In the late 1990s, Jim Norman, President of Norman Building & Design, a custom builder who designs and builds about 12 homes a year in Bend, Ore., knew he needed a Web site, but he never imagined how powerful a marketing tool it would become.
“We knew we needed to stay up with the technology,” says Norman. “But we weren't aware of how important it would be, how it could help us bring in a better-qualified buyer,” he says.
“Norman Building doesn't need a lot of buyers, but we need the right buyers, and the Web site helps find the kind of successful people who are drawn to Bend for retirement and second homes,” says Norman, whose homes range in price from $1 to $3 million.
The two most striking features of Norman Building's Web site are its photography and design. The site has dozens of photos, and they are all top quality, shot with special wide angle and architectural lenses designed to make the rooms look more realistic in size and proportion.
“While we use a lot of photography, the key is knowing how to optimize the photos,” says Catherine Gunnerson, who—with her husband, Fred—runs Butterfly Multimedia, the Web design and photography group that developed the site.
“Everyone has a hot spot they are looking for in the home, whether it's the kitchen or the study, or an engineering type who likes to see the architectural details,” says Gunnerson. “By having all those photos on the Web site you can appeal to every type of personality,” she says.
On the design side, by using lots of brown tones, the site exudes the rustic, earthy feeling of being inside one of Norman Building's homes.
Another important feature of the Norman homes that the site showcases is that all of the interior cabinets and doors are custom-crafted and manufactured at the builder's 7,000-square-foot facility in Bend. The factory also builds furniture.
“When you walk through a Norman home, all the moldings, doors, and architectural details look as beautiful as a fine piece of furniture,” says Gunnerson. By featuring high-quality photos of these high-end finishes on its Web site, Norman is able to target a quality-conscious demographic.
The site also details Norman Building's 11-month building process. All the homes exceed code and are truly custom built in the sense that there are no pre-existing plans. For example, many of the windows are designed based on the views the customer specifies in the design phase. Building that kind of quality takes up to a year.
“Other builders may say that they can put up a house in six months, but that almost never happens, and then the builder has an unhappy client,” says Norman.
“By laying out the process on the Web site, we want to raise the buyer's expectations for quality, but we also make it clear that these homes take time to build; we don't cut corners,” he says.
Norman Building paid about $10,000 for the initial design and recently paid about $18,000 to post a flash module with streaming video that includes interviews with the company's executives and craftsmen, as well as testimonials from satisfied home buyers. The company also spent tens of thousands of dollars during the past five years for photography, advertising, and Web site management. Visit www.normanbuilding.com to check out Norman Building's Web site.
Learn more about markets featured in this article: Bend, OR.