Custom vs. Template Websites: Set Your Sights on the Site That’s Right for You & Your PE or M&A Firm

By MVP Marketing + Design | April 1, 2024

Custom vs. Template websites: Whether you are a private capital firm launching a new venture or managing an established private equity or M&A firm, the choice of a new website is pivotal. It’s not just about aesthetics but also about aligning your digital presence with your organizational business and marketing goals. MVP offers a spectrum of custom WordPress website design options tailored to fit varying needs and budgets. However, amidst this dizzying array of choices, selecting the right fit can be daunting. So, how do you navigate this decision-making process effectively?

Since 2000, and our first branding and website design projects for Churchill Capital (Minneapolis), which later sold its funds to the Carlyle Group, we’ve crafted over 75 custom WordPress websites for Private Equity, Mezzanine Capital (Sub-Debt), and Mergers & Acquisitions (M&A) firms. With each project, we’ve gained invaluable insights into what drives these firms’ web design choices.

For start-ups and spin-off PE, Private Debt, Buyout, Fundless Sponsors, Fund of Funds and M&A advisory firms, as well as for mature private capital groups who have the content and budget to support it, the decision to invest in a meticulously crafted, custom-tailored website often stems from the desire to establish a strong online presence that will differentiate them visually and verbally from competitors in a sea awash in all too common still or video imagery derived from either city, land and seascapes themes to team and office photography. How do you transform the ordinary into the extraordinary? The answer lies in showcasing a firm’s value proposition and investment philosophy through bespoke visuals and brand language that align with their mission, vision and values as well as their geographic location and cultural DNA. On the visual side, using original animated business process illustrations, onsite and customized stock photography featuring market sector or portfolio company b-roll footage, and transaction and portfolio company filters that transcend traditional current/past and market sector variables, start-ups and mature firms alike can effectively differentiate themselves against others that rely on the stereotypical approaches mentioned previously. While many of these firms will “write-their-own” content, many are open to involving digital agencies and PR firms to assist in creating a distinctive brand messaging platform, if not final website content. (To learn about MVP’s own MVP BrandMate℠ process and view sample projects, please click here.)

Conversely, for many cost-conscious start-ups and mature firms alike, who often view their websites more in the role of best supporting actor than hero or heroine in the drama to be different, a less design intensive and lower budget approach may be ideal. Firms like these want the best of both worlds: Distinctive form and functionality but at a price they can afford. Especially when content requirements are modest and time is short, such firms will prioritize “almost perfect” design, faster lead time and ease of content administration in favor of more demanding time intensive and costly solutions. As for website copywriting and content, the DIY approach is more common than not.

Constantly maximizing return on investment across all aspects of their operations, especially in this higher interest rate environment, a growing number PE and M&A firms are opting for better than average websites that enable them to simultaneously allocate fewer resources to top-tier website design and instead directing their focus towards value-added enhancements like branding (both visual and verbal), content development, and digital marketing. These additions include website copywriting, two-pagers, PowerPoints, HTML emails, videography/photography, application development, and even search engine optimization (SEO). This strategic shift not only ensures a more compelling brand and web presence but also yields greater long run dividends through increases in website visits and engagement resulting from the multiplicity of marketing tools at your disposal.

To better help you better understand tradeoffs, let’s take a closer look at both MVP “custom-tailored” and what we like to call “almost perfect” MVP TeamPlate℠ WordPress website solutions.

Custom-Tailored MVP TeamMateSM Websites: Beyond the Curve

When it comes to designing and developing a truly custom-tailored MVP WordPress website, your wish is effectively our command. Based on a combination of competitive website and client-focused needs analysis, we’ll do a deep dive on the competition, and your exacting requirements. For example, if you truly want to stay ahead of the curve and account for trend-setting best practices, you’ll want to ask yourself these questions:

  • How distinctive do we need to be to make our mark? When it comes to form and functionality, should we go bleeding edge or will cutting- or leading-edge “look and feel” suffice?
  • Do we have sufficient budget, typically $60K plus and the required lead-time, often four to five months, to invest in a truly bespoke and customized web presence or will a somewhat scaled-back approach accomplish most if not all our design and utility objectives?
  • Do we have enough content for a fully customized site and is it fresh enough to warrant multi-level web pages and the compound filters that typically accompany the portfolio, transaction and news sections of highly differentiated designs?
  • Frequently, custom-tailored sites are distinguished by their use of team and location photography and videography as opposed to more cost-effective existing team portraits and stock flyover (drone) video. Will investing in workgroup and facility shots, whether used as stills or in videos, be problematic when team members come and go?
  • What if we spent equivalent amounts for such fundamentals as 2-pagers, PowerPoint decks and HTML email templates? Do we have enough budget to support these added marketing necessities as well as the site of our dreams?
  • What are the tradeoffs between client testimonial videos vs. text-based approaches?
  • How involved does one want or need to be in the process? If the client team is “under the gun” to make the next deal, do you have the individual and collective bandwidth to devote the requisite time for content creation, not to mention the frequent design reviews and consensus building required for highly-complex web endeavors when other alternatives exist?

These are some of the essential questions that the managing partners and new business development directors of private capital firms new or mature need to ask themselves prior to signing on to a fully custom-tailored website. Make no mistake, if one is prepared to invest the time and resources necessary for collaborating internally with your team and externally with your website design firm or digital agency, the process can be very rewarding as many of our own award-winning MVP custom-tailored sites attest. To be candid, if you need a more bespoke and feature-rich site, MVP’s full stack design and development team can “design anything” and offer unmatched industry results.

