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How Much Should A Business Website Cost?


How Much Should A Business Website Cost?

18 August, 2022

Picture the scene…

It’s 1997. 26-year-old Craig is attempting to build his first website. He’s just set up a design agency, and the internet seems an exciting place to play. He doesn’t fully understand what it is or what it does yet, but he’s just got hold of some brand new software for designers – Dreamweaver and Flash – and he’s willing to learn. After all, some people reckon this Internet thing might be big.

After about a week of trial and error, he’s sitting painstakingly waiting as the modem performs its digital dance to connect ‘online’. He uploads his finished files, watching the progress bar edge slowly along, willing it to go faster.

Twenty minutes later, it’s live – his first ever one-page website.

Right, what happens now?

Twenty-five years later and we all know how easy it is to build a website in 2022. They even advertise small business solutions on TV. Roll-up, roll-up, no programming skills required; anyone can do it.

And, because anyone can build a website cheaply, many give it a go.

But, if these platforms work so well and are as easy to use as they say, why would you ever need to pay a professional?

Well, they can work – if you have a strategy and know how to make the most of SEO and good web design – the clever bits a professional would charge for.

ROI and Value

Even now, whenever I look to build a new website for a client, I’m thinking about value. Not inasmuch as keeping it cheap. I just need to clarify whether the client will actually benefit and if they have a plan in place to make the most of their investment.

IE. Will what I add to the mix be worth it for them? After all, if I can not convince myself, why should I try and convince them?

This thought process is based on the simple premise that I like my costs to be recouped from the profit generated by the site I’m building – usually within six months. This starts with a combination of clear design, a realistic strategy, and quality, optimised content for SEO.

Two thoughts around this approach:

1. Cash vs Budget

One of the reasons I eventually sold up out of that agency I started after 13 years was that I got to the point where I couldn’t get my head around marketing budgets and how they would be (mis)spent when it came to online. (I think that says more about me than anyone else.)

I moved to consultancy where I could advise people how NOT to spend money just as comfortably as telling them (with authority) how TO spend it.

In the agency world, many a corporate marketing website gets built to fulfil someone’s ego rather than what is best for the business. Commercial KPIs, usually based on sales propositions, should always be the key driver behind a web project. And sometimes, that does not mean spending more.

For instance, there are a hell of a lot of building blocks already in place out there. You can create a website with multiple integrations from existing systems quickly, easily and cheaply – e-commerce being a great example. These integrations tend to be low-cost with an upgrade path of continual development. Why start from scratch, pay for heavy development and send yourself down a cul-de-sac in terms of support? It simply does not make sense for an SME, especially if you are trying to prove a new concept.

2. Reality Checks

My pragmatism often gets mistaken for me being a miserable git. The thing is, I refuse to spend someone’s money if I don’t believe it will yield anything.

The problem is, as per last month’s email, stories trump facts and evidence. So, when I start asking for proof, or questioning that you can’t compare oranges with apples, the conversation dies. Cat, meet pigeons.

“But I know that my competitor gets loads of leads through their website. They tell me. I need to be doing what they are doing.”
“I need to have a website a bit like Amazon, and I have a £5k budget.”
“My niece uses Instagram and that’s how all businesses do marketing now.”

In a world where anyone can set up a website on Wix for £50 and a free LinkedIn profile, competition is very hard. There are a lot of voices, many of them saying the same thing. So, why in a million years would people (your customers) think you are special if you start doing the same?

You can not base a digital marketing strategy on hearsay or subjective thought processes. Objectivity and data – as boring as they seem compared to a 17-year-old influencer’s opinion – are essential.

Back To Websites – How Much Should You Spend?

And so we make it to what was the starting point for this month’s Pondering. If you are thinking about a website project and wondering how much to spend, here are three quick pointers to help you maximise value (and they’re not all about websites).

1. Lifespan Number Crunching

A website is for life (well five years or so), so don’t think you spend your money up-front then walk away as it does its thing. It’s an investment. If you want your website to perform lead generation, you need to calculate your expectations to help set your upfront and ongoing budgets.

Here is a crude example of how I would work it out for my business (all figures made up).

I sell two products. Let’s say a new website sells for £6,000 and ongoing marketing support is £1,000 per month. I can expect to get two website projects a year via my website and one of those converts into ongoing marketing. After year one, the revenue generated via this route is £18,000. I outsource some of this work, so my Gross Profit is £12,000.

In years 2-5, I sell the same and retain all but one of the marketing clients. Over 5 years my website generates around £216,000 of new business with a GP of £144,000.

Averaged out, that’s £28,800 per year, or £2,400 per month.

So, even if I spent £2,000 a month, every month, I’d still make £24,000 overall profit – not to mention the extra projects I would probably attract from the continual improvements. You can do a lot with a £2,000 a month marketing budget for a one-person operation.

My point is this. If you budget for a website as a one-off project, you’ll be disappointed over time. It’s not like creating a printed brochure; you need to see it as an ongoing project – an investment not a cost.

The website is a platform to add to. Start small, but start. Then keep improving. After all, you’ll start getting immediate feedback that will help you see where those improvements should be made, as well as new opportunities that arise.

This is all about creating a sustainable marketing strategy. Not cutting costs, but redeploying spending to improve lead generation. After all, even if I halved the budget from the example, that’s still a £60k investment over five years.

2. Eggs, Meet Basket

all marketing eggs in one basket

Websites are not the be-all-and-end-all when it comes to marketing, and the same applies to Digital Marketing or Search Engine Marketing. My lovely (and confusing) example above means little compared to the amount of quality work I get in the real world through recommendations. So don’t put all your efforts into digital. Mix it up and spread your budget around.

Old school direct mail, picking up the phone, having drinks, and making time for people in a sales capacity trumps pure digital alone in many businesses for revenue generation. Marketing needs sales, and sales need marketing, but you must have a rounded mix. Which means…

3. Strategy & Brand

Know what you want and know who you want. Then, ensure you have the building blocks in place to make sure you focus on these people. Generic does not work, especially on generic platforms where generic people have an agenda, usually generic.

Understand your brand proposition and define why it’s different. I’m not talking about generic values, a “USP” or some sort of bland brand statement that could apply to any business. If you don’t know what your brand proposition is to the people who buy into it, ask clients why they use you. Even better, get someone else to do it as they will offer more objectivity*.

Add in a pipeline structure and start measuring what works. The chances are you won’t sell something at your first interaction or meeting. So, why not devise a programme that turns a stranger… into a warm prospect… into an evangelistic customer.

*I’ve been having conversations about a new client with a couple of his clients this month. Two phrases stuck out…

  • He’s good at digging.
  • He’s very good a calling me out on my BS.

Not your standard mission statement but definitely a position to build on.


If I wanted to do my own accounts, I probably could. I could learn Xero, Quickbooks or Sage and start my doing my own bookkeeping and payroll. But, I’d also need to learn the intricacies of keeping good books – nominal ledgers, charts of accounts, assets and depreciation and a whole host of other things.

Meanwhile, I’m not focusing on what I do best – the thing that makes me money. The opportunity cost out-weighs the value I feel I am getting by doing it all myself.

When it comes to sales and marketing, some people are naturally good at promoting themselves. Freelancers (like me) can get away with it if we are that way inclined. But you don’t build a brand like this and you don’t create a sustainable and scalable marketing programme.

When 26-year-old Craig was fannying around with Dreamweaver, so were most of his peers. He was also trying to understand double-entry bookkeeping in Excel and wasting a lot of time before he realised he should outsource that function.

I wonder what ever happened to him.

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