Everybody wants to spend as little as possible and get as much as they can. That’s the case whether you’re building a website, buying a car or grabbing a bite at your favorite restaurant. There’s nothing wrong with that.
Even so, as someone who has worked in web design for over two decades, I’m still amazed at the number of people who scoff at spending more than the bare minimum on their site. This is particularly troublesome when it comes to software or services central to a website’s core functionality. It can be a very shortsighted approach.
There are a number of factors regarding why clients can be stingy with spending on their website. What they may not realize is that they’re taking some risks in doing so. Let’s look at some of the reasons why clients may skimp on their website and what you can do to counter it.
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It’s a Free (or Really Inexpensive) World
Perhaps part of the problem here is that the old adage, “You get what you pay for”, may not be as true as it once was. With free open source software making up so much of what we use to build and maintain websites, it’s no wonder that some clients might just expect the world for a dime. After all, with everything WordPress does for free, it’s easy to see why someone might expect that all of their needs can be covered without significant cost.
But this has even driven the definition of “significant cost” to change in some people’s eyes. I’ve seen people hesitant to spend an extra $50 on a commercial plugin that would fit their needs perfectly. While it’s understandable that not everyone can afford extra costs, this trepidation is not limited to just those with tight budgets. Large, profitable companies can also push back against even the smallest of expenditures.
This mentality also shows up in other web-related areas that have pretty much always had a cost associated with them, like web hosting. Again, it’s smart business to get a good deal. But there comes a point when you need to recognize that exceedingly cheap services may not provide the level of support and reliability required to get the job done.
That’s really the risk you take with trying to get away on the cheap. Whether it’s a plugin, hosting service or something else – doing it based only on cost is usually going to come back and bite you in the end.
The Designer’s Dilemma
Sometimes, it can feel like the process of advising clients on software and services can get a little too personal. You make recommendations based on what will help you do things the right way and provide the best outcome for everyone involved. But oftentimes you feel like you’re also being asked to personally justify the cost.
“Why can’t we use a free alternative?”
“Why do I need to spend money on this at all?”
While it’s a client’s right to ask questions, the kind asked above can seem more like an interrogation – almost like you’re trying to get away with something. But don’t take it as a personal affront. It may simply be that they don’t quite understand the situation. In fact, it may be more about your own ability to communicate the how and why of it all.
Learn to Think Like a Business Owner
The expectation that the software and services that help to make a website work will be free (or incredibly cheap) is something unique in the business world. It’s unlikely that you’d see the same type of expectation when we’re talking about buildings, vehicles or even computers. Most business owners realize that those items have a cost attached to them.
But, to some, that idea that everything web-related is low cost still resonates. Ask them to shell out for a physical product and it’s not such a big deal. Ask them to pay for premium hosting and you may get a blank stare in return.
That’s why it’s up to us – the hired experts – to provide clients with a bit of education in this area. Part of the challenge here is to explain the importance of whatever expenditure we’re asking them to make. The goal is to help guide them to the conclusion that their website is just as (if not more) important than the other parts of their business.
Once they see their website as an investment crucial to their own success, the budget can start to loosen up a bit. While a client may not be able to physically hold a custom plugin in their hands, we need to show them the real world effects it can have on their bottom line.
In other words, the key here is to speak to them in their own language. This is especially important when communicating with clients who aren’t very tech savvy. So, instead of just telling them they need a $50 plugin, explain how that $50 investment will provide returns for their business. Instead of saying “You need this…” it should be, “You need this and here’s what it will do to help you reach your goals…”
out much in the way of context. I’ve certainly been guilty of that in the past. But, combined with the “everything is free” way of thinking that some people employ, it just perpetuates the vicious cycle.
Breaking the cycle is a matter of opening ourselves up and providing more than just the basics. So, the next time you discuss a project with a client, put forth the extra effort to lay things out in a way that demonstrates the real value of what you’re proposing. Show them how it makes things better for their customers and, by extension, their business. You might be surprised at how different their reaction is.