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«Return to Blog List What You Can Learn from the How-Much-Does-a-Website-Cost Question

Sometime during every first conversation or email exchange with a prospective client, we get asked the how-much-does-it-cost question. We understand people’s need to weigh value, and we don’t mind having that part of the conversation, because how and when the question is asked tells us if the prospect is in our market (businesses that include the web as part of their business platform).

The Commodity Buyer
If the cost question is the first question, before they’ve even attempted to tell us what website features or development services they want, it’s usually a pretty short conversation, because we end it as soon as possible. Commodity buyers not only don’t tell you what they want before asking how much it costs, they can’t tell you if you ask, because typically all they know about websites is that they need one.

The Ego-driven Buyer
Ego-driven buyers do almost all the talking; we rarely get to ask questions. They make a show of their lack of concern about what a website might cost. Often they say something like, “This is not a cost decision.” About 95% of the time we hear that, it’s a cost decision.

The RFP-dependent Buyer
Typically, RFP’s are issued by government and quasi-government entities. RFP’s tend to be an odd mixture of too few specification details overall, with a few weird specifications thrown in, such as “must be compatible with MS Access.” Huh? The cost question is based on specifications, which is good. Unfortunately, in our experience, government and quasi-government entities rarely have anyone on staff capable of fairly evaluating web proposals, and RFP’s are often more about showing a paper trail of due diligence than about effective vendor selection. As a result, we rarely bother to respond to RFP’s.

The “Business-Partner” Buyer
These are the folks we work well with. First, they they ask some questions about our capabilities, and then they tell us about their project. We ask questions, and pretty soon, we’re having a real conversation. They’re clearly passionate about their business, and they’re looking for a long-term relationship with a developer who can help them as their business and website needs grow. Typically, they ask us for a written estimate after we’ve had an opportunity to think it through. They have a fair idea what to expect cost-wise, so our estimates almost always seem reasonable to them. God, we love that!

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2 Responses to What You Can Learn from the How-Much-Does-a-Website-Cost Question

  1. Al Newkirk says:

    A word about concept buyers, these (in-my-experience) tend to be people that want to start a business and fall in the realm of commodity buyers, but not only do they not know much about the web, they also tend to not know much about the business they want to start either. This usually becomes evident when you ask them for documentation on their company or what message the website should relay to their market. These types of client are the worst if you accept thier business because you will have o treat it like its your business.

  2. Thanks, Ray, for your profiling of basic clients and how to recognize them. Estimating a website is always a custom enterprise and takes both insight and number-crunching muscles.

    As a small business, I love dealing with other small businesses, and could add one more profile to your list: sole proprietor. These are often–in my experience–artists or entrepreneurs. Though they start out as a “commodity buyer”, they end up as a business partner. They need education along the way, but the benefits of their sticking with you through the years more than pays for the teaching effort.

    With more small businesses on the rocks, web development is looking like the best place to put your marketing dollars. What’s your forcast for this year?
    ~mel