Make Your Web Site Work Harder and Smarter for You
By Steve Lewkowitz, Pivotal CRM
While many builders’ Web sites may look great and help sell homes, they are missing out on the full potential of the Web.
Used strategically, your Web site can become a workhorse — accelerating sales, saving labor, gathering intelligence and creating happy, loyal customers.
The following are a few ways to take your Web site to the next level.
Use Your Web Site as a Hub
The first step to leveraging your Web site more effectively is to stop seeing it as a standalone tool and to start understanding it as a unifying hub.
Your Web site should be the front door to your organization — all paths should lead to it and it should be the main entry point to access everything your firm has to offer.
Most builders see their Web site as part of their marketing toolkit, but it can be much more than that. Your Web site can act as center point for all of your marketing activity, tying together online and offline channels.
Most builders’ online marketing is not limited to their own Web site. Many promote their homes on third-party Web sites and online listings services, and they may also use banner ads or pay-per-click advertising.
These online programs can be excellent lead generators, but builders need to make sure that leads from disparate online channels don’t fall through the cracks and receive equally rapid follow-up as direct leads.
By funneling leads brought in by other online, lead-generating sources through the builder’s Web site and using simple tracking mechanisms, builders can ensure that all leads enter the same pipeline and are promptly and consistently followed up ― while still gathering source data.
Although many builders are investing more and more of their efforts in online marketing, most continue to use traditional marketing channels such as direct mail, print advertising and billboards.
Unfortunately, the effectiveness of these offline channels can be hard to measure. But by directing interest generated by these media to specialized Web pages that capture leads and record the source, builders can track the returns on these marketing efforts as effectively as they can their online activities.
Using your Web site as a hub goes beyond channeling visitors from different sources to a single location. It’s also about what links into your Web site from the back end.
Many builders have invested in their IT infrastructure, implementing applications and systems that help streamline their processes and organize their data. By tying some of these systems into their Web sites, builders can extend the value of these IT investments and make their Web site a critical front end for their marketing, sales and customer care processes.
Use Your Web Site to Build Relationships
The Web can’t compete with face-to-face interactions for relationship-building — or can it?
While online tools won’t replace the human touch altogether, they can go a long way toward building customer relationships when properly applied and, in many cases, can be more effective and methodical in gathering and applying customer and prospect data — at least up to the appropriate point for handoff to a live sales agent.
By tying marketing automation and customer relationship management (CRM) systems to your Web site, you can use the site as a systematic intelligence gatherer and relationship-builder. Rather than generating a one-time lead, you can create a prospect profile that can be built out over time.
When prospects visit your Web site, encourage them to register to receive value-added information, such as in-depth PDF brochures or community updates, by simply entering their name and e-mail address.
Enroll the prospects in an automated, lead-nurturing e-mail stream that asks them a few key questions at each interaction. This enables you to collect information cumulatively as the relationship develops, avoiding long, imposing online registration forms that act as barriers to lead generation.
The more sophisticated marketing automation programs will automatically increase the depth of personalization with each communication, building upon the latest information gathered to continually increase relevance.
For example, if the prospect indicates that their primary hobby is golf, the system can automatically send a golf-oriented communication, or, if the prospect has children, a profile of area schools. Each step builds prospect intelligence, while also pre-qualifying contacts.
The system also can route leads immediately to the appropriate salesperson when the prospect is at the right stage for live follow-up. The salesperson delivered not just a lead, but in-depth information about a pre-qualified contact who is ready to make a purchase.
In this way, your Web site can take on much of the pre-sales lead generation, nurturing and qualification duties that would normally require significantly more effort, time and overhead, while also gathering richer information and delivering a more consistent customer experience.
Use Your Web Site to Streamline Customer Care
Your Web site can play an important role in the marketing and sales process, but its usefulness need not end there.
Post-sales customer care is critical to keeping customers satisfied, maintaining a strong brand reputation and generating high-quality lead flow as customer referrals.
Delivering great customer care can be costly. However, using your Web site for customer care can bring down the cost while increasing customer satisfaction — an ideal combination.
Again, the secret is to integrate customer care tools directly into your Web site. Allow home owners to log in to a secure online customer care center and access their profile, which is fed by the rich customer data you have accrued in your CRM system throughout the marketing and sales process.
Enable home owners to easily refer to data relevant to their home — such as warranty information ― update their profile to keep your data clean and up to date, search knowledge-bases for helpful pointers and answers to common questions and log issues for service-agent follow-up.
Using your Web site this way enables you to provide 24/7 support and service very cost-effectively and give customers ample resources for self-service. Many of your home owners will be able to answer their own questions without ever contacting a service agent.
For those issues that do require follow-up, logging issues electronically allows them to be quickly and easily routed to the appropriate customer care agent or sub-contractor for follow-up, escalated when needed and tracked through to resolution.
Web-based customer surveys can also be integrated into the service process to ensure issues are being resolved to customers’ satisfaction and identify areas for improvement.
Similarly, marketing automation systems tied into the Web site can continue to nurture relationships well after home purchase, promoting second-home or holiday-home sales and offering Web-based referral programs and incentives.
Take Your Web Site Beyond ‘Brochureware’
Don’t be afraid to ask your Web site to work a little harder for you.
By tying your Web site more closely to your online and offline marketing activities and back-end IT infrastructure, you can get more value not only from your Web site, but from your existing technology and marketing investments, while also increasing customer satisfaction and lowering costs — a winning combination by any builder’s standards.
Steve Lewkowitz is the home building and real estate professional services director for CDC Software’s Pivotal CRM, a leading line of customer relationship management solutions. For more information, e-mail Lewkowitz, or visit www.pivotal.com/homebuilders.
NAHB Has More Than 300 Resources to Help You Run Your Business More Profitably
Go to NAHB's Business Management Tools Web pages (available to members only) for instant access to more than 300 timesaving, moneymaking and cost-cutting business resources to help you run your business more profitably. Get guidance on accounting and financial management, business strategy, computers and information technology, customer service, human resources and more.
Resources are added weekly, so bookmark www.nahb.org/biztools to go directly to these vital business management resources.
Local and state home builders associations can link directly to www.nahb.org/biztools from their Web site and give their members instant access to these resources. It will make your HBA's Web site the place to go for the information and guidance that members need to succeed.