August, 2013
Feature
Inspection News and Views from the American Society of Home Inspectors



Demystifying Sales & Marketing for Home Inspection Professionals

BRIAN BELL, VP SALES & MARKETING, CARSON DUNLOP

Chalkboard-COVER_illustration.jpg

We completely understand that the two scariest words for Home Inspectors are Sales and Marketing (S&M!). Operating your Home Inspection business comes with many challenges, and the most neglected part of the business is always on the sales and market front. Most inspectors say sales and marketing cost a lot and have no guaranteed return, which is why they place it on the backburner. This article is designed to demystify the process and provide Home Inspectors with an easy and hands-on approach to sales and marketing. Building and growing your Home Inspection business should be top of mind for any professional in today’s fast-paced real estate market.

What Is the Difference Between Sales & Marketing?
Marketing is about spreading the word about your products and services through many different media in order to create awareness. Think of your website, press releases, product sheet information and social media as marketing tools to help increase awareness about you and your services.

Sales is about building one-on-one relationships with prospective clients or partners to directly tell them how your products and services solves a problem for them or their clients. When you effectively combine sales and marketing, you are able to take your Home Inspection business to the next level.

Do You Want to Make More Money?
The vast majority of Home Inspectors answer YES, which means they have to make a major commitment: CHANGE. You have to be committed to doing things differently in order to build and grow your business. Doing the same things over and over again and expecting different results is the definition of insanity.

Now that you have taken the most important step of committing to change, the next step in the process is to build a sales and marketing plan. We know this sounds like a complex and difficult task, but in fact it is relatively straightforward and easy. We have developed a simple five-step sales and marketing process and created an easy-to-use free template that can be downloaded at www.carsondunlop.com/S&Mtemplate.



SMART GRAPHIC1.jpg
 
How important is setting a goal? This story makes it clear: 3% of the 1979 Harvard MBA graduates have made 10 times as much money as the other 97%. Why is that? The big difference was they wrote down their goals and their specific plans to achieve them. The majority of the graduates had set no goals and had no idea where they were going.

Goal Setting: Making SMART Goals
Goal setting is incredibly easy, and yet most people don’t do it. A simple guideline is to set a SMART goal. That means Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-bound - SMART. Sound complicated? It’s not. Let’s have a look:
Your sales goal might be to achieve $100,000 in sales in 2013.

Let’s look at it.
• Is it Specific? Yes, $100,000 is a very specific number.
• Is it Measurable? Absolutely, I can determine whether I get to $100,000 in sales.
• Is it Achievable? Make sure it is. If sales last year were $80,000, a target of $100,000 seems very achievable.
• Is it Relevant? It’s relevant to your ability to put food on the table.
• Is it Time-bound? The guideline of 2013 gives a very specific time frame.

Your Plan

The first important rule in building your plan is that “It’s not about you!”
Look at everything from the perspective of your audience. They don’t care about the features of your company. They care about the benefit to them. Most don’t care about your qualifications. They assume Home Inspectors are qualified and know how to inspect homes. They want you to help them. Try thinking like a customer and asking yourself this question, “What do I want from a Home Inspection?” The answer might be, “Help me decide whether to buy this house.” Or they might say, “Tell me what condition it’s in so I can make a good decision.” That’s what they want from you. That’s pretty simple.

What else might they want?

• Be available when I need you.
• Talk to me in simple language.
• Be friendly and patient.
• Answer my questions.
• Give me a report I can understand.
• Be there if I have questions down the road.

Can you do all those things?
The goal is to create incredible value for your clients. At the risk of being repetitive, it’s not all about you; it’s about them.
• What problem can you solve for them?
• What need can you address?
• How can you make their lives easier?
• How can you make them more successful?
Your marketing message answers these questions for your audience.

Who is Your Audience?
Is it prospective home buyers, real estate sales professionals, home sellers, lenders, someone else? Your message changes because different audiences have different needs.

Your Value Proposition or Unique Selling Proposition (USP)
Everyone should have an elevator pitch. When people ask what you do or who you are, you need to be able to explain it in 10 to 30 seconds. The first part is about you and the last part is about them.