However, if you’d like to avoid the “perfect is the enemy of good” conundrum, there is an excellent alternative. Here at MVP, we’ve pioneered our Blue Ocean MVP TeamPlateSM WordPress website platform to offer private capital firms an “almost perfect” alternative to the fully custom-tailored sites that have set MVP—and our clients—apart.

MVP TeamPlate℠ Websites: Not a Template but a “TeamPlate”

First introduced in 2020, and now adopted by more than 15 leading PE and M&A firms nationally, this creative and cost-effective MVP-developed WordPress website innovation offers extensive flexibility in terms of your content layout and user experience (UX) design.

Based on the code of some of many of our award-winning designs, these sites look and feel like custom websites and offer a lower cost solution on an expedited timeline.

An MVP TeamPlate WordPress site is characterized by:

  • No “off-the-shelf” prepackaged themes or “out-of-the-box” content management systems; rather flexible elements derived from MVP’s own bespoke and custom-tailored MVP TeamMate websites
  • The ability to adapt, modify and choose from a variety of typographies, photos, color palettes, graphics and navigational elements. However, extensive and complex content is probably better accommodated in a custom site.
  • Easier-to-manage compared to custom-tailored sites.
  • Faster time-to-launch, typically, 2-3 months compared to 4-5 months for a fully custom site.
  • Greater post-launch design flexibility and SEO responsiveness than SaaS sites like SquareSpace, WordPress themes and ASP.NET solutions. Form and functionality changes can be easily, and cost-effectively made with help of the MVP design and development team without compromising site security or design integrity.
  • A lower total cost of ownership alternative to SaaS-based sites like SquareSpace, which you rent and don’t own; and unlike these SaaS solutions, MVP TeamPlate sites and can be modified post-launch without jeopardizing underlying site code and security.

If you’re willing to accept some design limitations but want the flexibility to incorporate your choice of photos, videos, color scheme, menus, filtering and typography, an MVP TeamPlate WordPress site might be your best option. Designs start with one-page layouts and the options expand from there. We will help you develop the best site for your requirements and budget.

Alternative Options worth Consideration

The third choice is to employ a prepackaged WordPress theme or template; SaaS solutions like Wix, Weebly and SquareSpace, as well as WordPress themes and ASP.NET solutions may be suitable choices under certain circumstances. However, there are limitations and drawbacks to consider, including:

  • Typically, they do not have the distinctive “fit and finish” of either an MVP custom-tailored (full process) or MVP TeamPlate website.
  • Can be more difficult to manage post-launch due to their less use-friendly back-up content management systems; this is especially true of most ASP.NET websites.
  • Be vulnerable to breaking and security attacks when altering code to make bespoke design and development improvements unless specialized maintenance provisions are anticipated and provided for.
  • May not offer the same level of intuitive user experience (UX) that custom-tailored sites or flexible MVP TeamPlate sites can offer.
  • As a result of their “DIY” code and “build-your-own” approach, their code decks are often bloated and are generally not SEO-friendly as opposed to MVP custom-tailored or MVP TeamPlate solutions; may also have slower load times resulting from their need to enable anyone to not only modify but make the website from scratch.
  • May lead to costly technical fixes from the desire to modify what is essentially a template-based approach, e.g., creating radius edges on photos that are intended to fit into rectangular shapes can be problematic, costly and time consuming.

When you’re ready to invest in more than a true template-based affair, and avoid the hidden costs associated with them, you might ask: What kind of website do firms actually choose? MVP TeamMate or MVP TeamPlate? In our next article, we investigate the web design preferences within the private capital landscape.

For now, we invite you to take a look at our award-winning custom-tailored “full-process” MVP TeamMateSM WordPress sites like those we’ve designed for such PE firms as ShoreView, Gallant and Beedie Capital and M&A advisory firms like RA Capital, Brentwood Capital and Clearsight Advisors, versus our highly cost-effective yet customized MVP TeamPlateSM sites for PE firms like Gemini Investors, Keswick Advisors and Midwest Mezzanine Funds and M&A advisory firms like Woodward Park, CCG Advisors and Fidus Partners. You’ll see they all look and perform well on desktop and mobile devices but there are marked differences, which we’ll further explain in our next blog post on this topic.

Coming soon: Look for the second installment of this article to give more examples of real-world website designs and insights into the decisions that drive these choices.

Still unsure of your options? We’d love to hear from you. Please contact us at for a complimentary website competitive assessment or consultation.


About MVP Marketing + Design, Inc.

MVP Marketing + Design, Inc., is an award-winning digital agency based in Minneapolis, with a Boston satellite office. With over 38 years of experience, MVP has established itself as a leader in branding, website design and development, digital marketing (including SEO, PPC, and social promotion), and videography services. The agency has successfully served a diverse range of clients, including private equity firms, investment banks, mezzanine debt providers, real estate syndicates, and divisions of the Fortune 500, including 3M’s Consumer, Healthcare, and Industrial groups, as well LMM and Professional Services firms in related markets across North America and globally.

MVP’s commitment to excellence has earned numerous accolades including multiple Hermes Awards, Communicator Awards, Davey Awards, and MARCOM Awards, among others.

MVP partners with WordPress VIP, HubSpot and Lead Forensics to offer clients value-added design, development and lead generation services.

To learn more about how MVP Marketing + Design can help your business or organization thrive, please reach out to us at

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