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

Build Your Business: Should you advertise in the Yellow Pages™?


Part 1 of 2

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.

Most companies have a Yellow Pages™ listing. This advertising is directed at consumers. When you register your business, you may get a basic listing for free. But this kind of advertising does not generate a lot of sales for many home inspectors. Home inspectors have been discussing the value of advertising in the Yellow Pages for years. The consensus is as follows:

• Should you be listed in the Yellow Pages? Yes.

• Does it get you a lot of business? No.

• Should you pay for display advertising in the Yellow Pages? No.

We have tracked how much business we get from the Yellow Pages, and found we get less than one percent from this source, likely just breaking even on the advertising costs. We do not get the return we would like on our advertising investment. As a result, we have reduced our ad size to a single, boldface entry. We are the largest home inspection company in our city, yet we have the smallest size entry available in the telephone book.

It is generally accepted in many mature home inspection communities that a Yellow Pages ad is not the best investment of marketing dollars. Remember, you have to invest your funds in the areas with the best returns. Why are the Yellow Pages the first place almost every company advertises? In most cities, when you set up a business phone number, it’s easy for the salespeople to try to sell you. The sales agent shows you how your competitor has a large and elegant ad. According to the salesperson, your single-line entry makes you look

So, is everyone who advertises in the Yellow Pages naive? No. This type of advertising works for some businesses. For example, it may work well for companies that advertise services someone might need in an emergency, such as contractors who can respond to a flooding basement.

But home inspection may not be a service that benefits significantly from a Yellow Pages ad. Why? Because although a home inspection is something people need quickly, the prospect usually asks an agent or a friend for a referral. Here’s the scenario: A homebuyer makes an offer on a home conditional on inspection and financing. When the offer is accepted, the homebuyer has to find a mortgage lender and an inspector immediately. Do you think the homebuyer will look in the Yellow Pages to find a home inspector and a bank? Probably not. The homebuyer turns to the agent and says, “Where can we get a good home inspector, and who is offering good mortgage rates these days?” Many homebuyers also rely on referrals for title insurance and moving companies. A 2002 survey of homebuyers found that 70 percent of buyers relied on a referral to choose their home inspector. In a largely referral-based business, advertising in the Yellow Pages does not figure into the picture.

Most home inspectors agree that when they do get calls from the Yellow Pages ad, the callers are often just checking your fees to make sure they are getting a reasonable price from the home inspector they have already booked. Although you know you can’t compare services based on price, a caller who found you through the phone book is likely to be judging you on exactly that. The bottom line is, inspectors priced at the low end of the market are more likely to generate business from a Yellow Pages ad.

Next month, we will look at the way the Yellow Pages are structured and a strategy for placing an ad in one or more directories.

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 published 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 or for more information.