Three months ago Maryland window and siding company Window Nation introduced a new feature on its website that allows visitors to request a sales visit, live chat with someone, apply for credit, or download an information package in PDF form. For those wanting an estimate, the site provides a calendar so that visitors can select the date and time of their sales visit, which the company later confirms with a phone call. The idea of letting customers choose how they want to interact with the company is about “making sure they can easily get what they need,” company president Harley Magden says. “The easier it is, the more likely it is that they will do something.”

While They’re Still Looking

The new website feature was the solution to a problem: 30% of those homeowners contacting Window Nation’s site were getting lost somewhere. “We couldn’t get a hold of them,” Magden says. And, considering that website leads are more likely to convert to appointments and sales than any other lead type—aside from repeat/referral—that was a serious problem.

Such leads aren’t cheap. Many visitors come to company websites as a result of expensive marketing campaigns. For instance, much of the traffic at Durante Windows’ site originates with the company’s Birmingham, Ala.-area TV commercials. “We try to funnel [customer interest] through the site if we can,” says Daniel Gallegley, the company’s marketing manager. Last year 68% of those who filled out a Request a Price form converted to appointments. And while just 7% of those visitors downloading informational PDFs off the Durante website converted to appointments, all are called.

Marketers such as Chash Giovenco, of Net Profit Consulting, say that regardless of where they’re at in the buying process, it’s important to get in touch with website visitors immediately—that is, “while they’re still looking at your page.” It’s as simple as calling to ask how you can help them in their search.

“The value of those leads deteriorates by the hour,” says Chris Marentis, of Surefire Social, an Internet marketer specializing in home improvement companies. Without a prompt response, homeowners quickly move on. Though most remodeling and home improvement companies are not large enough to maintain a phone room, Marentis suggests that they still need to reach homeowners right away, even if that means hiring a phone or online answering service so that someone scripted responds immediately and schedules a callback or an appointment.

Now That We’re on the Phone

Of course, it’s the homeowners who are seeking a price—that is, a sales visit—who are gold when it comes to website leads. Experts suggest that to convert them to appointments you should:

  • Be flexible when it comes to availability. Most companies request that all buying parties be present for the appointment. But more and more home improvement companies are willing to meet with one homeowner and schedule a follow-up call where price is presented. “If you tell the homeowner that you won’t come unless both of them are there, that homeowner will go somewhere else,” Giovenco says.
  • Refrain from a “hard-sell” tone. In the course of their home improvement research, many homeowners have read about high-pressure sales tactics by home improvement companies. Window Nation works to address that. “We tell the homeowner: ‘We’re not coming to hard-sell you,’” Magden says, “we’re going to provide you with a quote that’s good for 60 days.”
  • Provide EPA/lead paint information. Ask about the age of the house so that salespeople/estimators can come equipped with the right information and paperwork, Giovenco recommends.

She suggests feeding leads that have not yet been contacted and early-in-the-buying-stages visitors into a contact management system and marketing to these prospects in stages.

Since revamping its site and offering customers the opportunity to schedule their own appointments, Magden says, the 30% of customer contacts that never converted to appointments has been cut in half.