During the past several years, we’ve all seen the Internet phenomenon transform our daily lives and our businesses. In 2002, it is estimated that 99 million people, almost 40% of the U.S. population, will be on the Web -- not just gathering information, but spending more than $103 billion. Home buyers and homeowners are browsing some of the most popular Web sites, including my company’s, Homestore.com.
As a professional remodeling contractor, have you researched these sites? More than 3 million unique users visited Homestore.com this past March, and many are interested in the $150 billion-a-year remodeling market. With a median job price of $18,000, this is big, big business. You can’t afford to be complacent about your Internet strategy.
Remodeling contractors must think about the Internet today and learn about it now. The boom many contractors have experienced during the past few years -- fueled by low interest rates, older housing stocks and explosive consumer disposable income -- might not last forever. Eventually, leads and referrals might not come in as fast as they used to and current marketing efforts might not be as productive. A coherent online approach will help you get ahead in tomorrow’s economy, and that means placing yourself and your company where the consumers are -- on the Net, connected and growing.
All firms might need help with this marketing tactic. First, you must decide the best way of tooting your own horn online, through a listing on a directory, or a link if you already own a site or a customized Web page. Many of you affiliated with a trade association might already be prominently positioned. But if you are choosing a remodeling site for a list or a link, look first at reputation, as well as content and traffic, and then how your "host" will work for you in generating qualified leads. Your home site should offer homeowners reliable information about renovating and maintaining their homes, as well as effectively match interested consumers with qualified remodeling professionals. Find out how consumers find a remodeler: Do they fill out a short but detailed form about their location, job to be done and desired budget? With one push of a button, will the right contractor immediately appear on a consumer’s computer radar screen?
As important, how are you, the professional, served? Some home-related and remodeling sites simply take the clients’ names and pass them on to the contractor without verifying project details. That leads to frustration on your part and the part of the consumer, who might get up to five calls from inquiring professionals. Others, including Homestore.com, contact the consumer to discuss the information submitted; for example, project start date, price range and realistic expectations given market trends. This process is designed to save the contractor footwork and translate clicks and eyeballs into viable client contacts and fees.
Alternatively, remodelers and contractors should consider buying their own customized Web sites. These sites can help showcase your firm's major projects, customer testimonials, areas of expertise and specialization, as well as training and awards. With sites that have high consumer traffic, this is equivalent to having access to millions of Americans without leaving your shop’s front door. But however or wherever you choose to market online, the move to this prime location should be a simple business decision. Think of it this way: If all of your customers relocated to Japan or Australia, you’d pick up stakes as well, or at the very least advertise in Tokyo or Melbourne. Well, in the coming years many -- if not most -- of your clients will be on the Internet. Where will you and your future profits be?
Homestore.com Inc. (Nasdaq: HOMS) is the leading network of sites on the Internet for home- and real estate-related information. Homestore.com Inc.’s family of Web sites includes the Homestore.com, Realtor.com, HomeBuilder.com, SpringStreet.com, Remodel.com (home improvement) and HomeFair.com. Homestore.com’s remodeling area covers home improvement needs for both consumers and remodeling professionals.