February, 2008
Feature
Inspection News and Views from the American Society of Home Inspectors



First-Time Buyers' Seminar

GRAHAM CLARKE

Welcome to Build Your Business. Each month, we contribute 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.

Last month, we looked at the first-time homebuyers' seminar as a powerful tool for acquiring new clients and creating working relationships with related professionals. This month, we will look at some specific strategies for a successful seminar.

There are two basic formats for this presentation: either with or without visuals. We present many seminars in each format, and each has its place.

If you choose to have a presentation with visuals, you need an overhead projector or a media projector, a screen and a portable computer. The other presenters may have visual presentations as well, which may make things easier. This format provides a great opportunity to show interesting pictures of house system performance (or nonperformance!). The goal is not to put on a horror show, but to pose problems; then solve them.

If you choose to have a non-visual presentation, your presentation is less exciting, but more portable. In fact, most of the first-time buyers’ seminars we do are in this format. Most seminars have only 10 to 30 attendees, and the speakers present from the head of a table rather than in a large space. This non-visual format is most appropriate for a quick presentation.

When using visuals, speakers often find themselves doing too much. The lender makes a slide for every possible mortgage option; the agent projects a copy of an offer to purchase and goes through each detail; the lawyer puts up a list of conditions that should be added to the offer to purchase. This level of detail is unnecessary. Your presentation should raise and answer questions such as:

— What is a home inspection?
— How much does it cost?
— When is the inspection performed?
— How you find a good home inspector?
— What questions should a homebuyer ask a home inspector?

Most first-time buyers don’t want to commit to an entire evening of presentations. They would prefer a quick, informative session. Be informative, be dramatic, and be brief. Normally, ten minutes should suffice. Your audience will love you.

Each presenter’s goal is to be recognized as an expert or leader in his or her field. Recognition is an important goal for the home inspector, but it’s not the only goal. The other goal is to create a relationship with the other presenters. In the long run, their referrals may be worth more than the attendees’ inspection business.

The main goal of the attendees is to get some advice that will help them avoid a costly mistake. They also want to walk away with something. Your promotional material and a piece of educational material may be ideal. These allow the attendees and the other presenters to absorb your message. The material also makes it easy for the attendees to contact you.

After the seminar has been done, we use the three-hit rule as a follow-up technique for most of our campaigns, including seminar presentations. Here is how you might apply this rule to the first-time buyer seminar.

Hit #1

The first hit is to call the real estate agent, the mortgage specialist and the lawyer or title company representative. Presumably, you will have met and interacted with these people. You should be able to determine whether they are in a position to refer business to you. You may also consider whether there is any way you can help them. Offering to do presentations for their organization or prospects is one way. Offering to contribute technical articles to their newsletters is another. In many respects, the best way to get something from
people is to give them something. What do you say when you call? It can be as simple as asking if you can send them some information or if they would meet you for lunch. Ask questions about how they build their business. You may get ideas for your business and may see an obvious way you can help them.

Hits #2 & 3

The next two hits could be sending marketing material and then following up on that. You probably have a relationship with one of these three already because you were invited to be a presenter. Focus on the two you did not know before the seminar.

Follow-up

Ask for a list of attendees with contact information. You will have to decide to what degree you will follow up with attendees. If your main goal is to meet the agent and banker, you may choose to spend your time and energy on them instead. Which investment in follow-up is likely to yield the greatest return? If you do decide to follow up with attendees, you might send a brochure, call to verify that they’ve received it, and then offer to send an interesting report that presents a solution to a problem with houses. You might offer to add them to your mailing list for your newsletter, if you have 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.