The question is not whether you have an online presence. You do, whether you nurture it or not. The question is how will you thrive in that marketplace.

Spencer Powell, president of Builder Funnel, has written a must-read for any construction business owner. Specifically aimed a remodeler's, The Remodeler Marketing Blueprint is built on a clear and simple premise: The marketplace for custom residential construction services is, for the most part, on the Internet. Maybe not entirely yet. At the high end of the market it's certainly possible to exist apart from the digital marketplace in an exclusive world where referrals and architect leads are the primary sources of new business. But for everyone else, the Internet is where consumers of construction services begin their search, just like you do for almost everything new and unfamiliar that you want to buy. It is not hard to fathom that remodeling and custom home projects begin online as soon as a prospect begins to dream of a better home. That dream is shaped and refined by the information the prospect finds online, and if you have a prayer of a chance of helping that prospect realize his or her dream, you need to be there, online, as close to the beginning as you can. Yet we know not every custom builder and remodeling firm has completely embraced this idea. Embracing it, we learn from Spencer Powell, is not just agreeing with it, but acting on it by fully owning and optimizing your online business presence. Doing so, he argues effectively, will give you a leg up on finding and qualifying good leads, and ultimately growing a sound company.

The Internet Marketplace is Not a Dream

Powell begins with a powerful premise:
"I want you to imagine a world where you have prospects calling your company or filling out your contact form to discuss a project. These prospects have already learned about you and your company and the types of projects you work on. They also have a good sense of what pricing will look like and how long it will take. By the time they've made it to an initial phone call, they are well educated and haven't opted out. They are a good fit for you. They are the ideal client.

This is all possible because you have something extremely powerful (and often massively underutilized) at your disposal: your website. Yes, your website can make it all happen."

I believe Powell. This is not a dream; it's a description of life at the bottom of the funnel in the modern marketplace that most of us use to buy nearly everything. True, remodeling or home building is different than buying a flat-screen TV or finding a new cellphone provider. Homes require a design and carefully organized choreography for installing a whole lot of disparate pieces of material installed over time. Yes. But consumers of residential building and remodeling services are still beginning their journey online, reading Google reviews (or Yelp or Angie's List or Facebook) about your company. If that terrifies you, or concerns you in anyway, it should. But it also can be managed. And managing it, one gathers from reading Powell, is not just stemming a tide of negative perceptions, but actually creating for your company a market reality where you can control the messaging, turn prospects into active leads, and grow your company.

Not Just for Novices

For those small construction business owners who don't have a website or Facebook page, or have one or the other that they have stood up like some sort of billboard on the Internet highway - a static placeholder with contact information and pictures of projects - this book is an obvious place to reboot your online presence. But it's much more than that.

What is brilliant about Powell's book is it breaks down the digital pieces a business owner needs to pay attention to - and there are several. A big chunk of the book - "Chapter 5: Build Your Marketing Funnel" - is an indispensable reference guide for all things in the construction business owner's digital universe: website, social media, all the pieces of a site that will get prospects to find your company, and the smart (and not so smart) ways to use social media effectively to broaden your reach in the marketplace. For those who have never paid much attention to any of this, it serves as a primer. For those who think they know it (or have paid someone who thinks they know to make it happen) this chapter will be an important read for checking, refining or even overhauling your online presence.

Strategic Planning

Ultimately, what Powell serves up is an "education-driven" strategy for presenting what your company is all about, not just for show, but to drive sales. It's all about action, not image. All the high-design, smart organization and optimized performance of your website is for realizing the world Powell asks us to imagine at the onset of the book. This is a reality built on the concept of the marketing funnel - a strategy of cultivating a wide reach and bringing in at the top of the funnel a swirling, wide-ranging group of potential prospects, nurturing these over time, and gradually but deliberately drawing them down the funnel until they are at the bottom: clear what to expect from your company and dead certain yours is the only company they want to work with.

This is a sales strategy markedly different from the laser-point, high-pressure approach to sales that focuses only on converting leads - those sales professionals intent on winnowing out tire kickers so they can bear down on a select few. The marketing funnel is, I would say, a much more compassionate and generous approach that requires serving a wide public with good information, winning a reputation in the marketplace as an authoritative and reputable source of building knowledge, and winning sales not because you have pressured the client into signing on the dotted line, but because the client, who is exceedingly savvy and has done her homework, has chosen you above all others in your local market. That's a client that is open, flexible and dedicated. It's the sort of client that will create a lasting relationship with your company, leading to referrals and repeat business. If that's the sort of client that fits your company, I can't urge you enough to move The Remodeler Marketing Blueprint to the top of your reading list.