How much should my company spend on a new website?
A friend of mine used to compare this question to asking, "How much should I spend on a car?" The answer isn't the same for everyone, and it really boils down to answering a few other questions first.
If you've decided you're ready to buy a car, how do you decide how much to spend?
You ask yourself:
- Why am I buying this car? (E.g., for fun, my other one died, my teenager's driving my old one, I can't keep hauling yard debris in my minivan, etc.)
- How will I be using this car? (E.g., reliable transportation to work, off-roading, racing in Formula 1, etc.)
- What are the things I most value in a car? (E.g., style, reliability, mileage, comfort, towing power, etc.)
Then you think through, "How can I get the most off my list with the money I have?"
I'm sure there are other questions you'd ask, but you get the point. Unless you just have a ton of cash to burn, you don't go out and buy a car without a reason and some structure.
Now, I'm no expert on buying cars (I’ve only purchased two in the last 15 years), so let's bring it back to websites. Let's ask similar questions about a website and see if you don't get some clarity on how much your company should invest in one.
- Why does my company need a new website? (E.g., we need to rebrand, our current website was not done well, our sales team needs more leads from the site, etc.)
- How will our company use this website? (E.g., we just need a website to show we exist—eye candy, we need a second touch to follow other traditional marketing, we need to generate serious traffic and leads that are interested in our services, we need a site that our clients will use as a software portal, etc.)
- What are the things I most value in a website? (E.g., easy to use, sleek, looks great on a mobile device, easy to update, integrated blog, tie-ins to social media, landing pages, email marketing integration, metrics that are easy to understand, etc.)
Alright, now you know what you need. So how do you get the greatest number of things you'd like within your company’s budget?
Do you see what just happened here? The question of how much you should spend on a website comes down to what you want to do with your website and how much you can afford.
For some reason, when it comes to building a website, we get the process backward. Instead of asking how much you should spend, the real question is, "How much can you spend to accomplish your goals?"
That’s why it’s so critical to figure out your budget before you start shopping for a website. You wouldn’t buy a car or a house without a budget. Don’t do it with a website.
Your website should never be treated as a one-time cost.
Budget for building a website and for the ongoing marketing of your site. Without putting time, effort, and money into your website, you'll likely not accomplish your goals if they are anything beyond just "having a website."
I’m blown away by the number of company leaders, who, in 2016, still think that the ultimate goal is having a nice-looking website without really using it to drive customers and revenue.
The companies who are really succeeding online have figured out that creating an easy-to-use, purpose-focused website is actually the beginning of the process and not the end. Once they get a website built, they focus their resources on driving traffic, leads, and customers with it.
I’m going to assume that you’re already thinking that way, so here’s a great way to figure out what you should spend on your website.
So, how do I determine my budget for a website?
You already have a budget for marketing, right? There are all kinds of rules of thumb about how to determine your marketing budget. Some business consultants recommend a percentage of gross revenue, like 5-7%, to allocate to marketing. Others take a more pragmatic approach. Whatever method you choose, you should decide what percentage of those advertising resources you are going to allocate to an effective web presence. We’re going to make up some numbers here so you can then apply them to your own situation.
Gross annual revenue: $9,000,000
Recommended marketing budget of 5% of gross revenue: $450,000
Less marketing salaries: -$150,000
Budget for marketing activities: $300,000
If you’re serious about driving leads with your web presence, you should dedicate at least half of your marketing budget to your online efforts. (Granted that’s pretty subjective, but we have to start somewhere.)
Half of total marketing activities for online efforts: $150,000
In this scenario, you're budgeting about $12,500/month for your web marketing.
For most web design agencies, you could expect a website project to take 3-6 months from a blank slate to a finished product, so that would mean your budget for a website should be between $37,500 and $75,000.
So, how can we get the website we need for our budget?
Ah, now that’s the right question.
What's the going rate for a website?
The range is all over the place, depending again on what you want to accomplish with your site and how amazing you want it to be, but let me see if I can give you some numbers.
For many companies, a website doesn’t have to be astronomically expensive to be effective, but in this modern era of the interwebs, you should at a minimum have the following features:
- The ability to add and edit content without relying on someone else. So, you’ll want to build this site on a content management system (CMS) like WordPress or HubSpot. (Don’t build on Drupal—just take my word for it.)
- Pages that describe each of your services and how they benefit your customers. Make sure these pages include copy written in such a way that it engages your readers and helps them take the next step toward becoming a lead.
- A blog for generating content quickly. For most platforms, this should be integrated in already.
- Landing pages to collect information about leads. The easier it is to build landing pages, the more readily you’ll use them. Ergo, you’ll get more leads. See that? (BTW, that officially marks the first time I’ve used the word “ergo” in a post or anytime for that matter.)
- Integration with email and social marketing. This means that your website is easy to share and has URLs that make sense to humans.
- Designed for optimum use on all devices. This usually means “responsive design.” Your site should look great on a desktop, tablet, phone, Apple Watch... (Well, maybe it’s not quite critical for that last one.)
For a site that does these things, you should plan on spending a minimum of $7,000 or so. You could get a lot of these features for cheaper if you’re willing to modify an existing WordPress theme or take some other cost-saving measures.
This price is really a baseline for what we’ve described and doesn’t take any custom functionality or backend processing into account at all. Websites with custom portal functionality can pretty quickly jump into hundreds of thousands of dollars without trying too hard.
Now, let's return to our car analogy for a moment. There's a pretty big difference between buying a Toyota Prius and a custom Lamborghini, right? Both are wonderful cars, but they are purchased for completely different reasons. If you can afford the Lamborghini and it does what you need, go for it. (Please give me a call and take me for a ride in it, too, if you don't mind.) If you're more of the Prius type, that's awesome. Choose the features that fit your budget and go enjoy that fantastic gas mileage.
So, how much should you spend for a website? It's pretty clear now. You should spend as much as you can afford to get what you need.