Your first question might be, “Should I buy a web-site?”.
Let’s assume you made that decision and are moving to the next question; “How do I decide?”. This blog shares a couple important thoughts about website marketing and web-business models.
The easy answers to “How do I decide?” are, do your homework, check references, and talk with others in the community.
However; I’d like to give you some additional ammunition – a couple insights that will help you understand what to expect - Words of truth, if not wisdom:
First: There are two kinds of business models in IT, as with many professional services. Each model has benefits. Some firms have aspects of both models; most firms lean one way or the other.
A web-business with a great sales model will have attractive slogans, lots of references, and a helpful and friendly sales force. A good sales/customer support staff can provide a pleasant experience and make you feel really good about a purchase; however the service level will be low, though it might take years to realize it. Major traits of a sales-model-type business include the following:
- Low service level
- Excellent communication skills
- Often fun to work with
- They can be a real asset if you need help convincing the board to make the purchase
Excellent service providers are often hard to find because they focus on their existing customers and/or on technology. Great service providers are usually attract customers by word-of-mouth and little else. That said; any good salesman will tell you, “We get most of our customers from referrals”.
- Often inexpensive
- Great product and/or service
- Often unsuccessful
- Doesn’t always have the best customer service
- Not good at communicating their value in a compelling manner.
It’s often hard to recognize whether your firm of choice provides a great service. Results of a web-related service often take months to materialize.
There are also 2 kinds of pricing models. Each model has benefits and drawbacks.
- Large up-front payment, then you own it!
- Redesign, re-color, and content changes are up to you
- Content could be provided at the time of sale, but usually isn’t
- Security, Hosting and Technology updates are left up to you
This option is good for a company with an in-house I.T. Department or tech-savvy and trusted volunteers. Keep in mind, it is important to periodically refresh the website and its content - as part of a good SEM strategy. When you buy a website this is your responsibility, so the costs involved should be factored into the decision.
Web Development expenses are not over after you buy the site.
- Monthly payment with a small set-up fee
- Redesigns and re-colors are often scheduled on a regular basis
- Often provides good content and regular updates
- Hosting, Technology, and Security are usually part of the package.
This option is great for a niche industry of small companies with outsourced I.T. - like the pregnancy help community!
(Deciding between a sale or a rental) might also depend on your own competitive environment, the technical ability of your staff, and other factors.
For example: If you’re the only center in your area, it might be okay to use your design and content for 5 years. In a competitive environment, it’s strategically helpful to refresh your content and design on a regular basis: A ‘rental’ is a more cost-effective choice in this case.
Let’s be frank: We outsource services like this because we don't know how to do it ourselves. We also rely on our technology professionals to objectively tell us how well they are doing. Our lack of knowledge makes us vulnerable to bad decisions.
Use your network and your instincts, and understand that not all service providers exist to provide a great service. Web developers will offer some combination of service, a sales effort, and pricing; and it’s up to you to decide what will best serve your needs.
If you are looking for a website, I hope these thoughts give you the ammunition you need to make a good decision while wading these murky waters. If you just bought a site, I hope this blog gives you some confidence that you made the right decision. Please feel free to share any additional insights in the comment section below.