When it comes to website design and advertising; it pays to have realistic expectations paired with a solid strategy and a plan.

website design and advertising, have a plan

In today’s world of internet sales and booming eCommerce businesses, many people are interested in getting on board with an “easier way of doing business”. Unfortunately, easy access to all things online doesn’t always mean it’s an easy source of revenue. I know there are a lot of dot coms that got started by quickly throwing up a website and spamming the crap out of it to get high rankings who made decent money. Those days are long gone, but many people still think that starting an online business is a quick and easy way to generate income. Wrong. What you’re really doing is starting a business and there is no easy way that I know of to simply throw a website up and have an instantly successful business.

There are two essential ingredients in having a successful online business and those are a website and advertising. There are many factors that play into determining the costs for each of these, for instance; are you selling products online, is your plan to generate revenue from selling advertising space?

Before jumping in headfirst it’s always a great idea to have a plan. I talk to a lot of people who have good or even great idea, but have absolutely no plan on how to make it successful. Just so we’re clear, I’ve never seen an idea sell itself especially if you’re looking for investors. There are many outlets for start-ups and sprouts to get qualified help in developing a strategic plan to launch their business like www.SVTG.org. Since I’m only focusing on website design and advertising, we’ll stick to that in this article.

online marketing planA plan for your website

A plan is the best thing to start with in every aspect of launching a successful online business, including the design and development of your website. Before attempting to advertise your website, make sure that you’ve really thought out how your website is going to benefit your target demographic. This includes everything from navigation to supporting graphics, photos and marketing messages. Your website is going to need to be easy to use, insightful, and if you’re selling products it must instill buyer confidence. As a really simple rule of thumb, my motto is, “simple shopping solutions and consistent message make for success.”

If planning isn’t your strong suit and building a website yourself really isn’t a realistic venture for you, there are plenty of professional website design companies who can help you evaluate your website or “website idea” as well as create a plan for development and execution. You can also read a much more detailed list of ingredients that go into building a successful eCommerce website here.

Since we’re talking about hiring professionals to help develop and launch your idea, have you thought about a budget? A lot of times people looking for “easy” solutions are also looking for a “free” or “cheap” solution. Successful, free, cheap and easy NEVER go hand in hand. Being realistic is important. How many times have you seen someone easily generate a successful business without planning or money. Even with planning and money – it ain’t easy.  So, having a realistic budget with realistic goals and achievable benchmarks is going to be essential in both the website design and advertising process.

What is a realistic budget for a professionally designed website?

Well, that depends on a lot of factors. We’re pretty much so talking about eCommerce websites here and depending on the quantity of products, level of customization in programming and whether or not you will be using a hosted solution or going the fully custom enterprise route, there can be a vast difference in pricing. If you’re a start-up, just breaking into the market with all of your product information and images in order, you can realistically expect to spend between $2,500 and $6,500 for a turn-key and custom website design hosted on BigCommerce, a hosted eCommerce solution.

Once you do have a well thought out website in place, it’s time to start your advertising and marketing. Again, budget is essential. Many start-ups have the idea that because their business is an online business, it will be cheap to market. I never seen a website market itself and every year that goes by, online marketing becomes more expensive. There is a ton of work that goes into both organic and paid advertising to effectively market a website.

It’s good to start with a plan here too. Why? To prevent marketing to the wrong audience, to make sure that your message is received, to make sure that you’re not wasting money. All of my clients take spending money pretty seriously and I’m sure you do too.

There are a lot of ways to advertise, so making sure that you have the right combination of traditional and online advertising to make up your marketing plan is going to be essential.

If you want to hit the pavement or do some marketing yourself, Kristin Edelhauser, at Entrepreneur Magazine wrote a great article on “15 sites for promoting your local business here”.  While you’re there you can read “5 Online marketing strategies for a tight budget”.

Not a DOIYer? You’re not alone, many people find it extremely hard to run a business, design and develop and market their new start up. Starting a business is hard and you can only wear so many hats. Part of this process is learning how to delegate, so that you can truly make your online business venture a success. I recommend partnering with contractors or agencies that have a reputation you can trust.

There are a lot of numbers and formulas for calculating a recommended budget for marketing your business. The average online marketing budget for 2012 was 8%, many advertising agencies will recommend between 5-8%. It’s a good idea to deduct your overhead expenses for the year from your projected gross sales figures, so that your ad spend doesn’t cut into your operating funds. Roy H. Williams outlines a really good formula for calculating your online ad budget here. For most small businesses the number is probably more than you were expecting. For example, I think a good starting place for Google Adwords is ranges from $1 – $2,000 per month depending on your business and product line up. I get dozens of phone calls a week from start ups that have more like a $150 per month online marketing budget. Believe me, I understand that you have to start somewhere, but I’d rather see you save your money than dabble in Adwords. There are a lot of marketing avenues online from content marketing to using social media. Determining an internet marketing system that works for you and your business is critical.

Don’t be part of the “build it and they will come crowd.”  That’s a sure fire way to business failure. Build something great specifically for your community and then bring your message to them. Have a strategy and build a brand that will last.