Updated Web Sites Pay Dividends

What would you say if someone said to you "Hey, Ms. Kitchen Dealer/Designer/Fabricator, I know a great, efficient way to increase your sales, cut down on tire kickers and educate your consumer before they even walk through your doors (which, of course, lessens the amount of'time you will need to spend educating them)?"'

What if they added, "By the way, this method is much less expensive than a Yellow Pages ad, and as an added benefit, if your business is located in a vacation area or a town that people even occasionally move into, it's a great way to target that out-of-town group, without having to advertise in every city in North America?"
You'd probably ask where you could sign on the dotted line!

What are you signing on the dotted line for? Simply, a Web site.

Whether you're a company owner, a designer, a fabricator or a cabinet shop owner, over the last few years, you've probably been just trying to keep your heads above water due to the surge in remodeling. Things have been busy at the office, which has left you even less family time and even less time to accomplish almost anything other than what needed your immediate attention that day. Do you realize these years have coincided with the advent of the Internet?

I've heard it repeatedly: There just hasn't been the time to get things done that you've wanted to, like setting up that Web site you've been meaning to get to.'

Even for those of you who have found the time to set up Web sites, many of you have found time to keep those sites up to date.

Updating your site
Even if you have a Web site, if you're not keeping it up to date, your Web site could be driving away potential clients. Does your Web site look amateurish, causing potential clients to lose confidence in your company right off the bat? For those of you who have had your Web site designed more than two years ago and who have made minimal changes since then that site is probably out of date from a Web standpoint.'

Kitchen and bath industry Web sites began springing up some four years ago. Since then, the Web has advanced many generations.'

What do I mean by generations? When the Web first began, Web sites were simply made up of words. No pictures or graphics were involved. Then, Web sites started containing graphics or photos in hopes of grabbing people's attention. Yet, this generally slows down the amount of time it takes for the Web page to show up on your screen, otherwise known as download time.'

Next, more and more people were able to commonly access the Web via high-speed connections like T-1s and cable connections. These give users better connection options and allow them to download Web pages faster. I could go on, but now you get the idea of what a Web generation is. It is basically every time something changes or is offered on the Web to enhance how users access the Web and how that information gets to the end user.

So, even as your showroom and design skills are constantly being updated, your Web site could be the visual equivalent of a tired, old man. Perhaps you forget to update your area code or change out your kitchen design photos once in a while. Before you know it, your Web site is not assisting you in your final goal of selling and educating potential clients. Quite simply, it's driving people away.

How do you avoid this? Simple: Remember your Web site during your daily routine. Whether you like it or not, to be a viable business today, you need a Web site, no matter how small or large your company. The best way to keep your site current is to remember to update it when you update other things around the office, such as logos, business cards, etc. Make a date quarterly to glance over your site and make sure all the information is correct. At the rate the Web is changing today, you should schedule your site for a complete overhaul approximately every two to three years.

No site yet?
I'm always curious as to why anyone in the kitchen and bath industry would not have a site yet for his or her business. Some of the most popular reasons I've heard are:

1. I can't keep up with everything as it is, why would I want to bring in more business via a Web site?
2. I'm in a small town and everyone knows where I am. Why do I need a site when I'm right on Main Street, U.S.A?
3. I just want local clients. The Web reaches everyone all over. I don't want to be contacted other than by local people.'

Let me address Reason 1 first: Yes, we love Web sites because they bring in business. But, used the proper way, they will also'get rid of your dreaded tire kickers. Instead of just using your site as a way to bring in business, think of it as more of a way to'qualify your clients.'

How do you do this? If you just do high-end kitchen design, write the verbiage on your site at a level higher than the average eighth-grade reading level. Use phrases such as "our design work is for the discriminating homeowner." Why not put the price points of your average kitchen and bathroom on your site? If your average kitchen remodel is $30,000, use your Web site to deter the $10,000 client.'

Reason #2: Our nation today is more transient than ever. People don't work at the same companies in the same towns forever. Many cabinet and appliance manufacturers are located in small towns all over. They regularly grow their businesses and need to look outside of their local area for employees. Before these people even move, they are online looking for remodeling help for their new homes in the new town they are moving to.

Reason #3: The Web is a wonderful way to reach local clients. How? Just tell people, via the verbiage on your site, what towns you work in.'

Having a Web site an up-to-date site benefits everyone at your company.

Designers/employees benefit from better-educated consumers (which means less time taken to sell a potential client) and owners benefit due to bigger and better sales opportunities. With all this time and money thanks to your siteyou may just be able to take that family vacation this year!'