Here’s our UPS: “We are an engineering company that has been focused on Home Inspection since 1978. We are pioneers and one of the largest inspection firms in Canada. We are passionate about using our knowledge and experience to help home buyers, owners and sellers make informed decisions on the biggest investment they’ll ever make.”

Create your own value proposition based on what you bring and how you help. And of course, you probably have different USPs for home buyers and real estate sales professionals.

Don’t Make it About Price
Price should never be part of your value proposition as it is not a differentiator in your business. We view Home Inspection as a professional consulting practice that helps customers make an informed decision when buying or selling a home. Focus on value by providing more benefits to your clients and partners instead of lowering your price. Ask yourself the question: “Are the most successful Home Inspection companies the cheapest?” People don’t typically buy the least expensive house on the market or the cheapest car on the road. They buy what represents the best value to them. That’s how they should choose their Home Inspection company as well.

How You Deliver the Message
We said your message will depend on your audience, so decide which market(s) you will target. Here’s a partial list to get you started.

Home buyers
Pro: 1. They will benefit directly from your service
        2. Most are looking for a Home Inspector

Con:
1. It’s hard to know who’s about to buy a home;
             message has to go out broadly
          2. People only buy a house once every 5 to 7 years;
              one-time event

Real estate sales professionals
Pro:  1. They work with home buyers and sellers all the time;
             possible stream of business rather than a one-time
             event
         2. They are easy to identify and target

Con:
1. Their goals are different than the buyer’s to some
             extent
         2. They are an intermediary between you and the buyer
         3. They are easy for your competition to identify and
             target

Now, prepare your messages to meet the needs of each audience. Here are a couple of starters you can build on.
Home buyers needs: protection, information, reassurance.
Real estate sales professionals needs: commission, liability protection, referrals.

What Are Your Messages?
We can’t tell you, because we don’t know what you bring. You are unique. Think about matching your assets to the needs of your audience. Remember, most will not be challenging your technical competency; they assume it. Go back and look at the list of things they might want.

Table Stakes
We said that people will assume you are going to perform a competent inspection. There are some other things that you need to do well. While they are not unique skills, it’s amazing how many people mess these up. These are basic business skills and life skills, not at all specific to Home Inspection. They are, however, critical to success in Home Inspection.

These are things like first impressions, how your website looks and feels, how you answer your phone, how easy it is to make an appointment with you, whether you show up on time, how your vehicle looks, your appearance, your smile, your first words, your manner and attitude, your respect, patience and interest in people, the promptness and usability of your report and your availability to answer questions after the fact. While you may not think of these as your marketing messages, each of these sends a message to your audience.

Somewhat sadly, if you get these right every time, you have beaten 95% of your competition.


Differentiate Yourself
Go back to your unique selling proposition. Think about your background. Think about your clients’ wants and needs. This list may give you some ideas about how you can make yourself memorable:

• We never keep you waiting — if we’re not on time for the inspection, it’s free.
• Will provide free technical consulting firms for as long as you own your home.
• We offer a money-back guarantee. If you are ever less than completely satisfied with us for any reason, we will gladly return your fee, no questions asked. (Some offer a double or even triple-money-back guarantee.)
• Give people a tape measure with your logo.
• Give people your report on a memory stick that they can use. Of course it has your logo.
• Give or send people change of address cards.
• Bring coloring books and crayons to the inspection for children.
• Bring water and/or healthy snacks to the inspection.
• Give clients a water bottle or coffee mug.
• Bring slip-on booties that people can put over their shoes as they walk through the house.
• Build a custom maintenance program for your clients based on the inspection report.
• Give a carwash coupon on their windshield.
• Cut their grass on move-in day.
• Send a handwritten thank you card.
• Offer a home warranty.
• Offer a free one-year update inspection.

Summary
Building your Home Inspection business is not a one-time event; it requires an ongoing commitment and effort. The information in this article is excerpted from Carson Dunlop’s Building Your Home Inspection Course. This course provides you with the tools to help you take your business to the next level. To learn more, visit www.carsondunlop.com/tools