at-symbol-keyboard

The Web is now such a vital part of business development that it’s hard to imagine the first Web site was put up only 20 years ago. Still, many businesses haven’t taken the steps to establish and grow an online presence. So, where do you start? And how much will it cost?

What it is

A Web presence is anything online that can connect you with clients, prospects or influencers. That includes a Web site, of course, but also blogs that help you share knowledge and opinions, and social media like LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook.

Why you need it

“The first place anyone goes for any information is Google—if you want to be found, you better be out there,” says one Toronto financial advisor. “If you don’t have a substantial online presence, people might question what you’re about. The more people can find on you, the greater their comfort level.”

Good to know

Some Web companies advertise what seem like low prices, like $99 for setup and under $50 a month for ongoing support. Beware, says Virginia Farrington of FinancialAdvisorWebsiteDesign.com.

There are often hidden extras, such as royalty fees for stock photography or per word fees for a copywriter. Plus, development can drag on, so you’re better off with a flat rate. Farrington adds cheaper options like one-size-fits-all templates aren’t necessarily going to be a wise investment: “You’re better off with no Web site than with something that’s a poor reflection of you.”

Cost Considerations

As you may change dealers and add to and subtract from your product mix, the ability to update the site is important.

Brian Kumarasamy, principal at Toronto-based International Web Development Corporation, says you can build a site so it’s easy to swap out logos, colours and text. Those tweaks should only cost a few hundred dollars, he says—but ask your designer for a quote on that, too.

Many advisor firms also give their professionals space (often free) on their company-branded sites.

If you already have your own Web site, converting it to their platform might be free too; talk to your firm. IT staff can easily direct your practice’s domain name to send users to a company-branded site, rather than your previous site.

To set up a blog, free tools like Word-Press (wordpress.org) and Blogger (blogger.com) can get you started. With blogs and social media, your real cost is the time investment to do postings.

And, keep in mind, your dealer or firm may have specific policies on outbound Web communication via social networking or blog tools. Check with head office before you proceed.

Price Tag $2,358

  • $1,500 to $2,250 for a custom design and 8-to-10 pages of content
  • $8 per year for .ca domain name using netfirms.com
  • $60 per year for web hosting with a major provider
  • $24 to $40 per year for custom e-mail addresses (@yourdomain.ca)

Originally published in Advisor's Edge