Most upscale remodelers have already embraced the Web site as a promotional tool, but a well-planned Web site can accomplish so much more. It can boost morale, act as your company's institutional memory, serve your clients during and after their project, and even head off prospects who are not a good fit for your company.

Before the initial consultation, the site helps establish your company's professionalism and reinforces your identity. Remember, affluent homeowners interact with luxury retailers and service providers every day. If you expect them to view your company as the one they need to hire, your Web site must project the same high degree of sophistication. Simple, restrained graphics and professional photography go a long way toward establishing that image. By the time you meet with homeowners, they should have already seen your portfolio and become acquainted with you and your staff, via your Web site. They'll already know you are wonderful, so you can focus the initial meeting on their needs rather than your credentials.

But this is just the beginning of your Web site's job. Throughout the planning and remodeling process, your clients will refer to your site for guidance in selecting products, for design inspiration, and even for something as mundane as directions to your office. If your Web site really does this well, it will become a routine “destination” site for your clients and their friends.

Keep in mind that the Web site is only as useful as the number of people who see it and respond to it. You can generate visitors to the site in several ways: links from professional organizations, online reprints of magazine and newspaper features, and your job signage, which should include your Web address. But more than anything, a Web site generates its own activity the same way the rest of your business does — by word-of-mouth, through excited fans. If your Web site is genuinely useful, your clients will let the world know. In the next issue, we'll review the essential pages of an effective Web site.

Dean Brenneman, AIA, is a principal of Brenneman & Pagenstecher—Residential Architects & Builders, an upscale remodeling company based in Kensington, Md.