August, 2007
Feature
Inspection News and Views from the American Society of Home Inspectors



Build Your Business

SHAWN CARR

With smart tips from Carson Dunlop


Welcome to Build Your Business. Each month, we will be contributing an article that provides some sound approaches to strategic business growth that have been field tested for success by some of the most experienced home inspectors in North America. Whether it’s sales and advertising strategies, tips on making your business more customer-centric or how to evaluate public relations opportunities, our goal is to stimulate your interest to work on your business rather than just in it.

Your company image matters, but who determines it?
Part 1 of 3

Having the right company image can generate a significant impact on the value of your service through the eyes of your customer. But how do you know your image is what you want it to be when your customers determine it? Every experience your customers have with any aspect of your business is an opportunity for them to form an opinion about you. Whether it’s the initial phone inquiry, the first face-to-face meeting at the inspection or the look of your inspection report, your performance in these areas will help shape their perception of you and your company. This three-part article explores how the various parts of the home inspec-tion process influence your customers’ perspective of your company image.
Your company image is not what you say you are; it’s how your clients perceive you.

You may think you are a high-end home inspector because you’ve targeted a market willing to pay more for your services. But if you show up on the job wearing ripped jeans, a paint-stained t-shirt and worn-out sneakers, your image no longer says high-end, professional service.

Your clients aren’t evaluating you according to your set of criteria for good performance. They are evaluating you based on their criteria. Why? Because they may not know what your criteria are. They only know what they hope to gain from the inspection.

Here’s an analogy. Say you buy a new audio system for your home. You apply a number of criteria to the system to determine its value — not its general value in the world, but its value to you. Sure, the salespeople at the audio store talked up the system’s superior subwoofers. But you care more if it will deliver on the high-end of the range, with crystal-clear pitch. You and the sales staff at the store have different criteria for evaluating the same thing. But at least you both have a tangible characteristic on which to base your opinions — sound quality.

A home inspection service has few tangible attributes from which a customer can form an opinion or base a decision. All you have to offer your clients is the promise of an expert inspection. The clients have to trust that you are not selling them a bill of goods. Most will have no idea what you do. As a result, the clients latch on to every intangible stimulus they can get their eyes and ears on — your professional manner, your vocabulary, eye contact, anything that will give them a clue about you. In other words, your clients are constantly evaluating you from the moment they see your business card, brochure or advertisement to the time you hand over your final inspection report. All of these evaluations factor into your company’s image as your clients see it.

Clients do this because they are in no position to evaluate your technical expertise. It’s like taking a car in to the shop for service. It’s hard to know whether the mechanic did a good job, but if there is grease on the upholstery, you will have a definite opinion about the service you received.

The following are the points in a transaction during which your clients form an opinion of you. Beside each point, we’ve offered our opinion by suggesting each element’s relative importance with respect to its marketing value:

•  Referral from someone the client knows (15 percent importance)

•  A good business card (5 percent importance)

•  A good brochure (5 percent importance)

•  Telephone conversation with the client (15 percent importance)

•  First five minutes in which the client meets you at the purchase property (20 percent importance)

•  The inspection — the professionalism, approachability and expertise you demonstrate to the client during the inspection (25 percent importance)

•  The inspection report (15 percent importance)

In our next two articles, we will explore each of these points of contact in more detail and discuss their relative influence on how your company is perceived.


This article is based on content from “Building Your Home Inspection Business – A guide to marketing, sales, advertising and public relations,” authored by Carson Dunlop and pubished by Dearborn Home Inspection. Carson Dunlop also authors the Home Reference Book, Essentials of Home Inspection, the Illustrated Home and most recently, HORIZON, a unique Web-based reporting system. See www.carsondunlop.com or www.dearbornhomeinspection.com for more information.