Many home improvement companies find that the online component plays an increasingly important role in their marketing. That may or may not take the form of a company website directly contributing to the lead flow.

“[Leads] don't come organically,” says Peter Devellis, president of Rite Window, in Woburn, Mass. He says that 2% or 3% of his company's leads come from its recently revamped website, which features product pricing, a link to third-party customer evaluation service GuildQuality, and an enhanced social media presence. “A lot of our [site] traffic is generated by radio, television, or other vehicles,” Devellis says.

QUALITY & CREDIBILITY Rite Window has learned what other home improvement companies have also discovered: a website isn't a stand-alone lead generator but a key link in the marketing chain that ends with an appointment. The important thing is what happens when consumers arrive at your site.

“Internet leads are more qualified,” says Mark Whitlock, director of marketing for South End Home Improvement, in Charlotte, N.C. In the last year, South End has doubled its online investment and, as a percentage of total leads, Internet-generated leads have gone from 8% to almost 22%. Prospects, Whitlock says, may come from other sites, such as James Hardie's, but by the time they get to South End, they're usually nearer to buying. “The leads I get off my website or off the Hardie website — any Internet-generated campaign — have a stronger chance of closing,” Whitlock says. “The homeowner is already in decision mode.”

NEXT-GEN HIGH TECH Adam Bressler, 27, marketing manager for Builders & Remodelers, in Minneapolis, says he's aware of the need to beef up his company's online presence. Builders & Remodelers finds growing response to its online efforts, purchased leads from sellers such as ServiceMagic, and its own, highly optimized site.

Bressler notes that roughly half of Internet leads are in some early stage of the buying cycle. The other half are ready to do the project. He also says that his big challenge now, “to reach my generation,” is to design a website that's smart-phone–friendly because “it's all about the phones and being able to reach them.”