Often it is hard to have any idea about where to start and what you should be receiving for your hard earned money.
We have pulled together this guide for New Zealand businesses so you will at least have a starting point.
Q: What should you pay for true value?
A: Working out what is good value for your business starts by determining clearly what the outcomes are that you expect from a piece of work, and what those are worth to your business.
For example, the piece of work might be as straightforward as updating your site to the latest version of the CMS (be it WordPress, Joomla, Drupal or others).
What is that worth to your business? In this case, you need to look at what the potential cost or opportunity cost is of not getting the work done. Upgrades are one of those unfortunate facts of life in the web game and leaving the job undone exposes your site (and your business) to a number of risks.
First and foremost, the risk of your site being hacked due to security vulnerabilities that have been fixed in newer versions. what is the cost to your business of your site being down from a hack, or even worse, the reputational damage if that hack exposes the private data of your customers?
Secondly, there is a risk to the visibility of your business if your old site doesn’t fit with the most recent changes to search engine algorithms. Google makes changes on a regular basis, and that might mean your site gets left behind in the search results, while your competitors gain more traction.
Thirdly, if you haven’t invested in an upgrade of your site CMS, it is likely you might also not have invested in keeping the site looking fresh and current from a visual design perspective. This runs the risk of doing damage to your brand, and even more so if you have homepage content that is obviously dated (like a Latest News or blog post that is a year or more old).
So when it comes to determining value, it is likely that the cost of getting the work done is far less than the potential costs and risks you are exposing your business to.
For a more positive example, what is the value of a highly effective marketing campaign or marketing strategy to your business?
A well planned, well targeted and designed campaign can help you meet your objectives around building profile, gathering new potential customers and clearly establishing your brand in the market. And of course, if you sell products online, it can increase your sales directly.
Q: How can a business owner know if they are getting good value for their investment in the digital space?
A: Perhaps the most obvious answer to this question is: Did it work?
That might seem straightforward, but all too often a client might respond with “I don’t know – how can I tell?”
Once again, deciding if an investment in digital marketing or web development is worth it, comes back to knowing clearly what you want your outcomes to be.
Do you want more sales leads – if so, how many are you getting from your current website and how many would you like? Do you simply want more organic visits to your site? What are the benefits of more organic traffic? How long do you want people to stay on your site? Do you want them to come back regularly, or do you just need them to visit once?
Setting a clear understanding of what measurable outcomes are important to your business with an agency should happen from your first meeting.
Being on the same page means that everyone on the team from the strategist to the designer, to the developers and the digital marketers have a clear idea of what the project needs to achieve, and helps them develop an effective plan to make the most of your investment.
If the project is set up this way from the beginning, then it becomes very straightforward to know if you are getting good value for money, since everything will be benchmarked and tracked.
Note: As a rule, it is far more likely to be a good investment if you have worked through your business model and requirements in advance of briefing an agency. Too much time and money can be wasted by expecting your agency to come up with your business plan.
Q: What should your expectations be in relation to your budget?
A: Ok, this can be a tricky one, but here’s a rough guide. Keep in mind that any agency worth their salt will give you some indication of what they can realistically do for your budget early on.
Be aware that some agencies will quote low to get your commitment to working with them, then send a stream of “variances” as the project continues – ending up more expensive than the other alternatives and relying on the fact that you won’t want to walk away in the middle of a build.
For custom projects worth $20k plus, be prepared to invest some cash upfront to have a scope done by your web development company.
This can save you time and money in the longer term, and help you make critical decisions in the early stages before you have committed yourself too far to a particular course of action.
The outcome of your scope (depending on the scale of the project) might be a set of technical specifications, or it could be a less detailed document that is effectively a Statement of Work, that includes choices regarding software to be utilised, functionality for different parts of the site etc.
Researching the best solutions so that accurate pricing can be provided takes time, particularly if you are looking for something different from others in your sector. Be prepared to pay some now, so that you ultimately save costs further down the track.
Budget NZD$1,000 – 3,000
For this kind of budget you might expect a small, template based website of up to 6 pages. It is likely to be in WordPress or Squarespace, and will start from a template that is customised to a degree, but really only with your brand colours, logo, images and written content.
(If you get a quote in this range, keep in mind that your website developer is likely being optimistic that you will be easy to work with, well organised with your content, able to make decisions quickly and stick to them, clear about outcomes and realistic on timeframes. Unfortunately this is too often not the case, and people with small budgets can often take up more time that has been allowed for in the quote. If that happens, you may find that your web company becomes less co-operative than you would like.)
If it’s not a website you need, you could get a marketing strategy and some training, or a social media plan and training/implementation, or design and set up of an email marketing campaign.
Or, you could get a reasonable amount of original content created for you, in the form of blog posts, articles or webpage content.
Budget NZD$3,000 – $7,000
The majority of small business sites sit in this bracket, assuming the site doesn’t have a lot of complex functionality. It might include a blog, a contact form, social media feeds and the usual pages about your business, services and staff.
At the top end of this bracket, you could also get some ecommerce functionality, either through something like WordPress WooCommerce, or Shopify.
From a design perspective, it is likely that these sites will start from a template or theme base, but you could expect more customisation than in the lower price bracket.
Budget NZD$7,000 – $12,000
Within this range you can have a custom site built, but it will not come with a wide range of functionality and features. Ironically, spending a bit less money on a template site can sometimes get you more bang for your buck than a custom designed site in this price range.
So it really depends on how important it is to you that your site is unique and designed to really complement your brand, or if you want a few more bells and whistles but are happy to have a template that you may see other variations of in the market.
Budget NZD$12,000 – $20,000
A lot more functionality becomes possible in this price range, including more complex forms for different types of organisations, for example membership subscriptions with renewal reminders and a database attached.
The site would be likely to include a blog or News section, have searchable content, social media integration and custom designs for web and mobile.
Budget NZD$20,000 – $30,000
This range is where specific functionality needs to be built or fully customised to fit your requirements and often to integrate with your existing systems.
Design is likely to be fully customised for web and mobile and you might have other functionality attached like an events calendar, email marketing integration, marketing landing pages, social media integration and more.
Budget NZD$30,000 +
Over this point, you might expect a fully custom design and build, often with multi country and multi lingual content, sometimes multiple sites on one installation, ecommerce functionality, complex forms and other systems integration.
Other potential functionality on the site might include login areas for members or distributors with a database of resources, member editable areas and profiles, message boards or forums, integrated news feeds from other sources via RSS, integration with retail POS systems, marketing automation and more.
Rule of Thumb: Unique = $$$
As a general rule of thumb, the more unique and complex you want the site to be, the more you should expect to pay for it (and the longer it will take to build).
As the range of web templates available becomes bigger and more attractive, you can get a highly professional looking, attractive site for a lot less investment than even two or three years ago.
So if you really just need a web presence that looks professional and allows you to manage the site and add content easily, so you can get on with your marketing activity, it is possible to make that happen for less than $10,000 and potentially less than $5,000.
Keep in mind though, that if the cheapest option is what you go for, and the web company is based offshore, you will need to factor in more of your own time for checking and thinking and QA than with a local company that might cost you a bit more upfront.