Welcome to Smart Tips, a monthly ASHI Reporter feature written by one of North America’s most successful home inspection firms, Carson Dunlop & Associates. Each month, we will feature a new article that provides sound approaches to strategic business growth, all 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.
Advertising can take many forms. Some common examples are brochures, Web sites, e-mail campaigns, newsletters and presentation folders. But which of them works best for your business, which shows room for improvement, and which should be dropped altogether? If you’re not tracking and testing, you won’t know.
Tracking helps you determine exactly how much business you gained from a particular advertising strategy.
Testing allows you to tweak a campaign to see if it brings in more or less business.
Tracking and testing also give you an opportunity to modify your advertising campaigns. They help you realize that nothing is written in stone. They often help you save money, letting you know that you should stop doing what isn’t working. Many companies continue with advertising strategies because they have always done their ads that way. You need to be critical about where you are spending your advertising dollars. In the November and December 2007 issues of the ASHI Reporter, we discussed advertising in the Yellow Pages™. Let’s use that as an example: You decide to place a display ad in your local Yellow Pages. It costs you $500 per month. At the end of the year, you’ve spent $6,000. The sales team from the Yellow Pages contacts you and asks if you would like to place a larger ad for the upcoming year. You, of course, have no idea whether your $6,000 has generated one inspection or 150 inspections for you. How do you decide if you want a bigger ad or whether you want to remove the display ad altogether? If you have not tracked the effectiveness of the ad, you are in no position to make a decision.
Ask, ask and ask
How do you track the effectiveness of an advertising strategy? The tracking procedure has to be built into the design. One good way to track advertising is to ask every customer or client how he or she heard about you. Then, you need to keep track of this information. At the end of the month, you can make a list of all of the ways you advertised and how your clients heard about you.
You also should have a list of inquiries you received and cross reference the list with your client list. If you have a client list, you have a list of the actual inspections you got. For example, you may discover that the leads you get through the Yellow Pages are more price-resistant — the callers often are price shopping. But the leads you get from the mortgage broker convert easily to deals. This is the kind of information you need to track.
Another way to track your ads is to have a clipboard on the job site that has a simple survey form for the client to fill out. You need the client’s name, address and telephone number for many reasons such as possible follow-up service calls, so why not ask the client on the form how he or she heard about you?
Can’t track it?
Some advertising strategies just can’t be tracked. How do you deal with such a strategy? You don’t do it!
The three Ts
As far as testing goes, the best way to test a campaign is to Try it, Track it and Tweak it. If your tracking indicates a campaign is working, try tweaking it to see if it still works. If it’s better once you tweak it, throw out the old campaign and continue with the new one.
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 www.carsondunlop.com or www.dearbornhomeinspection.com for more information.