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Later he emails and wants to stop the project because he found a mortgage "toolbox" where he can buy a pre-built web site for the low, low price of $599 per year forever. It comes pre-designed, with the all the content, and applications. Simply insert your name in the little box and voila you have an instant mortgage broker web site, no muss, no fuss.
Now I have run into these "toolbox" systems before, where you pay a subscription fee and you get all these wonderful tools that will make you a superstar in no time. They are essentially cookie cutter sites with cookie cutter content and applications, but the allure is that you don't have to pay this big upfront custom design fee, instead you may a monthly or yearly application. Never mind it doesn't work, the fee is low. UHG!
In my mind it is like going to Home Depot and buying it hammer and saw then paying Home Depot a fee every year forever to keep the hammer and saw. I might have the tools, but I don't have a clue how to build a house.
I made the usual arguments I make in situations like these, i.e. you pay this fee forever to keep the web site, you sound and look like everyone else, you have no control over content, etc. etc., but I am not sure I was getting through. The reason is that this is not simply a toolbox, but it is a "system" and it is promoted by a legend in the mortgage broker industry. It is her system, her own secrets, etc.
This of course is not the only industry this happens in. It seems almost any industry from real estate to insurance, to whatever have companies who have created these one time applications and content that you can simply rent from them for an annual fee and maybe you can even "customize" it by adding your name and logo in the corner. Most of us that do true custom work laugh at this.
My question, is what have others done to compete in these industry spaces when you are selling a custom developed solution but you are competing against the "toolbox" that is sold for a much lower annual or monthly fee?
I don't even think it's about the money for most of them, although I'm sure "pay later" factors in. But I think the big factor is most of these people just don't respect the web as an entity. They know they need a website but they see the better value as being something marketed as created by experts in their industry, rather than something created by an expert in web design.
It's their mindset. In many of the sales oriented industries it seems to me originality takes a back seat to trying to duplicate the success of others. Sales seminars, sales scripts, ad campaigns, etc are all recycled and resold from one market to another. The only way many of these people would probably choose a custom website would be if a competitor was doing well with one, in which case they'd probably want a custom site "that looks just like my competitor's."
changed my custom developed solution into a toolbox. made sure that it was better/more customizable/easier to use/seo friendlier than the other products on the market. gave it free for a year to a couple of industry leading clients, held their hands and smiled nicely whenever they rang. got great testimonials. did adwords campaigns, got reviews in industry journals, joined industry associations, made a professional support site, cold called, emailed, hassled, worked late, lived happily ever after.
However the issue of toolbox or DIY solutions are always going to be an issue. Some people simply want "a web site" a good one is optional. Sad but true. I guess you make a good case for why you shouldn't do it and then let the chips fall where they may.
You like what I do? Pay for it. You like that other price? Live with it.
I like that quote, I will remember that the next time I get into one of these discussions.
However another thought which is invalidating my own argument on this is the "entry level web site" argument. It goes like this, pick an industry, law, financial planning, mortgage broker, etc. Pick out a series of templates from one of the template stores that fit this industry and offer them as an "entry level site" with the ability to upgrade to a custom site with all the added benefits.
This is like getting both ends of the market at the same time. On the cheap end you might charge $500 bucks for a template site, but for custom work it might start near $1,500 or more and go up depending on what they want. Some will only you pay you the $500 and never come back in which case you made a quick $500 for little work. If they do come back you can get more.
I have never personally done this, I always provide custom work, but I have toyed around with the idea of offering the template model for the cheap end of the market. I am just not sure if I will ruin my brand as a custom Internet marketing consultant by offering crappy templates. What do you think?
As a rule the clients see the new site, and while they are happy with the design and look...it is what they paid for after all...they want more...at that point I can up sell the site.
So how do I do this with out feeling bad...
1. Even though it is just a template, I know it is a good template, and I have included all the right stuff such as SEO control and CMS. It is well coded, and if not the most unique, it is still going to serve the client well.
2. Because it will actually work for the client, and I have been a good "partner" in creating it, when they see the results, they are going to come back to me to upgrade the site.
The key to this as I see it...if you have to give them something "cheap" make sure it is still good quality.