This is a letter I wrote to a friend of mine earlier this week. Of late he has been under pressure from some Web Development Companies trying to get him to pay them to build a new website. While his need for a new website is definitely there, his need to buy a Cadillac of a website is simply not there. I feel my friend is being given bad advice.
If you’re under pressure to sign for that big website that you’ll probably need to hock your first born for… step back from the pen. You have more options than you think…
Enough setup…here is my letter…(the names and prices have been changed to protect the guilty…er..innocent.)
******* Begin Letter *******
I just read your letter. On many levels the guy pitching you on that new website is right. And perhaps, at another time in your company’s life cycle, he could do very well for you.
But keep this in mind: There is NO silver bullet.
The game with the Internet is that it’s about SO much more than just a website. Or (as I’ve seen mentioned in a few books) the size of your wallet. The web–and Marketing today–for that matter—is about being AUTHENTIC. How does this website help you be Authentic?
And as heretical as this may sound–your website DOES NOT MATTER.
What matters is your ability to be the top expert in your field. To offer the best service in your field. I mean ACTUALLY offer the best service…not just say “we strive to…. blah blah blah”.
What matters is being able to work with customers in REMARKABLE ways that let your customers know YOU are the MAN.
Before you spend 12k I’d like to see you define HOW you ARE the man for your customers.
Oh…and while I’m at it…about that pitch the guy gave you on his “proprietary CMS”. The notion of “proprietary” is not only terrifying…it’s placing the focus entirely on the wrong end of the bull. For the record, when someone says to me “Proprietary CMS” …I run…for the hills…as fast as I can. Proprietary CMS is another way of telling you that at some point you are going to get fucked. hard. backwards. Twice.
Why not have a CMS that’s FREE and OPEN and ALL OVER THE place…used by millions of people? One that’s not controlled by a single company? One that has people clamoring to work on it…for you…with you…?
CMS’ like WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, hell even SquareSpace are better than someone trying slather their crappy PRIVATE CMS all over you…
I’ll say it again. Your website is irrelevant.
You could take your business from where it is today to wherever you want it to be WITHOUT a website. That is NOT to say that you don’t need a web presence. But fancy photos and a bunch of marketing spew that says “we strive harder with better product than anyone” is bull shit that no one cares about. Consumers are too smart for that 1950’s Mad Men impotency…unless they are drunkards.
Lace a 12k website with that phony baloney and you’ll have the equivalent of a 12k paperweight.
Why not get a feel for what people are ACTUALLY going to do with your website? Why not focus on generating kick ass content 2x per week that you post–to just a blog? Or get published on blogs. Or even in magazines? Why not test some concepts, landing pages, inbound marketing, whisper campaigns, email blasts, Lead Nurturing, Lead Scoring, conversion rates and customer reaction to what matters….your product…your message….you! NOT the size of YOUR WALLET?
You can hide behind a 12k website and expect that it’s going to be a silver bullet. But the minute the wrapping is off that shiny new thing, it’s all plugged in and sitting there…these words are going to come out of your mouth “Ok, where are the customers?”
And that’s when you’ll get hit with This campaign and That campaign. Why isn’t that great website bringing customers to bang down your door?
That’s like the guy that wants to get into mountain biking. And if you’ll forgive the analogy…He goes out and gets all the garb. Sparing no expense. Then goes and gets the best bike on the market. Again, sparing no expense. Then on the big day he suits up in all his expensive shit. Gets to the mountain and away he goes. Only to find out that the bike doesn’t fit right, his back hurts and his balls are on fire because the $300 pants “designed to wick away water and heat… leaving your package cool and comfortable” make him feel like he just caught the clap. Hell if this guy has money to burn, maybe this is the right approach for him. But why not take a more sober approach?
Test some pants. See if you like them. Test a few bikes. Rent one. Beat the snot out of it. Beat the snot out of yourself. But test…inexpensively…a lot. Then refine. Revise. Test again. Repeat. Spend as little as possible for tests…Then go back to the mountain with 1) better equipment 2) improved knowledge of what works and 3) clearer handles on what Success really means….and a gauge for what it will take to achieve success.
A website does not a successful company make.
Customers are what makes a successful company. Customers don’t give a shit about your website. The only thing that they care about is what are you going to do for THEM. What value are YOU going to provide them.
The more layers you place between yourself and your customers…though old-school website/marketing tactics– the easier it will be for your prospects to become someone else’s customers.
I don’t know anything about your finances right now. But I can tell you this for sure. Your placing 12k on a website is like sitting at the craps table and betting everything on Black. You might “win”. But we both know that THOSE odds favor the house. And in this sense…[Your company] is NOT the house… (no matter how big and fiery your balls are)
Great book to read:
Another book that has good ideas:
Inbound Marketing: Get Found Using Google, Social Media, and Blogs (New Rules Social Media Series)
(beware…some people might read this book and go completely overboard with what’s recommended. Inbound Marketing isn’t a silver bullet either..but it’s a sold platform on which to build.)
While you’re at it check out www.infusionsoft.com
(just to get an idea of how far 12k can take you…)