First appeared in HomeBuilder Magazine, July 2007; published with permission.
Trying to market without a website? Bad idea. In August 2006, Statistics Canada reported that Internet access rates in Canadian metropolitan areas ranged from a low of 68% in Montreal to a high of 77% in Ottawa-Gatineau and Calgary. Given those numbers, one hopes that few home builders have yet to be convinced on the value of Internet marketing today.
Yet, Statistics Canada also reports only 29% of construction industry enterprises (including residential home builders) have a web site. The good news? We outperform Agriculture at 11%; but the bad news is that industries, such as Information & Culture are at 82% . Ironic, considering how much information the average Canadian home builder could offer to convince potential buyers of their value versus the competition – your unique geographic benefits, intelligent floor plans, and established reputation?
If your company lacks a credible Internet presence, you may as well try and market with an unlisted phone number. Consider the fact that back in 2003; BBM Analytics reported that 91% of Canadians Internet users search for product and service information – like yours – versus other activities. As a home builder, consider that the Internet is now a standard tool for communicating with prospects and customers – not necessarily for direct sales, but to validate your company’s existence before picking up the phone or dropping by your sales centre. Knowing that, does your Internet presence reassure potential buyers by answering questions such as:
- Does this home builder have customers like me?
- Have other customers like me done business with them?
- Do they offer the kinds of things I value?
If not, assess whether your Internet presence could. In the process, it will begin to do more for your company and the needs of your target market.
When considering an investment in Internet marketing, start with a clear definition of your Internet strategy. Do you plan to drive awareness of the website to new markets? Or to increase usage of the site within your existing markets? Answer the question relative to your business strategy this year.
Now you can now define the purpose of the investment and ensure it lines up against your business strategy. For example – is the purpose of your website to generate leads for your sales team? Or reduce costs through self-service customer service? Or something else?
Next, establish your Internet marketing budget. Sound obvious? You’d be surprised – most companies know their web site operation costs but far fewer know what they’ve allocated to promote the web site. If you are one of those, start with your annual marketing budget and decide what percent you are willing to test on Internet marketing. Five percent? Fifteen percent? That gives you a baseline of available dollars to rank against other planned marketing expenses for the year. Where does the Internet fit compared to media spending, sales office expenses, and signage or printing brochures?
If there is room, you’re now in good shape. You know why you’re going to invest in the Internet and how much you’re willing to spend to do so. However, before writing any checks, how will you measure success? What goal will you set for the web site? Let’s say your company decides that the Internet investment strategy is to build awareness in new markets, and that the website’s purpose is as a lead generation tool. A possible goal might be a 15% increase in leads generated this year over last. Now, you’ve got something concrete you can hold the investment accountable to. Last step – what indicators will you monitor over the next year to ensure the goal is achievable?
Start with your web site traffic or web analytics reports – your IT staff or Internet Service Provider (ISP) will tell you how to access them. If you have none, kick up a fuss. How will you monitor what you can’t measure? Now, take a look at the numbers. Are your visitor numbers growing, flat or falling? Does it appear as though there are enough gross numbers to convert into the number of leads you are anticipating? If not, what can you do to improve the situation?
Before you know it, you’ve got an action plan to make sure your Internet investment will provide you with a measurable return on investment. Can you say the same thing about your other marketing expenses? If not, take a harder look at how the Internet might fit into your overall marketing efforts.
-Canadian Internet Usage Survey, August 2006, Statistics Canada,
-Business and government use of information and communications technologies, Statistics Canada
CyberTrends, ComQuest Research, Winter 2003