People often ask me how much they should budget for a website. It's really a difficult question to answer since there are so many factors that play into the cost of a site. You can build a site for free using a platform like Wordpress.com or you can spend more than $60,000 with a company like Lucre. What's the difference between sites on the high and low range of the spectrum? Some factors that play into the pricing include:
• Whether you have to build the website using do-it-yourself tools or you have someone else build the site for you.
• Whether the websites is an original design or based on a template.
• Whether the content is being written for you or if you provide your own content.
• The level of creative thinking both from a design and messaging perspective.
• How well the website differentiates you from other firms versus maintaining the status quo.
• If the programming is outsourced overseas or provided by local employees.
• The level of sophisticated functionality to the website (e.g., custom calculators, secure document portals, e-commerce functionality).
• How many pages comprise the website.
• Whether or not SEO (search engine optimization) services are provided.
Since the price can range so widely, when building a new website, you are best off choosing the budget you are comfortable with, then find a provider or platform that meets that budget.
IF YOUR BUDGET IS BARE-BONES
Choose a “build-it-yourself” website platform like SquareSpace.com or Wordpress.com. You will need to budget many hours to build your own website, using the tools provided, and then write the content for the site, but it's the least expensive way to go. This is perfect for any new firm looking to get a website up without a lot of cost.
IF YOU HAVE UP TO $5,000 TO SPEND…
Two thousand dollars to $5,000 is sweet spot for a basic custom website. Make It a Great Day and FMG Suite are two providers in the financial services industry that can develop websites in this price range and many local website providers will generally charge around the same, depending on your needs.
Alternatively, you can choose a provider that will build your website for a low price but recapture the costs through a monthly service fee. AdvisorWebsites is one such provider that offers new websites for a low one-time $199 setup fee but then charges a monthly service fee between $35 and $89 per month.
Websites priced in this category may still be based on a template, but are customized enough through banners, images, fonts, colors, and navigation. This is a good option for firms that want to replace an old, out-of-date website.
IF MONEY IS NO OBJECT
If money is not a factor, hire a creative agency that will work with you to develop a truly custom website that uniquely differentiates you from your competition through design and messaging. Two creative firms that serve the financial services industry are Mint and Lucre. These are good options for firms looking to do something truly different with their website and stand out from the crowd.
Despite how inexpensively you can purchase a website these days, they take a significant amount of time and work to create. If a website is less expensive, that's usually because it takes less work for the person providing the service. This means either the work is shifted to you, or the process has been streamlined to take very little time (which typically means quality, creativity or originality is sacrificed). Be aware of what you are trading off, when choosing a provider or platform based on price.
As a marketing professional, I would tell you that a website is the hub for all of your marketing and you should put all the time, money and energy you can to make it spectacular. But as a business owner, I understand that a website might not be the best use of your hard-earned revenue or your highest priority, especially if the majority of new business is generated from referrals. So choose a budget that fits your comfort level and find a provider to meet your needs. And finally, don't worry! Your website will be out of date in the next two to five years and you'll have yet another chance to make this same decision once again!
Kristen Luke is president and chief executive of Wealth Management Marketing Inc. and co-founder of The Mercato, an online marketplace featuring do-it-yourself tools, templates and training for financial advisers. Follow her on Twitter: @KristenLuke.