What's an ideal marketing tool? Something flexible, inexpensive, that reinforces your brand image and finally, brings new customers and encourages sales. Sound like a dream? It should sound like a website. Probably the most effective marketing tool for today's business people, an effective and memorable web presence can be the smartest business decision you have yet to make. As a good business person, your first question is probably the ever popular "yeah, but how much will it cost?" Web expenses accrue in four main areas: setting up your site with content and photos, enabling customers to purchase from your site, and finally, choosing your web host and address.
Build the Site
First of all, who will handle your website design and programming? If expenses are a concern, do it yourself. Numerous web hosting companies provide free site builders for users with little or no programming knowledge. While there is generally a small monthly web hosting fee, you'll need a host anyway. Professional designers or programmers can demand very large fees. The downside? Sites created by these Web-based site builders are usually limited to pre-designed templates. For users with HTML programming knowledge, site design programs such as Microsoft FrontPage enable you to create a more detailed and customized site. If you want to learn more about web programming, check out the Internet or your local public library for free web-programming resources.
If you don't want the DIY hassle and have the financial resources, hire an outside design and programming professional. As in everything, research is key. Spend some time investigating various designers' sites to get a feel for their style and design, in addition to reviewing past work. Contact the designer and request a price quote. You'll need a detailed list of everything that will be involved with your project. A quality professional will give an accurate quote for the entire project, provide the terms of his or her work and list any additional fees. All costs should be discussed upfront and approved by you. On average, a site designer/programmer will charge anywhere from $500 to $2,000.
Plan to sell products via the Web? In the virtual world, your products can be judged solely on the quality of your photographs. You need good, quality pictures in a digital format. On a tight budget or run a small operation? Use a quality digital camera and learn to produce your own product photographs. Quality digital cameras start around $150 to $200. If that investment is too high, use a traditional film camera and instruct your developer to put the photos on a disk during the film processing. Generally this is a simple procedure which costs only a few extra dollars per roll. Once in a digital form, you can transfer the pictures directly to your website.
If you require more professional pictures for your company's site, consider hiring a photographer. Commercial photographers provide attractive, professional photos of your products and offer services like background and object removal, special effect lighting, and photo enhancement. Professional photography generally begins around $200, depending on the amount of products and the photographer's policies. Do your research; find a quality photographer for the least expense.
If you're selling products, you just might benefit from a shopping cart program. These programs allow customers to purchase products directly on your site. Quality programs begin around $10 per month or cost a one-time setup fee of $200 to $300, depending on your required complexity. Shopping cart programs differ greatly so do your research and find one that fits your company's needs and budget.
Whether you create your website or a professional does it for you, you still need two vital things: a web address, or domain name, and a company that will host your website. Many hosting companies charge around $10 to $20 per month. Complex hosting setups, such as dedicated servers, will bump up the price. Most hosting plans include extras, such as email accounts and email forwarding. Be sure that your hosting plan includes enough features and disk space for your site, at a price that will fit into your monthly budget. While setting up your hosting, you'll need to purchase your site's domain name. Many sites offer domain names for only $10 to $15 per year.
In today's fast-paced world, a web presence is a vital tool for a successful business. Investing necessary resources into the best possible business website just might prove to be your wisest and most valuable marketing investments yet.