Kent Homes’ newly redesigned website offers a text-book model for what website marketers say a home builder’s website should be and do.
Speak to your specific buyer.
The typical Wilmington, N.C.–based builders’ audience is between 55 and 65 and has usually already gone through the process of building a home. Given that this age group is often less tech savvy, it is particularly important that a builder's site be designed for easy navigation from both a personal computer and smart phones.
“Because we have an older demographic, making sure they can get around our site easier is important. We needed navigation to be clean and concise,” said Sarah Kate Binkley, Kent Homes’ director of marketing.
Also, since most of Kent Homes’ shoppers have built homes before, and are more cogniscent of quality, the site is chock full of information that speaks in detail to the quality of the construction and energy efficiency of the homes. There are videos showing construction details and the company’s president talking about being part of a buying group that helps lower costs of materials.
“Most of our buyers have built homes in the past,” said Binkley. “They want to know that they are energy efficient, built to code, and that we are going above and beyond what is required. They want a home that is energy efficient and lasts longer.”
Show clearly where you build and what you build.
Kent’s site shows a box for each community with the name of the sales agent and a direct telephone number in large type. Click on a community and you get a Google map showing the location and offering a description and directions. It also shows what floor plans can be built in that community, avoiding disappointing shoppers who fall in love with a floor plan only to find out it can’t be built in the community where they want to live.
There are also extensive photo galleries of finished homes and video tours of models.
Kent also communicates the message that it will build on customers’ lots within specific communities.
Build confidence in the builder through customer recommendations.
The site offers a big button at the top for customer reviews gathered by Guildmaster, an independent third party company that surveys customers. Guildmaster surveys home buyers four times throughout the build and then puts the reviews online. At the top of the reviews is a summary of Kent’s scores, which are 100 percent recommendations for “would recommend”, construction quality, trust, value, and professionalism.
“We wanted people to be able to access our customers who have built with us,” said Binkley.
Captures customers’ contact information and mines the leads.
Kent offers web visitors the option of saving their preferred floor plans and other information in a “Dream Home” folder in exchange for an e-mail address. Sales agents then use the e-mail address to send the shopper something each week through a newsletter or an email blast. They also use the customer’s choices as a conversation starter.
But Kent uses the contact information for more than sales leads. It also uses it as an opportunity to get reviews of its plans and renderings.
Leads at Kent don’t get lost. Every one that comes in from the website goes to the two sales agents, the company’s owner, and Binkley. Then they are reviewed at the weekly meeting to make sure that they are attended to.
“We make sure nobody slips through the cracks,” says Binkley.
The site's concept was designed by Kent Homes and executed by Builder Designs, which also did the technical coding.
Unveiled just three weeks ago in the middle of the holiday season, and not completely unveiled until Jan. 2, month-over-month traffic numbers don’t show much in the way of improvement. However, the data about what happens when shoppers drop in tells a tale of improvement that is likely to continue as the spring selling season takes hold. Average visitors stayed six minutes and 27 seconds, two minutes and 27 seconds longer than the old average, and those that dropped onto the site and bounced off immediately dropped by 14%.
The quality of the leads has also improved. “The old site was getting a lot of spam inquiries,” said Binkley. “We have gotten more qualified leads in a week than we got the entire previous month.”
Teresa Burney is a senior editor for Builder magazine.