You’re reading this because you recognise – perhaps reluctantly – that it’s time to redesign your website.
Perhaps you need new features and the old build couldn’t support it. Perhaps there are limitations and you want to regain control of updating content. Or perhaps your existing site just isn’t delivering what you’d hoped for. Any which way, you’re now facing that dilemma: should you choose a web development company or a digital marketing company for your new website? The line between the two can seem pretty blurry when you’re reading all the blurb.
And in truth, there’s an overlap in skills. So, if web developers and digital marketers both ‘do websites’, how the full-stack are you supposed to know which to choose for the best?
Let’s look at the main differences first.
Digital marketing companies
Marketing companies are, by definition, focused on marketing your firm and its products or services. Digital marketers are, of course, experts in exploiting digital delivery channels (your website, other websites, social media, online advertising and email marketing, in the main) to build your brand.
All this means they’re pretty tech-savvy. They’re bound to offer content uploading and updates as well as guiding you towards what content should work best for you. But unless it’s a pretty big agency, they don’t usually employ a team of in house web designers and developers.
This means that websites that require great design, more demanding functionality or a more technical, bespoke build won’t be their bread and butter.
Web development companies
Web developers are all about the technology. They’ve got the deep technical knowledge to build faster, more complicated and more customised websites, crammed with functionality. They’ll have it ranking and performing off the charts and they’ll know how to keep it secure. They won’t always, however, have the creative thinking or strategic marketing know-how to make sure your site hits your target audience with the right emotional impact.
None of these statements is true in every case. Helpful, eh? Especially if you long for a single point of contact to handle everything from scoping your new website to advising on your social channels or email campaigns. There are, of course, companies that do offer all of these services under one expansive roof, but your budget is going to play a part here. That roof is a hefty overhead.
What do you want your website to deliver for you?
You’ll need to think about what you want to achieve, to make your choice easier. Do you want more sales? Do you need more visits to convert? Do you need your website to be found more easily, to rank more highly in search results so you don’t have to spend as much on advertising? Do you have more than one customer type, who might want to experience the site in a different way?
Next, think about what functionality you want. E-commerce, customer communications, multiple types of content, subscriptions, newsletters. Do you have ideas which aren’t quite ready for launch, but which might be in one, two or three years’ time?
Remember: no digital marketing strategy will work if your website lets you down.
That’s the crux of it right there. Your website is the key to your entire online presence. Social media doesn’t work if customers are turned off by your website. Pay-per-click gets pricy if the performance of the site itself puts customers off. Email marketing may get great open and click-through rates with the right copy, but if your site doesn’t deliver, you’ve hamstrung the campaign.
And yet… the campaign needs to be clever, the strategy needs to be sound.
What to look for when you talk to web specialists and digital marketing experts
1. Honesty and openness. Beware the big promises. Nobody can guarantee you’ll appear on page 1 of Google. Nobody can guarantee you a particular percentage increase in customer visits, let alone turnover. At best, this is naïve optimism. At worst, they’re lies. In an increasingly complex digital landscape, look out for promises that seem too good to be true. We all want to do our best for clients, but with so many variables and factors outside of our control, unqualified guarantees should never see the light of day.
2. Listening. Understanding what they hear and asking the right follow-up questions. Really getting under the skin of your business, your ethos, your customers and your business strategy is vital to good marketing and a good website build alike. Unless you’re asking for explanations, you should be doing as much talking as any web expert you’re talking with.
3. Testimonials from happy customers. It’s called social proof and it really matters. Don’t just read the testimonial and take it face value, either. Visit the websites of those happy customers and experience them for yourself. Then send them an email or make a call. Ask what it was like to work with the web designer or agency, how the process went and whether there was anything overlooked.
4. Check your budget early. Web development companies and digital marketing companies can come in all sizes. The bigger they are, the likelier it is that you’ll need to budget more. Remember the roof. If you’ve got a maximum of £5k to spend, don’t waste valuable time talking to a company which will never charge less than £10k.
5. Trust. Trust your instincts. Because trust is going to play a big part in the website build. Do you like the person you’re talking with? You’ll need to be involved throughout the website design, build and with any ongoing maintenance, so it’s vital that you actually like them. That you feel you can trust them with your business.
6. Recognise that sometimes it’s ok to have two companies to handle two different areas. So long as they can talk to each other, respect their respective roles, and their priority is your success, there’s no reason this can’t work.
How does Fifteen Three Digital work?
We like to think we’re right in the middle of it all: we’re web specialists with a marketing twist. The design and development of your new website is our core strength, but we approach it with a solid understanding of your strategy. That’s what drives the build and it’s what gives the final result longevity. We understand search engine optimisation (SEO) and the part that Google Ads and Facebook marketing can play in the success of your site and your company.
And we play nicely with others. We enjoy working alongside marketers offering ongoing social media management and other supplementary services.
Alongside. Because first and foremost, we’re web specialists.