First of all, you’re awesome for taking the time to improve your digital marketing game. It’s an important – arguably the most critical aspect of marketing for a small business. As you delve into the options available to you, I would highly recommend knowing the answers to each of these five questions before you get too far with design quotes, DIY tools, or hosting options.

1. What is the primary purpose of my web site?

Is it to generate leads for your business? To show off your portfolio of work? To build interest in your brand? To provide compelling content that makes prospects recognize your expertise? Ultimately – the goal has to be lead generation. Getting qualified prospects to get in touch with you about your services will lead to revenue. A good follow up question would be: How much of that revenue do you expect/need to come from the web and how much from other sources like sales, referrals, and trade shows?

2. How much is a new lead worth to my business?

Let’s talk about return on investment for a minute. To embark on a new web site project, we need to get really familiar with our marketing budget (“spending plan” for those of you who hate boundaries.) We need to know exactly how our customer acquisition cost (CAC) is calculated and what is included for the purposes of discussion. How many leads does it take to close a deal and how much can you afford to pay per lead and still make a respectable profit? Say you get three interested buyers’ names and numbers. How many of those leads will take a meeting or a phone call and turn into prospects? Let’s say conservatively 33%.

So then, let’s say you’re a killer closer, because your service is awesome and you know it will help your prospects. Let’s say you close 50% of your prospects on a deal after a couple meetings or phone calls. Then it would take 6 leads to close one deal in a relationship oriented sales process.

You may be saying, “6 leads! Great – now how do I get 6 leads? I want 6 leads every month!” Whoa. Gear down big shifter. How much margin are you willing to devote to getting traffic to your site and making sure that traffic converts at a healthy rate?

If your average deal size is $5k, then divide that by the six leads it took to get that $5k. So, $833/lead. Okay so maybe you only want to spend 5% of the $5k on getting the lead in the first place because you want to retain margin. At 5%, you are allowing yourself to spend $42/lead. Your CAC would include an additional $252 for digital marketing. Maybe that’s a bit steep. Maybe that makes sense for your growth goals. The follow up question is thus: How much is a digital marketing lead ACTUALLY going to cost? Which leads me to my next question –

3. How much should we plan to spend on this new web project?

Since we’ve already got the ball rolling about ROI, I’ll cut right to the chase.

With the help of a freelance WP implementation specialist like myself, you can expect to spend anywhere from $2,500 (very little content development needed) to $12,000 (months of content development needed) to launch a professional, customized, small business WordPress web site. You may need to plan additional expenditures for ongoing content development, SEO consulting, or SEM management depending on how much time you want to devote to the site after it has been launched. Further, if you want a bespoke design, custom plugins, and custom animations, those things require more of a WP developer or full-service agency, and you’ll need anywhere from $20k – $50k.

But you should not build a shop without building roads that lead to it. You should plan to spend money sending additional traffic to your site if you want to recoup your full investment in the project.

Traffic & Conversion – Like Peanut Butter & Jelly

If you’re wanting to spend more to get more, we’ll need to get a sense of some key performance indicators for web sites in your industry: conversion rates, monthly traffic volume, traffic sources, conversion techniques, etc. Essentially, we need to know what it will take to turn web site visitors into revenue. Unless you’ve got a large, established enterprise or if you’re a startup with venture capital levels of cash and advertising your site across every possible channel, you don’t need to spend gobs of money in custom development. If your annual web budget is under $10k, you probably want to focus solely on two things – traffic and conversion.

In addition to the dollars spent on the site itself, the dollars you spend attracting visitors to your site through search engine marketing, display ads, and remarketing should be an equal consideration for your digital marketing budget, because let’s face it, a site without traffic is nothing the same as a site that doesn’t convert is nothing. If either traffic or conversion is lagging, the other will have to work extra hard to pick up the slack.

For example: If you hope your site will bring in $60k in revenue each year with an average deal size of $5k – you’ll need to close a new deal each month. Depending on your niche and your operational growth capacity – you’ll probably want to spend around 4-8% of that revenue on digital marketing. But if you want to grow faster, or if you’re in a niche where conversion requires a lot more investment, that number could be higher.

