This is a common question for small/medium size business owners looking to invest in their digital strategy, and there is no right or wrong answer. Every business is different and every business changes and evolves over time. So instead of asking for external advice about what you should do, we always recommend business owners analyze their own business to help them identify which approach will provide the most value for their business. These days, your website is only one piece of a much bigger digital puzzle, and figuring out how it all fits together is the key to deciding whether to build it internally or source it externally. Here are a few questions we encourage potential clients to ask themselves before making a decision about which direction to go:
1) What do you need your website to do?
“If you think it's expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur.” - Red Adair
Websites used to be virtual billboards for businesses, and sometimes that’s all a business needs even today. If that's all you need, we always recommend exploring off-the-shelf, DIY tools to build the website yourself or with available in-house resources.
But as websites and web based applications become more robust, they can now be effectively leveraged to improve business efficiencies, attract and manage incoming leads, as well as provide a transactional platform for your and your customers (e-commerce). They can truly be the foundation of your digital strategy. And like anything, the stronger the foundation, the more effective everything else built on top of it is, such as social media, online paid advertising, email campaigns, offline marketing, and online transactions.
The more you need your website to do for your business, the more skills and expertise you’ll need in the room to build and manage it. So if all you need from your website is a digital landing page, find tools you’re comfortable with and do it yourself! If you need a highly leveraged website that will power a large component of your business (lead management, online transactions, interaction) it’s best to find a holistic external team with the right skill-set to fit your needs.
2) What do your customers expect from your website?
“If your business is not a brand, it is a commodity” - Donald Trump
Your website is often the first and last impression a customer has of your business and the role it plays in your business is accelerating whether you like it or not. Of course your relationships with your customers and the extent that your online presence plays in it is unique to your business and, consequently, the level of expertise you’ll need to build and manage it will be unique to your business. To deliver a truly awesome and on-brand online experience from end-to-end requires multiple skills working together and firing on all cylinders. Misalignment of any one component will affect the user experience and ultimately, your bottom line.
An in-house team will inevitably have strong insight into your business and how your customers interact with your brand. But if they don’t have the holistic skills to execute, then it isn’t worth much. If your customers expect a digital experience that requires technical expertise beyond your internal team’s skillset, it’s best to find a suitable external team that can help you build it right the first time. If all you need is a simple branded landing-page to show your customers that you exist, you can likely find a template that you can squeeze your logo and branded copy into for far less than hiring a professional studio.
3) Do I have the in-house talent to build what I need?
“Vision without execution is hallucination” - Thomas Edison
In the accelerating digital world, individuals are usually forced to focus their time and effort on one discipline which usually falls into planning/strategy, design, development, or marketing. Expecting an individual to be able to do everything just isn’t plausible for the same reasons that asking an artist to crunch numbers or an accountant to design an interior usually doesn’t work out too well.
That’s why the best teams are multidisciplinary and have skill-sets that complement each other. If you don’t have one or more of the skills you need in-house, and don’t have the insight or time to find talent to fill these holes, outsourcing is a probably a better option.
If you already have an in-house employee dedicated to your online presence, we’ve found a hybrid approach works best; where we, the external team, focus on long-term strategy and how design, development, and online marketing fit in, while in-house staff manage content updates, online communications, and producing fresh & relevant content. This approach leads to strong, value-based working relationships that generate the best results.
Our preferred working relationship is a hybrid approach where we can work with a small in-house digital/marketing team. This takes time and trust to build and establish, but working directly with staff that’s invested in your business and has insight into what a strong and technically sound online presence can do for your business makes us much more effective as a studio.
We focus on creating the tools to make managing your site more efficient and less technically challenging. Your staff contributes by loading and managing content and administration, which lowers the overall cost and increases the overall value we can provide for you. This hybrid working relationship we've built with most of our clients is based on creating long-term strategies and tools, and empowering in-house staff to achieve short-term results and management. Together, this approach leads to the long-term success of your website, and the success of your online business.