Robert Arnow, the creative director of Incitement Design, has spent much of the past year getting a website-building platform off the ground. It’s targeted to people who don’t have design or coding skills, much like Wix or WordPress. But rather than generic templates, Arnow’s platform is based on his years of designing custom websites for candidates.
It’s a tool that he believes could help his clients win — if they’re willing to invest. Following the recent soft launch of designedtorun.com, Arnow spoke to C&E.
C&E: How does website building fit into the consulting industry overall?
Arnow: Websites have been a really big challenge for campaigns for quite a long time. Political consulting firms really don’t have the expertise to set them up, so it becomes a really big hassle for them to handle it. It’s not something that’s really profitable. They’re making money marking up media buys. They just can’t make that type of money on websites. And so because of that, they have a vested interest to downplay the importance of websites.
Really, I think this solution was needed for quite a long time. Previously, [campaigns] would either get these really cheap sites from dinky freelancers using bad templates, or we pay a ton of money and get something really good. This is supposed to be, you can get something really good for the price of a dinky freelancer. We do think that having a product like this available will give candidates on our side of the aisle an advantage.
C&E: Where did the idea for the platform come from?
Arnow: I was designing custom websites for political campaigns and, at one point, I designed a site that I realized was very reusable. It just was set up in a way that it would be very easy to reskin it. And our clients were balking at the price of custom websites. So I went to them and I said, ‘hey, we’ll offer you a deal. If you hire us to reskin an existing site that we already have, we’ll charge you half the price that we would charge for doing it completely custom.’ People really liked that. And really, from that, I got the idea: I could actually automate this process for them and go another half smaller in the price again.
C&E: Tell us about pricing.
Arnow: I asked my clients, how much would you pay for a service like this? And pretty much people said, $2,000-$3,000. So we’re charging $2,000 to get started and then $50 a month. That’s enough where if we have a few hundred people using it a year, that’s enough revenue easily to run the business. Overtime, we’ll develop a way to be able to service [lower-budget] clients as well. But for the start, we need to be able to charge enough money to run the business. And once that’s going we probably will figure out an arrangement to be able to charge a lower price for people in smaller districts.
C&E: What was the biggest challenge for you, as a business owner, getting this platform off the ground?
Arnow: The biggest challenge was really around finding engineers to work with to build out the more complex programming aspects. I did hire a couple agencies, at first, and ran into issues because they weren’t really committed to the project. Then I hit gold and ended up getting connected with [Mime Cûvalo] who’s a pretty senior engineer and has a lot of experience in the political space and was really interested in the project. He’s now a partner in the business and that’s what really accelerated the process and made it able to go forward. Without that, I don’t think I’d be here right now.