How To Avoid The Three Most Common Budgeting Mistakes People Make When Planning a Web Initiative

Written By: Frank Cowell, CeM

As we all know, times have changed. Websites have become an absolutely fundamental component to nearly any business. But, while most companies set aside money for website development, they often overlook several key components. As a result, they either far exceed their initial budget or are unhappy with their Website’s result.

Many web firms purposely leave these crucial portions of the budgeting process out, so they can ‘hook you’ in the beginning, and then get more money as the process continues. Obviously, this makes creating a budget all the more difficult.

The good news is that there are some guidelines to help you ensure that your web project is a complete success. The following three components of website development are the most overlooked in early development and budgeting phases. Considering these three aspects of website development will help you ensure your website exceeds your expectations, but not your budget.

1. Extended Photography and Artwork.

When budgeting for web projects, companies usually forget to budget for the purchase of professional photography. Your graphic design department at your company or web firm will provide you with an overall website design called the look-n-feel. Typically, their job doesn’t include designing each page of content.

The look-n-feel templates usually have a content area where the implementation team will incorporate content. You will need to include artwork at the top of the page to provide a nice visual to coincide with the content.

Another example of where you would use photography or artwork is where you have a page of content that talks about a unique process your company uses. Spelling out the process in text format is good. A nice visual to represent that process in conjunction with the text is even better. This visual was likely not part of the design team’s original goals when designing the look-n-feel for your site.

Budgeting for extended artwork and photography:

a) When developing your project’s site map, be sure to look at each top level page as its own homepage for a given section. Your website’s homepage has a strategic layout that incorporates a nice balance between design and copy, and so should each top level page. (Top level pages are the initial pages in your site’s main navigation areas.)

b) Once you designate what pages are top level homepages, define overall goals of that page/section. What do you want your visitors to learn about? What’s the strategy for that section? What overall branding and feeling should be conveyed? Document this information and make sure your web or eMarketing firm knows about this additional design work at the outset if they haven’t already talked to you about it.

c) A resource for cost-effective stock photography that we like to use is iStockPhoto.com. iStockPhoto.com has a wide range of royalty-free photography to choose from at very reasonable prices. The only drawback is that you may use a photo that is in-use by another company; therefore, it?s not unique to your company. This is an option you must weigh. Unique photography will cost quite a bit more, but if you are a larger company the expense may be justified. Smaller companies should definitely consider iStockPhoto.com.

2. Copy / Content

There’s nothing more disheartening then getting to the end of your web project and realizing you don’t have enough copy to fill your website. I have personally seen web projects have everything complete other than copy only to watch companies delay completed projects for months while they try to write their own content. Consequently, the project is not only delayed, but the copy is usually short and weak.

Well written copy is essential for any website, because it grabs the reader’s attention and provides cohesiveness throughout the site. It is also essential for search engine optimization and marketing. If you don’t have a copy writer on staff at your company, make sure your web firm understands the importance of good copy and helps you budget for it.

Budgeting for copy writing:

a) When you create your site map, in addition to designating which pages are top level homepages, designate which pages you already have sufficient copy for and which pages you don’t have sufficient copy for.

b) Meet with a professional copy writer if you don’t have one in-house. At the meeting discuss each area of copy that you have, where it will go and what you are missing. Make sure you give them the copy you already have so they can polish it as part of the final deliverable and ensure that all copy is in the same ‘voice.’ Ideally your web or eMarketing firm will have a copy writer on staff to coordinate this within the project and provide strategy recommendations.

c) This process can happen concurrently with the design and development process. There’s no reason to wait until those phases are complete, so start working with a copywriter as soon as you define the overall site map and strategies. This will help ensure that your project finishes on-schedule, which keeps things within budget.

3. Post-Launch Marketing or eMarketing

If there’s anything that should never be left out of any web initiative budgeting process, it’s post-launch marketing or eMarketing. This by far is the #1 mistake companies make when planning their web initiatives. This is also why companies will put up a website and say, “Our website is just a formality. We’ve never receive any leads from it.”

It’s important to understand the overall budgeting required for eMarketing. You must understand the goals of your website and put marketing plans into action that attract and engage your target audience on a regular basis. Not spending money every month on eMarketing is the same as buying a fancy sports car, never performing required maintenance on it, and then calling it a ‘piece of junk,’ because it doesn’t run anymore.

In order to receive value from your website, you MUST nurture the related eMarketing activities on a regular basis. Remember, the website is a tool that facilitates company objectives. Know your objectives and use your website as a tool accordingly.

Budgeting for eMarketing:

a) Be careful when selecting a web firm to help you design and launch your web initiatives. Web firms that boast very affordable website developments costs are so focused on getting your project business that they don’t worry or care about what happens with your initiatives when the project is complete. Most web firms don’t offer eMarketing services, so be sure you investigate before making a decision.

Ideally, you should pick a firm based on its eMarketing focus, skills and experience and not by the ‘prettiness’ of the web projects they’ve done. Remember, anyone can produce a good-looking design, but only an eMarketing firm with a business and marketing focus can show you how to make your web initiatives pay-off.

b) Determine what your website is supposed to do for your company. Are you trying to make sales directly on the web? Do you want leads for your sales team? Once you know what the website ultimate goal is, you can plan to develop tools that engage visitors and have them take your desired action.

Once you know the goals and have the tools to make it happen, you need to determine how much you can afford to spend on each acquisition. You must know your acceptable acquisition cost before you can decide on which eMarketing tools to use. To figure this out, determine the acceptable acquisition cost your company can afford on each customer.

Let’s say that at your company each customer is worth $10,000, and you can afford to spend $500 to get that customer. You then need to determine the acceptable cost per ‘lead.’ In this scenario let’s say that your company’s close rate is 10 percent that is 10 prospects out of 100 engaged becomes a customer. This means that you can spend approximately $50 per lead.

Now, if your yearly budget for eMarketing is $50,000, you can spread that out over the course of the year and create an eMarketing plan to steadily bring-in leads every single month. In this scenario, we can plan to acquire approximately eight customers per month.

Knowing this information will help determine which eMarketing tools and channels to use. We can quickly determine if a particular channel has or doesn’t have the right ‘per lead costs’ and make decisions accordingly.

By considering these three factors when developing a web initiative budget, you should be on your way to having a successful website that helps you meet your business objectives without breaking the bank.

About Cowell eMarketing
Cowell eMarketing is a small and innovative eMarketing firm for businesses seeking new ways to attract customers. Cowell eMarketing provides web and eCommerce development as well as ongoing eMarketing services such as eMail marketing and search engine marketing. Visit www.cowellemarketing.com to learn more.

About the Author

Frank Cowell is a Certified eMarketer (as certified by the International eMarketing Association) and CEO, Founder of Cowell eMarketing. Cowell eMarketing provides web and eCommerce solutions, eMail Marketing, Search Engine Marketing, eMarketing Analytics and eMarketing Consulting services.

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