For slow, steady growth, with reasonable digital marketing KPIs such as traffic volume and conversion rates (1-2%*), 4-8% of revenue spent on digital marketing can get results.

*Disclaimer: Good conversion rates don’t happen by accident. Be prepared to invest a lot of attention to detail where conversion is concerned. Even a modest conversion rate won’t happen naturally. It will either take a lot of your time or a lot of expertise to move up even half a percent, but in the end, you can spend less money on traffic.   

Conversion is a short-term pain, long term gain.

With a $60k new revenue goal – plan to spend between $2400 and $4800 a year on digital marketing. That doesn’t leave a lot of room for a new website, but consider this: a site should last you at least two years – maybe four.

So, multiply your annual total digital marketing budget by three (years) and then work with that number to carve out a reasonable web site budget after you’ve assessed your site’s traffic needs and costs. For more detailed information on your small business digital marketing budget – read “Small Business Digital Marketing Budget Strategy.”

4. What features do I want my site to have?

Consider your marketing funnel.

At the top of the funnel – you have people in the vicinity of your brand who don’t need your services right now, but may keep you in mind if they like what they see in passing. Next, you’ve got people who need your services, but they are early in their research stage. They are likely to come take a closer look if you’ve got great client testimonials or you are able to bait them with remarketing and reel them in with relevant landing pages. If you’re able to set the hook, they will move down the funnel and consider connecting with you. This is a time when they may flip through your portfolio or read your blog articles to get a better feel for your expertise before ultimately filling out your contact form.

Top Half of the Funnel Features – Speed, Agility, and Style

At the top half of the funnel, you want to cast a wide net with display ads, pay per click, and organic search results. At this stage of the game, you want your site to load fast, to have flexible landing pages, and you’ll want the ability to cookie your end users so you can use remarketing. When viewing a demo or looking for inspiration – really give some consideration to client testimonials. Are they long or short? Do they have a star rating? Do you want a picture to display or no?

Bottom Half of the Funnel Features – Conversion Seeking Blogs, Portfolios, and Strong Calls to Action

At the bottom half of the funnel, you’re reeling them in with your portfolio, your blog, and your pithy headlines. Most obviously, but often overlooked, you must have a call to action button or section that is readily accessible. If you’re doing a WordPress implementation, you should look for a theme that can accommodate the type of portfolio that suits your needs. Do you want to share a story about your projects in the portfolio or let the images speak for themselves? It could be possible that you don’t need a project portfolio at all depending on what service you provide. Likely, in that scenario, you would need an expertise-revealing blog. Content is king, and if you are good in front of a camera – by all means, offer video content on your blog!

5. What do I want my web site to say about my brand?

They say entrepreneurs and their brand are one and the same. The person is the brand until the company outgrows its founder. So, really, since we’re talking about small business web sites here, what do you want your site to say about YOU?

  • Are you a bright and cheery court reporter?

Consider a lot of white negative space and serif font or maybe even a trendy handlettered font giving the feel of a pleasant personality.

  • A soulful and moody photographer?

Consider dark colors, sans serif fonts, and an edgy design.

  • Are you an experienced and highly regarded chiropractor?

How about a bright site with space for striking headlines and client testimonials?

  • Maybe a thoughtful and creative interior designer?

Consider full screen photography with understated, serif fonts to convey details about your process and philosophy.

Find a couple of words – maybe three or four, but don’t go crazy. You have to find a narrow focus to really work towards achieving brand synergy. Self-promotion can be one of the hardest parts about branding, so ask a friend or two to help you come up with the right perspective on yourself and your brand.

Then as you get into themes and designs – first make sure you’re not laying waste to existing branding collateral you have like swag, brochures, and business cards by going in a completely new direction. (If you need help unifying your branding across marketing channels – read this article “Trying to Make Your Brand More Cohesive? Try These 4 Tips.”) Otherwise, this is the fun part about a new web site – with your brand descriptive words firmly in mind, it will make culling through the theme options much more fast and effective.

I hope these questions have given you lots of food for thought, and I hope if you have any questions about your own digital marketing strategy, you’ll get in touch with me right away!

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