Your Website: Cost or Profit Center?

Among the many practical things in Niehaus and Loveday’s book Web Design for ROI: Turning Browsers into Buyers & Prospects into Leads is a piece of information that really surprised me: in most organizations, the website is considered a cost center, not a profit center.

A cost center is a part of the business that costs money, as opposed to a profit center, which makes money.

This is surprising because a website’s return on investment is higher than just about any other form of marketing. Email marketing consistently outperforms all other methods of direct advertising, and a website is both cheaper over its lifespan than email campaigns and can be expected to reach far more people. While the wide range of costs and the poor measurement of results (a recent study claims that 48% of businesses do not measure their website’s results in any way) make it hard to find solid figures, you can use Smashing Mag’s ROI calculator to figure out your own website’s performance — if you’re keeping track.

Think about it. Your website is open at all hours, displaying your wares to thousands of potential customers at a cost of perhaps a nickel an hour in hosting costs — certainly less than a dollar an hour. It costs you nothing in electricity above the hosting costs. It doesn’t have to be dusted, fed, or given an employee of the month award, and it travels all over the world if you need it to, with no additional costs to you. Even if you spring for blogging or social media support, your website probably costs you less than any forty hour a week employee (what we call “full time,” a phrase that would make your website snort derisively, if websites did that).

Any good website will bring you leads, sales, and greater brand visibility.  How could anyone think of it as something that costs money without contributing to profits?

As I say, I was surprised. Then I remembered a conversation with a business owner who had called me after visiting my website. When she heard our monthly prices, she said, “That’s more than I pay my accountant!”

I believe she snorted derisively.

“That’s the wrong comparison,” I suggested, failing to point out that she had called me because of my website. “You should be comparing it with a magazine ad.”

Your accountant probably doesn’t produce any billable hours or saleable goods. Your website brings you valuable leads, and may even sell stuff for you. Do you think of it as a cost center?

If you do, you may be doing it wrong:

  • You may have a bad website. Let’s be honest — a poor quality website can cost you by giving a poor impression of your company.
  • You may not be measuring your ROI. 48% of companies don’t, we’re told. If you’re one of them, you might be mistakenly thinking your website doesn’t pay its way.
  • You may not be considering conversion. Does your website have contact information? A call to action, prices, or indeed anything at all that leads people to take that step to get in touch with you? Even a very attractive website that doesn’t work toward conversions may not be doing its job.

If you need help with any of these issues, give Rosie a call at 318.572.6002 or email Rosamond@HadenInteractive.com. We’d love to talk with you.


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