Business Strategy

Total Cost of Ownership and your Business Strategy

Today I’ll wear my CIO hat as we discuss a very important tool you should always use when making purchasing or outsourcing decisions. Understanding the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) calculation for your next website design, managed services agreement, or even a decision to purchase or lease equipment will help you determine the right strategy for your business, and save you time and money in the long-run. As we go through our example, watch how we can use this calculation to reveal strategies to improve our bottom line.

Simplified, TCO is calculated by identifying and accounting for all of the costs and savings associated with a business decision. For the small business owner, the most commonly overlooked resource in this calculation is the owner’s time. This is a resource that is not usually in the vendor’s proposal. And, remember, TCO is more than an accounting tool – it can reveal new strategies.

Websites. We’ll use website design as a basis for our example. This is an interesting topic, since companies can (and do) spend anywhere from nothing to tens of thousands of dollars for the design and deployment of an online presence. Remember, websites are not technologies. They are marketing strategies (tools) that rely on technology. There is a difference. So, with any marketing strategy, there are costs and benefits – both hard (i.e. financial / time) and soft (i.e. image / brand). These must be identified and incorporated into your TCO calculation.

If you are using a free or fill-in-the-blanks website hosting company, how are your marketing needs being addressed? If there is a disconnect between the website and your strategy, your hidden costs could rise – in lost customers and/or time.

Copywriting. One of the most important, and often overlooked facets of good website design. Good copywriting doesn’t really cost that much. The lack of a good copywriter can have grave consequences on your brand. Spend the money and include this into your TCO calculation.

Time. This is really the most significant cost for small business owners – especially those using DIY sites. How many hours might you spend creating a free website? Ten? Fifteen? Now, how much is your time worth? $50 per hour? If so, you just spent between $500 and $750 designing your “free” website. Plus, you lost nearly two days calling customers. These factors impact your TCO.

Cost savings. One of the original uses of a website was the distribution of static materials – i.e. brochures, etc. Don’t forget to use this age-old feature to reduce your printing and distribution costs. It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of Web 2.0, and forget some of the original time and money saving benefits of the Internet. Electronic documents save time and money. Evaluate your printing costs, and factor this into your total cost of ownership.

Self-service. Are you using your website to maximize customer service? Many customers expect basic questions to be answered online via FAQs or user forums. How much time can you save if you customer is able to access their answer 24-7? Consider the cost/benefit of using 3rd party chat systems to field your sales and first-line support calls.

Point of Sale. Not every small business can conduct transactions online. Can you? Should you? Factor these benefits (and associated costs) into your TCO. These days, there are almost no barriers to entry for those wishing to incorporate online payment systems.

Depending your business, there could be dozens of costs and benefits related to your online marketing systems (website, SEO, traffic acquisition, et al). Without an expanded view of how the decision affects your business model, you may make a decision to buy or not to buy solely based on the price tag.

The purpose of this discussion was not necessarily designed to uproot all of the financial benefits and expenses of a website. The goal was to get us thinking beyond the basic accounting of the business decision and identify the peripheral strategies.

In today’s economy, we don’t want to spend any more money than we need to. At the same time, we cannot afford to leave opportunity (strategy) on the table because we don’t really understand the true benefits and costs of ownership.


By Ron Woodbury

SCORE Small Business Blog

The following is great information about small business and local searches.

Full blog can be found here –

In our post  Get Your Small Business Listed on Local Search Engines,  we stressed the importance of having a local search listing and provided a tool to discover where you are currently listed, whether you’ve claimed the listings, and how to find out what the listing says about your business.

Local search engines already have information about your business.  The likely source of that information is the old yellow pages content compiled by InfoUSA and Acxiom.  It is ironic that the phone book’s Yellow Page information is becoming functionally obsolete, but the best path to a “do nothing online listing” is to have a simple, basic Yellow Pages listing.  Of course the superior approach is to develop the local listing yourself, and then go straight to the search engines  and  place the content.  Each search engine has a local listing center where the business owner can log in, claim their listing, and keep their business data up to date.  Submissions are generally free, and you have complete control over changing the listing.

For Google, the local listing center is the Google Places page.


This will be the title of your listing.  You will need to think in terms of keywords that you want your business to rank for.  If you are Jean Simpson and own a wedding apparel shop in Chicago, you will want your title to be “Jean Simpson’s Chicago Wedding Apparel,” or similar.  As space permits, you should possibly add phrases like wedding shoes, wedding dresses, and other related keywords.  In other words, “ Jean Simpson’s Chicago Wedding Dresses and Wedding Shoes.”  Don’t go too far, though.  Too many keywords will be viewed as spam.

Business Address

These are the basics of street, city, zip, etc.  Be sure this address data is the same as the data on your web site, and in any Internet Yellow Page listing you may have.  Identical addresses from different places are viewed as validation by the local search company.

Main Phone

List your local phone number here.   Local phone listings provide confirmation that you are indeed, located where you say you are located.  Do not use an 800 number for your main listing.  Instead, put the 800 number in the additional phones block, if there is one provided.

Very Important:  If you have multiple locations with multiple local phone numbers, you should prepare a listing for each location.

Email Address and Web Site

List your business website URL, and your primary email.

Business Description

Prepare a 200 character description of your business.  Prepare it concisely and carefully with your businesses main keywords in mind.  You must write the description in such a way that it makes sense to a human reading it, and that it also allows a search engine to index it according to keywords.  Do not stuff additional keywords here.    Keywords in the business description are important, but keywords within the Title take precedence.

Marker Location

The local engine usually provides a small map with a marker.  They will place the marker based on the address you provided.  However, it is up to you to verify if the marker is correctly located, and to relocate it if needed.

The process for claiming your listing will be covered in my next post.  Claiming your listing can be done through phone verification, so it is relatively easy and not time consuming.  Because we are preparing all the content, we will continue as if the listing had already been claimed.  Claiming your listing is very important, as it prevents others from editing your information without your permission.  Once your listing is claimed, you can finish the important details that are listed below!

Business Categories

The categories you use to describe your business are critical to determining what local keywords your business will rank for.  Do keyword research upfront, and determine what keywords will bring you traffic, as well as what keywords accurately describe your business.

The local search engine will suggest categories for you.  Examples are Churches, Restaurant, Graphics Design, etc.  You don’t have to use the categories suggested, but if they match to your business, then please do use them.

Hours of Operation and Payment Types

Provide your hours of operation for all 7 days of the week.  List your acceptable payment methods such as Cash, Check, Credit Card, etc.


Local search engines want to build as complete a business profile as possible.  Providing relevant photos of your business, your products, and your services (to the extent possible) will help build a credible profile and will help you rank better locally.  Most search engines allow up to 10 photographs per listing.  Use them all.

It is even to your advantage to have the 10 photos in Google be different than the 10 photos in Bing, or Yelp.


Just like photos, videos help you build credibility and expand your profile.  We suggest you prepare 3 to 5 videos in mp4 format that you can upload to the local search listing centers.  You should also place these videos on your YouTube channel, and search engine optimize them on YouTube.

Wrapping It Up

You now have the basic content you need for multiple local listings in multiple search engines.  Your process going forward will be to:

  1. Set up an account at each local search engine.  Examples would be Google Places, Bing Local, Yelp, Best of the Web, CitySearch, and/or whomever else you chose.
  2. Set up an Excel spreadsheet listing the search engine address to access the account, the email you used, your username, your password, categories, business description, and anything else you wish to track.  Believe me, you will forget what you have done, and it will be time consuming to backtrack and update your listings when you need to.  Write it down NOW!


Reposted on September 20, 2013 for our online customers…