Crimson Design & Construction staff collected 4,500 e-mail addresses from visitors and handed out 8,000 brochures during the Calvalcade of Homes tour.  The company continues to send a monthly electronic newsletter to about 1,000 homeowners from that list.
Colm Egan Crimson Design & Construction staff collected 4,500 e-mail addresses from visitors and handed out 8,000 brochures during the Calvalcade of Homes tour. The company continues to send a monthly electronic newsletter to about 1,000 homeowners from that list.

Neil Kristianson of Crimson Design & Construction, in Naperville, Ill., is using new tactics to keep the phone ringing in this tough economy. The number of leads from his Web site has doubled during the past year, and because changes to boost Internet traffic are cost-effective compared with traditional marketing such as direct mail, he began with updates to the site.

“We recently sold a $240,000 addition from an Internet lead — our first job of such a size from the Internet. Usually that type of spending comes from referrals,” Kristianson says.

Colm Egan

He added a pay-per-click feature that has increased traffic to the Crimson Design & Construction Web site. And he began writing a blog, hosted on a free site through Google, from which he links to his company site. He updates the blog weekly and writes headlines likely to be caught by Web crawlers that look for commonly searched terms such as “kitchen remodel” or “bath renovation.”

“Our Web site is more formal and professional, and the blog is more folksy and human,” Kristianson says. “[The blog] has the emotional side of it and the Web site has the facts.”

His monthly e-newsletter also leads readers to the site: “The more you can direct people to your Web site from other areas — that adds legitimacy to crawlers so it’s higher on the search list.”

The company also participated in a local builders’ association new-home tour. It designed and built a house for the tour, which ran for three weeks in May. The house tour received coverage in the real estate section in all major newspapers in the Chicago area.

Colm Egan

Colm Egan

The house still has not sold, so although it was not intended to be used as a show home past the tour dates, Kristianson continues to bring potential clients to see it. Since Crimson Design & Construction designed and built the house, it showcases the company’s work more completely than a remodeling project for a client, and taking prospects on a tour does not require any scheduling with homeowners.

Last year, Kristianson received 30 leads from the show and sold four projects, and he expects tour-related leads to keep coming for the next two years.

“It has helped us in this economy,” he says. “We were able to cast a bigger net than we would otherwise have been able to.” However, Kristianson, who was hoping to break even on the investment, admits that building the house for the tour was a risk. None of the tour houses have sold yet, due to the economic downturn, and now he worries that if the home doesn’t sell soon, its cost will outweigh the gains from leads generated. He and his staff continue to host open houses hoping for a sale by this spring.