Friday, September 15, 2006

Your Website. Is it Working for You?

“Do you have a website?” Back in 1998, that was THE question I asked to home builders and developers before I pitched advertising services on the Internet. Internet Marketing was very new to the building industry. With the exception of a few national builders and some of the bigger local new home groups, very few companies were taking advantage of this extremely cost effective means of reaching new home buyers. Today, most home builders and new home marketing professionals have accepted the fact that they need a website to have an effective marketing program. Unfortunately, many of those websites are not doing their job --- They are NOT working for you, and, in fact, may be working against you.

Does the creative message on a print ad influence a homebuyer’s decision not to visit the community? Maybe the color, the layout, the copy, the lifestyle photos; something about the ad just turned them off from wanting to learn more about your new homes and new home neighborhoods. What about your community entrance and sales model? How would uncut grass, an unclean sales model, or trash at the entrance and throughout the neighborhood affect your sales? An improperly designed or poorly managed website has the same effect. There are a lot of websites out there with poor navigation, a lack of information, or even worse, outdated information. Some are just plain ugly. Many home builders and developers lose sales due to the image that their website is projecting, especially if their top competitors have better websites. Remember, home buyers look for ways to reduce the number of communities they visit. You can not afford to be scratched off their short list because of your web presence.

A lot of companies build websites and more are getting into the business every day. If you think you need to look at your website strategy, I would like to offer a few things to consider during this process. First of all, make sure you work with a company that has worked with real estate companies in the past. If the company does not understand your business from the start, how can they help you sell your product? In addition, many builders and developers do not have experienced internal staff members to manage an effective website project. They may underestimate the challenges and time required of their internal resources and project team. You may want to consider hiring a consultant that can effectively act as the project manager and coordinate all the internal requirements and development, while keeping the project on time and within budget. With a consultant focused on your project, it will be easy for them to stay focused on your project when internal company resources begin to be pulled in different directions.

In all circumstances, however, it is important to accurately identify the goals and business requirements of the project. Specifically, you need to define the process, document the goals, requirements, and process completely in the initial stage of the project. This will allow you to get your internal team and the web design company all on the same page, working toward the same goals, and focused on the end product.Getting an effective website defined, built and launched is only the first step. Next you will want to look at ways to increase your leads and drive more traffic to your website. You may have heard of the term SEO. SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. Check out my next blog for some more info on SEO and how it can help you.

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