Here’s an issue that surfaces from time to time, particularly in the legal web marketing sphere:
I have a website and content management system that I am happy with. However, I don’t have anything to compare them to and I wonder if there might be a comparable product for a lower price or a better product for what I am paying now. I pay $750/month, which allows me to easily make changes to the site and add blogs, articles, news, etc. It also has tracking capabilities for people who call the 800 number or fill out a contact form. It can also be customized to send automatic follow-up emails. From time to time the company also provides free upgrades to the website to make it perform and look better. There may be other benefits that I’m just not aware of too. Any insight you may have would be appreciated. Thanks.
Let’s deconstruct some of the questions and issues.
There’s a world of difference between a content management system, website administration and website marketing.
A web content management system (CMS) is merely an application that lets publish, edit and organize your web content. Some content management systems are open source, or otherwise free to use. Others are proprietary, meaning you typically pay a licensing fee to use the software. Examples of popular open source content management systems are WordPress, Joomla and Drupal.
A CMS is merely the platform upon which your web content is built. It’s just the tool. A CMS is not equal to website administration.
Website administration might include all of the “stuff” that goes into creating and maintaining a website. This might include adding blog posts, articles and firm news. It also might include installation and maintenance of tracking systems like Google Analytics, goal tracking, web form tracking and call tracking.
It’s important to note that website administration really isn’t website marketing. While there might be some limited overlap, you shouldn’t confuse the administration of your site with the marketing of your site.
Website marketing includes all of the “stuff” you do to communicate the value of your services, earn meaningful attention to your site(s) and motivate visitors to contact and hire you.
As you can see, these are very different things.
How much should this stuff cost?
In the example above, it seems that the lawyer is paying $750/month for the CMS, phone and form fill tracking and an autoresponder. The lawyer alludes to the fact that there might be other benefits of which he’s unaware. I make no judgment on the particulars of this particular offering. However, for just these features, I’d offer the following alternatives.
For content management, I recommend WordPress. It’s open source and free to use. It’s rare that I see a law firm business case for using a CMS other than WordPress. If you’re not particularly tech-savvy, you can (and probably should) have someone install and configure WordPress. You’ll also have to choose between a free, premium and completely custom theme. For a premium theme, you should probably expect to pay between $30 and $100 for a one-time license. For a custom theme, you should probably expect to spend upwards of $3,000 for design and a bit more for development (prices vary greatly). In my experience, for quality design and development, you’re probably closer to the $7,000+ range.
For form fills and form fill tracking, you could use the Contact Form 7 WordPress plugin and configure a goal in Google Analytics. Again, this is completely free. If you can’t implement this yourself, you can probably hire a freelancer to set it up. Gravity and Wufoo are other web form solutions worth looking into.
For phone call tracking, there are a variety of options with some serious considerations, especially as they relate to local search. You should read this post on call tracking and local search at Mike Blumenthals blog. Nonetheless, you can use something like Call Rail to get this done for upwards of $30 per month depending on how much traffic you get.
For email autoresponders, check out Mailchimp and Aweber. Both less than $50 per month for most lawyers’ needs.
You should also consider Avvo’s Ignite product (lead tracking, autoresponder and lead CRM). Not sure what the current pricing looks like. But it can be a pretty great solution.
For merely CMS, email / call tracking and autoresponder, $750 per month seems excessive. However, if this fee includes theme design and development, hours of monthly administration time and marketing, then it’s a steal. It really just depends upon what the complete picture looks like.
The problem that we regularly encounter is that lawyers “know the need a web presence,” but don’t really know what that means. Merely having a website built is not the same as winning new clients from the web.
The key is to understand exactly what you’re paying for and what it’s supposed to do. Set very specific goals for your web presence. Understand the differences between “being online” and being online in a way that has value to your practice in a way that is profitable. They’re not the same thing…
Hope this clears things up to some extent.