Through my monthly meet up group I’ve met a lot of beginning, first-time entrepreneurs. While we gather once a month to talk about the hurdles they’re facing in starting a business, I make it known that I’m available by email after the event if they find themselves doubting a decision or need a second opinion.

The other day, I received an email from someone needing to get a website built. Not wanting to hassle with a long and expensive process of getting a website built, they considered the Ad below and asked for my opinion of the service provider:


The Internet Has Changed Since 1994

I used to build starter websites for small businesses and I was completely transparent about the entire process. I even went as far as outlining the website creation process so they can attempt it themselves before sinking a couple of grand on a website for a business that isn’t proven yet (sorry, I no longer build those types of websites).

This advertising “website design company” set off every bullshit alarm I had and then some. The sad part is, they’ve been in business since 1994 probably using tactics like this, which means it is probably still fooling people into doing business with them.

This isn’t an isolated case, just search Craigslist for website developers and you’ll see that this example is actually the norm. I can’t fault people for trying to make a living or even a little side cash, but at least work on your pitch, stay up to date on industry knowledge, and be transparent.

Here are a few of the red flags that stood out…

“We have been designing websites since 1994. Yes, 1994 when it was called “The World Wide Web”. A lot of the techniques we used then are still in practice today.”

I’m really impressed at the 20+ years of website designing experience, Kudos! BUT… the internet has changed a lot since 1994. I would be very leery of any practice they were doing 20+ years ago still being relevant today. Are they using Flash? Do they practice Black Hat SEO? Is Microsoft Paint their go to photo editor? I have so many questions and this statement isn’t doing them any favors.

“We can have a website fully functional and transacting business within 24 hours”

The key word here is, “functional.” There is absolutely no way the website copy and images can match your company’s brand right out of the box in only one day.  I’m suspecting that this is code word that the buyer is getting a template. If you’re going to be offering a templated website, say so. Use it as justification for the speed of service or the lower than average price point. Truth be told, most first time businesses only need a template. They can worry about a custom built website when they have the business to support it.

“There’s some magic to it — magic translates as expertise”

Gurus, Ninjas, and Wizards… nothing you do is magic! Unless by magic, you mean the literal definition: “the art of producing illusions by the use of sleight of hand or deceptive devices.” If you’re making your clients’ money disappear by deceptively making the work you do sound like it takes longer than it really does, then I guess you’re a magician.

For the rest of the universe out there, anything done in marketing or website design can be learned through a couple of solid books or YouTube videos. When in doubt about a strategy you’re being sold, Google its effectiveness.

“We have a policy that we do not do two businesses in the same industry in the same area because it wouldn’t be fair.”

While that might be the most noble statement in their Ad, I doubt the legitimacy. Take the number of industries that would entertain the idea of a templated website, mix in the number of areas they’re servicing, and unless they haven’t built many websites in 20+ years, there has to be some overlap.

If this firm policy is a true statement, then they are only trying to protect the fact that their clients get basic templates with generic text and images. There is a niche website designer for the martial arts industry that makes templated websites and I know for a fact that two completely unrelated schools less than 10 miles apart were operating with the same website design for many years. I suppose I can give credit to this Ad provider trying to protect this from getting out, but it’s the Internet, someone will find the duplicate website.

I’m a believer that if you’re going to bitch about something being unfair, you have to offer up a solution. In this “Opinionated Marketer” series of blog posts, I am going to share a couple of suggestions to improve what we have here…

Call to Action for website developers… Be transparent. Your trade secrets are just a google search away from being exposed. You might as well walk your customer through your process. Not only will they feel like they’ve been a part of the website creation from day one, but you will show them that you deserve the money that you’ve earned. I know from personal experience that if you pull back the curtain and show how the work is done, your true expertise will shine, and the customer will feel good about not trying to fumble at building the website themselves. Just show your client CSS manipulation… they’ll throw money at you to take care of the dirty work.

Call to Action for people hiring website developers… Do your homework. Don’t just read an Ad, set up an appointment, and get started on hiring a service provider from your first meeting. You also don’t need to do weeks/months of homework to find the right provider. Pick two or three providers in your price range, look at examples of their work in your price range, and compare! As long as they aren’t providing shady SEO tactics or crappy design, you’ll be good to go! Bonus points if your website developer knows how to design your website to align with your marketing objectives.

The Internet has changed a lot since 1994, it’s up to you to make sure you the people you hire have stayed up to date.