you find the right balance?

The best place to start is to calculate your minimal low-cost scenario. In other words, what is the least you could spend and “get by.” You can easily spend 3-5 times that amount before you run any danger of over-investing. In our own case, we spent 10 times that minimum and in retrospect, not a penny was wasted.

As with any professional service, you’ll get better results when you work with a firm that knows what it is doing. That means reaching out to a firm that has the web design, user experience, project management, online strategy, SEO, social media, and lead nurturing chops to turn your investment into high quality leads and new revenues. This kind of expertise may cost a bit more up front, but you’ll see the investment in a sophisticated new website can make real dollars and sense.

Smaller Budgets Don't Minimize Risk

Many firms believe that minimizing the budget reduces risk. It’s understandable to want to minimize cost -- but it's a trap. You are favoring short-term spending over long-term returns. And that’s rarely a good strategy.

If you stop to consider what a competent marketing website should be able to deliver over the long term -- a steady flow of high-quality leads -- you’ll understand that it doesn’t take many new clients to pay for your entire investment.

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