In the first of this two-part series on “branding on the cheap” I wrote about inexpensive ways to start a new brand. (If you’re interested in reading that post, it’s right here…) That post focused on “birthing your brand” – namely – naming it, as well as developing themelines and logos. Now that your brand lives, today we’re going to talk about “cheap but best practices” to getting your brand on the web. I think I originally planned this to be a two-part series but, as I progress in its writing, I realize that there is far too much to say about “cheap branding” and online marketing to limit myself to only two posts. So, for today, we’re going to just talk about getting your brand on the web for the first time, whether that’s as a new, content-managed website (at the high end of the price spectrum) or a dirt cheap solution, which would be to just develop a couple of social media presences for your new brand. Getting Your Brand on the Web: Cheapest, Cheaper and Best Option 1: (Not good for the long term but cheap, cheap, cheap!) Okay, so you’ve got your new product or service named and have some sort of logo/graphic identity for it. Now it’s time to take your show on the web. Owning a website design and marketing firm, my first impulse was to talk about inexpensive web design options. But, as I got thinking, I had to consider the “Facebook page only” option. Which begs the question, “Can some businesses get by with only a Facebook page as their web presence?” I think the answer to that question is “Not usually, but in rare instances, yes — for awhile.” (How’s that for equivocating?) For a local start-up — where word-of-mouth marketing and conversations are essential to a brand’s growth — a Facebook page might be a good start. A perfect example here would be a hair stylist. Businesses like barbers and stylist grow through word-of-mouth. If my sister had just opened up a new salon, I’d urge her to immediately start a Fan page on Facebook and get all her friends to sign up. If she’s good at her craft, people will talk about her and create the brand trust necessary to get new clients in the door. Of course, though, as my sister’s business grows, she will probably want to consider the next option, described below. Option 2: (Also not good for the long term, but probably okay for 2-3 years…) Beyond a Facebook page, (which your business might want to have anyway…) the next least expensive credible option for a business if to have a firm like ours design a static HTML website for their new business. Static sites were the norm for most small businesses until the advent of inexpensive content management systems. Basically, once someone like Splat designs a static site for you, updates to content on a static page will need to be done by your design firm. This makes topical changes (like links to press releases or blogs) more costly than a content managed option. However, a traditional site such as this still allows your business to make its case and promote (or even sell) its goods and services online. Option 2A: Another option that usually ends up costing about as much as a static site is to have your website design firm build a content-managed site from a pre-existing CMS template (probably a WordPress template, to be precise…) This option foregoes the opportunity for your design firm to create custom layouts and design which really perfectly matches your brand, which is the big drawback to this approach. However, by using a pre-designed WordPress (or other) theme, you’ll have the ability to alter the content on the site — in predictable ways — on a regular basis. So, for instance, that company blog you want to write can be written to as often as you like, your portfolio of completed projects can be updated and press releases and news items can be added. Again, however, the reality for some businesses is that finding a pre-designed theme for your small business will not be easy and, for some businesses, might not be possible. For examples of theme-based sites we’ve designed in the last year, check out our design for 2000 Delancey Place And, since you’re probably wondering what a site like this costs, here’s the skinny: probably (from us) somewhere in the range of $2500 – 5000.) Option 3: (The bestest, most long-lasting option!) The best option for a small business needing to get on the web is to combine elements of every option already given (surprise, surprise!). In an ideal, “no holds barred” world, your business would want a custom developed website which will allow you to manage all the content within it, as well as blog and otherwise engage your prospects and clients. Well, by clicking the “Easy” button (and paying us a few grand) you can have all of that! The great thing about all the major CMS platforms out there (including WordPress) is that they allow for the creation of “custom themes.” Basically, if we design a custom look and feel for your website, we can take that look and feel and — using the magic of a programming language called PHP — wrap that beautiful design around a content managed core. This option, which gives you a custom, branded look and the benefit of content management, is what we recommend as a “best practice” to many of our small business customers. Costs for most of these websites run in the $5,000 – 8,000 range, fyi. By hiring us to design and build a custom CMS site for you, though, you can be assured that the site will have as long a shelf life as practically possible. In the long run, it’s the most bang for your buck. In this article, I tackled the toughest “first steps” to getting your brand on the web. But, we’ve really only just scratched the surface of creative ideas for marketing on the web. Our next post in this series will address other cheap ways to generate buzz on the web and engage your clients. Stay tuned!