Credit: Barry Blitt

Quick question: What are you planning to spend on Internet marketing this year? Are you sure it's enough? Because the Internet is like any other medium in at least this respect: You get back what you put into it.

So if, for instance, your marketing budget is $100,000 and you've apportioned 5% of that to your website and Internet marketing (pay per click, display ads on websites, etc.), what can you really expect to get for $5,000?

OK, so you have a pretty good canvassing operation or a few shows that always produce leads. Why spend money on the Internet when you can't be sure people will even show up at your site or convert if they do?

Here's the simple answer: If you're going to be in the game and stay in the game, you'll need to get active online, for a few reasons. The first is that more and more people are turning to the Internet as a resource when they're considering a big-ticket purchase, i.e., anything costing more than a few hundred dollars. And, since the recession started, the number of consumers online has only increased. What if prospects are online but you're not?

Second, if consumers hear about you — say they're looking for windows, siding, or a roof and a friend refers your company — they're almost certainly going to look at your website before picking up the phone to call you. When they visit your site, what will they find? Information? Solutions? Is there something on your website that will give them a reason to stick around or to e-mail you? If they don't find any of those things, they'll click away.

Here's another reason to consider expanding your Internet investment. In 2005, a quarter of homeowner spending on home improvement products still came from that first wave of baby boomers (born 1945 to 1954). As of 2015, the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University projects that people born between 1965 and 1974 will be the biggest customers for home improvement products. That group will soon be supplanted by those born in 1975 or after.

This demographic shift will have a huge impact on the way home improvement companies market and sell. People in their 20s and 30s are used to using their own research online to inform their purchasing decisions. They're going to want to know all about you before they let a salesperson in the house. Chances are good that if you don't have a strong Web presence, you won't be in the market. Why not create that presence now?

Jim Cory, Editor