Are You Buying A Website Or A Relationship?

There are millions of studios that provide web design and development services. It’s hard to differentiate what makes one different from another.

Or is it?

Most web shops that survive for a long time have some sort of differentiation. Either they are good at graphic design, or a particular type of development, or a certain form of marketing.

But there’s another factor that very few people talk about.

The web studios that thrive over the long haul do more than exchange services for money and then disappear. They establish an ongoing relationship with their clients — one that lasts many years.

The Difference Between Surviving And Thriving

There’s a misconception that many smaller web studios and businesses buy into — that the majority of the work is simply building a website.

After that, the work’s all done — right?


Healthy businesses invest in continually improving their website

In the last ten years, we’ve become a digital-first world, where everyone from children to retirees get their information primarily through a smartphone, tablet, or computer screen.

Businesses that experience year-over-year growth take advantage of the digital culture we are now living in, and market their business through their website and social media. They focus on making their website easy to use on multiple devices and accessible to all their customers.

They periodically re-invest in web design and development, making sure their digital tools match what their internal teams and customers need. They market their business according to the way people find and digest information today.

Many mid-size businesses lack the internal expertise to handle the rapidly changes of web development. Part of the reason businesses are able to grow from small to mid-size is they get serious about partnering with a web consultancy, letting them do what they do best.

Those who say they’ve never got business from their website haven’t put in an honest effort.

Life-Cycle Of The “Affordable” Web Designer

One of the most common things I hear from business owners is that they have to find a new web development provider about every two years. This is due to the fact that most small web studios and independent developers last about two years, before disbanding or retreating into a day job.

Why does this happen?

There are a couple of factors in effect here.


You get what you pay for — in anything in life, including web design.

Smaller businesses that seek to save money by hiring the lowest cost web designer may save a few dollars in the short term. But they also don’t receive professional guidance, consultation, or professional work that might help them reach their business goals.

Low cost web design providers charge a low amount because they are not confident in what they bring to the table. They can perform technical tasks, but they may not be well-versed in how to help a business actually grow.

Thus, they charge less than it requires for them to stay in business, and they must leave web design. Then the business owners must start their quest all over again.


The second factor at work here is a lack of specialization.

There are numerous web developers who can build you a website in WordPress, or Drupal, or Java, or .NET, or vanilla PHP.

But what strikes me is the number of consultants out there who are actually masters of all of these platforms is very minute. I know a couple of them. Their time is not cheap, and they are usually busy with enterprise level projects.

But the vast majority of independent developers and smaller web agencies are willing to take on anything that pays money.

This makes it very hard to focus on any one thing and get good at it.

It took me over two years to learn to say no to projects that are a poor fit for what I specialize in.

Today, there are a couple of things I excel at:

  • Custom WordPress theme development
  • E-commerce stores on WordPress (especially WooCommerce)

There are other things that I can do (and even do pretty damn well), but I’m not actively seeking a dozen different types of work, so I can focus more intently on just a few.

Focusing Light

Specialization is like light shining through a magnifying glass.

When you focus the beam wide, there is no intensity. It doesn’t have any effect.

When you narrow the focus, the light becomes a force. It burns the object under it, because it is focused on a singular point.

Lack of specialization is a reason why independent web developers keep their rates too low to survive. (Remember, they are self-employed and have to pay taxes!)

This lack of specialization also sets up the solo developer and their clients for failure, as there is no focus. The business owner doesn’t successfully reach their goals, the independent developer goes out of business, and the cycle begins again in two years (or even less).

Investing In A Relationship

The one thing I’ve noticed is that the folks that only want to invest in a website are different from the folks that want to invest in an ongoing relationship.

There are businesses that only see their website as a checkbox to be ticked off a list. “Got website?” “Check.

These businesses have very little interest in marketing for the year we are living in. And that’s okay.

For these businesses, hiring a friend’s nephew to build their website for a few hundred dollars makes sense, because their marketing is not that important to them.

But the businesses that are intent about growing?

These businesses must invest in a relationship with a web consultancy, so that they can feel at ease. Having a strategic partner means they now have the confidence to face the uncertainty of digital marketing with a strong ally by their side.

Success Is A Collaborative Effort

Keeping track of all the things that are constantly changing with web development, SEO, and digital marketing is a full-time job.

There are business owners that try to do their job on top of trying to keep up with maintaining their website and SEO. This results in burnout and frustration, because doing too many things by yourself is really, really hard.

A wise person knows when to ask for help for areas where they lack expertise.

This is what it means to invest in an ongoing relationship. The confidence of knowing that alone, the complexity of the web can be overwhelming, but with a strategic web partner, you will be resilient and able to adapt quickly to change.

By yourself, navigating web marketing is difficult. But with an ally — together — you will not be easily overcome.

Author: John Locke

SEO consultant for manufacturing and industrial companies.