When Hartman Baldwin Design/Build, in Claremont, Calif., launched its new Web site in November, it included a “Schedule a Consultation” form that partners Devon Hartman and Bill Baldwin hoped would help to attract potential clients. The key to the form’s success is that it asks only for essential details and resists digging too deep.

“This form is just a way to get some essential information about the project,” Hartman says. “If we ask for anything more than an e-mail address, a few words about the project, how they heard about us, and to click a few buttons, then people don’t want to do this.”

The form intentionally avoids questions about budget, partly because people are less than candid this early in the process. “The budget discussion is a very personal one ... that we prefer to have face-to-face after we’ve educated [prospects] about the true costs of our services,” Hartman says. Instead, the focus is on collecting information that will make for a quality discussion during the consultation.

—Chris Keimig writes about remodeling business from his home in Baltimore.

A. Lead Tracking

The form asks prospects to choose from a dropdown list of lead sources that may have directed them to the company???s Web site (e.g., a referral, newspaper ad, or magazine article). But it also provides a separate field for more specific source information. "We'd like to know exactly which marketing campaign they're responding to, not just which type," partner Devon Hartman says.

B. Gauging Expectations

These seemingly innocuous questions provide Hartman???s team with valuable guidance during the consultation. "There's not a good or bad answer to these," he says. "But if [the prospect] had a bad experience with an architect or contractor in the past, that can be instructive to us in terms of communicating to them how our process is different." Additionally, if clients have gone through the remodeling process before, then their past experience can fuel valuable discussion during the consultation, Hartman says.

C. Priming the Pump

With this question, Hartman hopes to get prospects thinking about energy efficiency. "We have a lot of expertise in building science and green building," he says, and the answer to this question may affect the way in which the topic of energy efficiency is broached at the initial meeting.