Part 3 of 3
Marketing is fun and frustrating. Half our ideas fizzle; not knowing which half, we try them all. When an idea produces results, however, that is very pleasing.
The subject of marketing a business is terribly and wonderfully broad. Whole industries revolve around marketing and billions upon billions of dollars are spent every year. Keeping your name in front of your segment of the home inspection-producing market is necessary. Touting your programs and the differences between your company and your competition is also important. All of this is true whether you are a one-person home inspection business doing 350 inspections a year or you are a multi-inspector firm performing 2,500 inspections a year.
The difference is focus. Communicating with 50 Realtors® and 600 prior clients who refer business to you takes much less effort than having 1,500 Realtors and 10,000 clients on lists that grow by 200 names a month. The concepts are the same, but the vision must be broader.
A multi-inspector firm must have a written marketing plan. Marketing can no longer be haphazard, as when it was just you. Marketing a multi-inspector firm takes planning, and this requires giving serious thought to your image and how to portray it, where your business comes from and how to promote it, and how to allocate available funds.
A simple marketing plan
Here is an outline for a relatively simple marketing plan:
1. Marketing Goal for the year: ____ Inspections (you fill in the blank)
2. My company’s unique selling propositions are ____.
3. Must-have marketing materials: ____
4. Identify the marketing area
5. Determine marketing targets (For discussion, let’s say previous Realtors, real estate salespeople in the market area, previous clients, the general public and other real estate contacts.)
6. Advertising to and communicating with each marketing target group
a. Previous Realtors: Send thank-you note after inspection with small gift, such as a note pad; follow up after inspection before settlement; send monthly newsletter; participate in first-time buyer seminars.
b. Real estate community: Continuing education classes for Realtors in their offices; newsletter on Web site and send monthly announcement; periodic office visits to speak on current topic for five minutes and bring snack. Leave company brochures and business cards.
c. Previous clients: Mail monthly newsletter. Thank you note for each referral with gift certificate to Lowes or Starbucks. Quarterly request for referrals. Periodic special announcements
d. General public: Web site. Speaking engagements at civic organizations; support community; donations.
e. Other real estate contacts: Contact attorneys, mortgage lenders, title companies. Plan joint educational programs.
Before attempting to write your first marketing plan, study reference materials on marketing that are available from ASHI resources. Just as I touted prior InspectionWorld seminars for innovative business practices, prior conference proceedings and tapes of seminars are full of innovative marketing ideas. Visit www.allstartapes.com, click InspectionWorld and hunt through the archives for audio tapes from past marketing-related seminars.
Where to learn about marketing a home inspection business
Most of my company’s best marketing features are directly attributable to an InspectionWorld speaker. Our double-pocket company presentation folder came from Travis Turner and David Swartz, Proven Marketing Techniques, IW 2002. Our client referral program came from Shawn Carr of Carson Dunlop fame, Grow Your Business the Easy Way, IW 2005. Shawn Carr’s seminar was also an outstanding discussion of growing your business through marketing and should not be missed.
Other great marketing seminars included IW 2003, Preparing Effective Realtor Office Presentations and IW 2007, Marketing School – What Works and What Doesn’t, both by Douglas Myers. Mike Crow’s ideas on marketing are creative. For maximizing Internet
marketing, obtain the tape of Hollis Brown’s IW 2008 speech, Optimize your Internet Marketing.'
Focus on three important features
Once you absorb the materials from these seminars and pull out those ideas appropriate for your business, depending on size, location, market, your capabilities, etc., you can write your first marketing plan. Use your ideas that worked as a sole home inspector and build from success to success. If your logo is not a standout, employ a graphic designer to create a logo image that captures the essence of your company. Select a company color. Create a company motto or catchphrase.
Logo, color and motto: These three features become the basis for all your printed materials, such as your business cards, envelopes, stationery, pads, pens and other handouts. Consider using a four-sided business card. Each time you hand someone your card, you are handing out a mini-brochure, with your company logo, contact information, ASHI logo and membership number, company statement or motto, listing of services offered and other such information. You can also leave a card at every inspection and, with four sides, your card stands up and gets attention.
Begin to build an address list of prior clients and Realtors sending you business. The most cost-effective business to attract is referral business from people who had a satisfying experience with your company. These lists will grow quickly and become a true asset to your business. Never forget that the list of your prior clients is unique to your business and should be cherished.
Web site is a window into your company
Your Web site becomes a window into your company for all to see. Partner with a creative Web site designer. For a few dollars, you can build a site to be proud of. Use it to communicate with past clients and Realtors who send you referrals. Post new information periodically and send out a short announcement to your business address lists.
The next must-have marketing item is a periodic newsletter. Monthly is best, bi-monthly works, but have a written vehicle to present general information about homes, current news and company news. Place your newsletter on your Web site and send a short reminder that the current newsletter is now available. Send it snail mail to your key contacts such as anyone who referred a home inspection, Realtors who favor your company and friends.
Provide continuing education for Realtors
The final key marketing program to discuss here is continuing education for Realtors. One of the great truths is that the profession of real estate sales is the only profession in which the salesperson does not understand the product he or she is selling. If you walked into an auto dealership to purchase a new car and the salesperson told you to go get a mechanic to understand how to turn the headlights on, you’d find a new dealership. But that is exactly what Realtors do every day to their clients. Amazing!
This opens an opportunity to you as a home expert. Associate with a real estate education school. Use your pictures of inspection deficiencies to put together a three-hour class about understanding residential construction. Most home inspectors know enough about environmental issues to teach for three hours. Collect DVDs about radon, mold and other topics of interest to use in your lectures. A $100 portable DVD player and a digital projector from eBay paired with a screen make for a portable entertainment system. The education school will get your courses approved by state real estate commissions. Present continuing education courses for credit in the real estate offices. Realtors
appreciate this convenience and every class will generate business.
Test, improve, continue – consistency is the key
Always test the effectiveness of your ideas and discard what did not produce results. Try new ideas. Take ideas from others and improve on them. Take ideas from other industries. Get advice from experienced ASHI members. No one has ever devised the perfect marketing plan, and there never has been an idea that could not be improved.
Over the years, your marketing program will grow and mature, along with the growth of your business.
Remember to keep the focus on the various segments of your market where business comes from. Encourage more business through marketing. The key to effective marketing is CONSISTENCY. Your company identity must be consistent, and you must market on a continuing basis. Enjoy the benefits and pleasures of operating a multi-inspector home inspection company. Marketing is the expression of that satisfaction to your marketing targets.