FINALLY, it’s time to update that 2015 (or older) website. You got the budget approval from the CFO/CEO that knows nothing about budgeting for websites and you’re searching Google for “Web design firms in [city name]”. Next, you align your top 5 firms you’d like to work with. It’s exciting, fun but…whoa there turbo! Take a second and read these 4 tips before you do anything. I promise it will help save time, budget, frustration, and quite possibly your job.

Tip 1: Align Your Internal Team

Identifying a web project team is crucial. Your entire startup or emerging brand, not just your marketing team, will be represented by the website and rely on it to grow the business. Below is a recommended project team:

Salesperson: Nobody knows your target audience personally and professionally as well as your sales team. Get your top performer invested in this project.

IT: If your company has an IT department, include one person from that team from the beginning. They may not be interested in the creative aspects but will definitely need to know the technical specs of the project.

HR: If one of your website’s goals is to attract talent, include someone from your team that relates to the demographic you are after. 9 out of 10 professionals research a company online before even considering their job offers.

Project Owner: Most importantly, dedicate one person in the organization that will be the main point of contact for the agency. Multiple voices make for a messy project, and a messy project puts tension on the relationship, budget, and timeline.

Tip 2: Understand What You Can Get For Your Budget

I’ll be honest here. This was a tough section for me to write. I’ve been working in digital marketing agencies selling websites since 2012. I have sold sites from $5,000 to $250,000 and everywhere in between. Bottom line is that price does not equal quality. Trust me.

That said, I recommend budgeting based on your company size and website importance. Here are 3 scenarios, hopefully, you relate to one. If not, contact me and I can help with a budget. Note that adding e-commerce to any of the following scenarios could add 2x the costs (sometimes more).

Scenario 1:

  • Small scale, local company (a more fresh startup)
  • Ownership is involved with the marketing team or is the marketing team
  • Specializes in 1 to 5 service offerings
  • The website needs 5-15 pages
  • Investing in SEO campaign

Budget: $7,500 to $15,000

Scenario 2:

  • Small, yet established B2B or B2C company
  • Marketing team consists of 1-10 people
  • A handful of service offerings
  • The website may need to integrate with a CRM, such as SalesForce
  • Thought leadership is an important piece to the marketing mix
  • The website needs 15 – 30 pages (not including blog posts or portfolio pages)

Budget $25,000 to $50,000

Scenario 3:

  • Large scale and established B2B or B2C company
  • Large marketing team or department
  • Wide range of services (think Deloitte)
  • National presence
  • Large sales team
  • 50+ pages
  • Active blog

Budget $60,000 to $100,000

Reader beware, going the cheap route when you can afford quality work will catch up to you, financially, reputationally, and chronologically. There is no cheating the system here. If you have someone on your team that worked in the agency world or has managed more than one website project in their past, you may be able to build a kick-ass freelance team. If not, find a firm.

Cheat Code: Ask the agency to develop the unique page templates so that you or your team can create the remaining pages. Also, ask them to include CMS training and focus that time on learning how to scale the website to the desired size. This can save a significant amount of budget and allow for more innovative work rather than restricting creativity due to costs. Within WordPress, adding pages and reorganizing the content takes zero code knowledge (when developed correctly).

If you work for an agency and don’t agree, then you are pricing too high due to a lack of processes or simply think your work is worth more. I’m tired of clients paying high dollar for work done by entry-mid level talent just because the firm has cash flow issues and will charge max budget every time. This leads me to the next tip…

Tip 3: Picking The Right Firm

There are hundreds of “digital agencies” here in Denver. You most likely have one within a mile or two of your office and if they are doing SEO right, they will appear in search engine results when you enter the keywords “digital agency Denver”. While this is an indicator they are doing SEO for themselves, this is not an indicator of the quality of their work. I cannot stress that enough.

The key to finding the right fit can be represented by a simple rating scale:

Work Experience (1-10)

Personal Connection (1-10)

Expertise (1-10)

References (y/n)

Budget Fit (y/n)

Another HUGE thing to consider is their “process”. When asking if the firm has a specific process they follow,  you will get a “yes” 10/10 times. Do some more digging. Ask to see their process and when getting client references, ask their clients if the process was clear and led the project. A lack of process will put tension on the budget, timeline, and relationship as the project matures.

Lastly, don’t put any weight on the term “full-service”. Very few firms really are “full-service” but their expertise falls with one or two of their service offerings. The idea to “keeping it all under one roof” is dead. Hire a web firm for a website, SEO agency for SEO, PR firm for PR, etc. Unless you can afford the national firms stick to local specialty shops.

Tip 4: Post Launch Expectations

Your website is like a car. Change it’s oil, take care of it, wash it, and it will be something you are proud to drive for the next few years. A couple of times a year you may need to invest in updates to the technology used to build the site. Such as “plugin updates” or CMS (Content Management System aka the technology your website lives on) updates. No matter how much you paid for the website, it is never “set it and forget it.” If you do not have an internal IT department, ask your web agency for a maintenance package or a referral to someone that can help.

Overall, expect to spend $1k to $5k per year maintaining an average company website.