“Get a custom built small business website for FREE! No setup fee, no long-term commitment.”
Every time I see the commercials on TV or hear them on the radio, I can’t help but cringe.
I know “free” can sound awfully tempting when you’re working with a shoestring budget, but when it comes to marketing your small business, your website is one area where you just can’t afford to skimp.
Good or bad, your website is going to form a lasting impression with prospective customers and ultimately determine the success of your web marketing efforts.
"Limited time offer. Last day. Get found by customers. We do it all for you!"
Total B.S. Great small business websites NEVER start with free templates. They’re something you pour your heart and soul into in much the same way you would if you were building out a brick and mortar storefront.
Would you hire an electrician who promised to wire your entire building for free for the first 30 days? I’m going to guess your answer would be “NO.”
Well the same holds with your website. You can’t risk damaging your brand and losing customers just to save a few books. It’s not worth it.
Where free website offers fall short
If you’re going to stand out in a crowd of thousands of other small business, big box retailers, and ecommerce sites, you’re got to look different.
It’s not a “nice to have” it’s a “need to have.” In fact, you don’t have a choice.
Every word, picture, and link on every page needs to serve a purpose and that means you’ve got to have a solid strategy—not something you can just piece together in a few hours.
Making changes to your website content
It might not seem like that big of a deal, but your ability to manage and make changes to your small business website is going to be absolutely critical as you continue to grow.
The last thing you want is to have to rely on someone else to add images, tweak your content, or modify your site.
When that happens, you’re forced to work around their schedule and wind up overpaying for changes you could have probably made yourself. In other words, it’s never a good spot to be in.
Understanding the terms and conditions
How much will it cost for the company to manage your website once the trial period is over? What happens if you cancel your monthly service? Who owns your content? Images? What happens to your site? Your domain name?
Always make sure you are crystal clear about what you’re going to get for your money and what happens if you decide to cancel.
Building a small business website
Before you decide to go with a free small business website template, take the time to weigh all of your options and understand any and all terms and conditions.
Once the trial period is over, take a look at what it will cost per month for your subscription/maintenance fee and compare that over 24-36 months against what it would cost to hire a professional website designer/branding expert who could create a site that you can manage and maintain without having to pay extra.
Or if you're looking for ecommerce functionality at a reasonable price, ecommerce platforms such BigCommerce make it incredibly easy and affordable to create a website using design templates and fully-integrated online shopping cart functionality.
As a disclaimer, I use affiliate links for some of the products listed. They are all products I absolutely love and trust and would recommend regardless of whether they have an affiliate program.
By: Shawn Graham
[Image: Flickr user Perry Quan]