The tips came flying so fast Wednesday morning at the first sales and marketing session of the International Builders' Show that it was hard to know if there were indeed 115 of them as the brochure promised. Most likely there were even more.

Here are some we caught on the fly that we thought noteworthy and useful.

From Brian Flook, a new-home marketing consultant, came some suggestions related to beefing up your online marketing presence and mining online leads for all they are worth. First, a sobering statistic: 85% of home sales begin online.

“Today you are judged mostly by a three-second glimpse at your web site,” Flook said.

  • Flook suggests that builders proactively move from “interruption” advertising, which he defined as campaigns in newspapers, television, billboards, and magazines--ads that customers see when they are looking at other things--to “permission” advertising, sending information to people who have expressed an interest in your product. That means gathering e-mail addresses and other information from web site visitors. He suggests providing content of interest that site surfers will give their e-mail addresses to get. “Content is king,” he said.

  • Respond immediately to consumers who show an interest in you.

  • Leverage keywords to net visitors to your site. Flook suggested that builders hire an expert to research keywords that would apply to your business and then use them frequently in content. The goal is to bring your company up as often as possible in Google searches.

  • Social networking is important. “Eight hundred million people are on Facebook,” Flook said. “Look at Facebook as a giant national networking event.”

  • Buy web addresses that corrispond with your projects, for instance “123 Lazy Lane” and then use them in marketing materials.

  • Be N.I.C.E. with your web site by creating a Nearly Instant Compelling Effect, a quickly absorbed online message that clearly communicates the most compelling information about your business.

  • Photography rules. Spend extra money to get two or three “money shots” of your homes by professionals.

  • Make sure your site works for mobile devices.

“And you thought having a web site was enough,” said Flook.
Bonnie Alfriend, a marketing speaker, consultant, and author, says home buyers emerging from the housing recession now have different desires for their homes.

  • Buyers want every bit of their home to be used and useful. They would rather have smaller, highly amentized homes that live large than houses are big just to be big.

“Value is how the house lives. It is not about large sticks and bricks,” she told the audience.

  • Marketing well is a complex business that starts with purchasing the “right” land and continues through after-sales servicing of a home.

  • Bring employees in on the planning for new communities and products, since they are the ones who hear what buyers want in the trenches.

  • Figure out what you do best as a builder and flaunt it.

  • Stay focused on who you are and what you have to offer rather than the state of the economy.

  • Make sales centers and models active by including things like calendars of monthly events in the neighborhood, to show that there is life in the community. Create events that showcase the community, such as foot races that begin and end at the sales center.
  • Know the source of your buyers and traffic.

S. Robert August, founder of the executive business development strategy firm S. Robert August & Co., which specializing in management, marketing, and sales consulting, emphasized the importance of referrals.

  • Start asking customers for referrals on first contact.

  • Keep getting referrals from past buyers by continuing to service their homes well and maintain contact with them to make sure that they are happy with their home.

  • Don’t overlook anybody as a potential source for customers. He told the story of a builder who gave a local church a $1,500 fee every time one of its parishioners bought a home from the builder. Over time that builder sold 200 homes from the church’s leads.

Teresa Burney is a senior editor for Builder magazine.