We met with a prospective client last week to discuss their upcoming website redesign & development project. This prospect is your typical small business where the owners make all of the decisions without much input from the rest of the staff. There isn’t a dedicated marketing department, nor is there a “techie” on staff. If you’re a small business owner, this situation may sound familiar…and you can vouch that it’s not easy.
Any vendor selection process is an exercise in analytical skills. The two owners that we met with aren’t website guys. This whole process is new to them, and while they know they need a new site, they don’t exactly know how to go about getting the best bang for their buck.
After talking with them about the project, we discovered that we were one of three companies proposing a solution. After a bit more digging, it became apparent that the three solutions being offered were drastically different in nature, and in price. The decision on which firm to use is going to be a difficult one, as I’m sure we have all outlined our value proposition, highlighted strong points, and helped educate the two owners. Here are the three solutions that are common in this situation:
Different Paths to the Same End Goal
A Company like Marketpath
Marketpath designs and develops websites with our website content management system on the backend. We focus on enhancing the online brand, building an easy-to-navigate website, building an easy-to-update website, and creating the best “hub” possible for your marketing efforts. There are a lot of companies like us, some with their own CMS’s and some that use open-source platforms like WordPress, but you can rest assured that these firms are the experts in useable website design and development. There will usually be an upfront cost and an ongoing monthly fee for hosting/support.
An SEO Company
This option is similar to the firms listed above, except their sole focus is on gaining an ongoing SEO client. A new website that is “finely tuned and internally optimized” is the first step in their service offering, as a lot of the smaller SEO firms will claim that they need to code the website to be successful in the long run. After the website is built, there will be an ongoing, monthly “SEO Maintenance” fee of a few thousand dollars a month. If you like this solution, make sure you know the red flags to look for when hiring an SEO company.
A Full-Service Marketing Agency
This third option is the other player at the table. These full-service firms are typically very large in nature and can bring a lot of value to the conversation. They care more about overall branding efforts than rankings - they try to tie online and offline campaigns together. They are out to build you the best message possible. While they can build you a great looking website, often times these firms aren’t experts in the web. If you’re not planning on using them for more services, it could be overkill to choose this option.
During the meeting, I tried to explain to the prospect that, a lot of times, these three types of firms can work together. If you’re looking for a local presence (as these guys are), on-page SEO may be enough to gain the rankings you’re looking for. If you build a highly-optimized website (as we do), and don't achieve the high rankings, then you can bring on an SEO firm to help boost the efforts after you establish a baseline. Automatically assuming you need to spend thousands a month on SEO is one heck of an assumption. Also, hiring the mother ship of marketing to build you a website if you’re not planning on tying it all together with a major marketing campaign could result in a sub-par website. Full-service marketing firms aren't cheap, and they are looking for clients that take advantage of the entire offering.
It’s important, as a small business owner, that you ask questions and understand why there are three different approaches to the same problem. Understand the product and service offerings and select the best option for your company.
Have you experienced this same problem? What was your solution? Sound off in the comments below.