February, 2005
Feature
Inspection News and Views from the American Society of Home Inspectors



How to Use the Media to Advantage

BUZ BUZOGANY

ASHI has enlisted the services of Buz Buzogany, SAVVY- Strategic Resource Partners, LLC, to advise ASHI chapters regarding marketing and media plans for The ASHI Experience.

Under the agreement with ASHI, Buzogany will take questions regarding existing media plans, or will help a chapter begin the process of creating a new plan by outlining basic questions about a chapter’s target market.  When there is no research involved, the service is free to the chapter.


In October 2004 at the Chapter Leadership event, I was fortunate to meet and speak to many of ASHI’s leaders and to do a presentation on how to develop a media strategy on the local level. As The ASHI Experience rolled out over the last 16 months, The ASHI membership has been strongly encouraged to use the award-winning ASHI Experience advertising tools. It takes time, money and media-buying expertise to take full advantage of what was provided. In all candor, home inspectors don’t usually have these things in abundance. Nor should they be expected to have media expertise. That’s why my connection to ASHI should come in handy as chapters undertake marketing efforts for the coming year.

Why SAVVY?

With a background in both associations and in the media, I became a principal in a company called SAVVY two years ago. SAVVY helps associations raise non-dues revenue to improve their bottom line and ability to thrive. Prior to SAVVY, I was the President and CEO of two associations based in Chicago. For most of the twenty years prior to wearing an association hat, I was in the electronic media and also was the creative director for an advertising agency. I understand advertising, media placement, small businesses and the unique structure of associations. That’s why ASHI hired SAVVY to help you in the local/regional marketplace. So, let’s get started.

Questions to Ask  

Before anyone begins a media campaign, he or she needs to ask: Who do I want to reach? How often do I need to reach them? And, how much must I spend?  
Radio, newspapers and magazines all are designed to reach large audiences (hence the term “mass media”), and they can be expensive. Not everyone is a buyer or seller of homes, nor is everyone likely to use home inspection services. Therefore, home inspectors need to whittle the “mass” down to a primary or target audience.

Who do I want to reach?

ASHI has identified the target audience as adults 35 – 54 years of age, both male and female, with household incomes in excess of $50,000, as the best-defined group of potential buyers due to mobility, financial security and the most frequent group in the market for a home.

How often do I need to reach them?
How often you need to reach your target audience is determined by how many times an advertising message (impression) must be seen to be remembered and to have someone react to it. According to test results, the minimum number of impressions (times someone has been exposed to your advertising in print or on the air) for it to be recalled is five.

So, it takes both reach (finding your target audience) and frequency (the number of times the target audience is exposed to the message) to make a successful advertising buy. Fortunately, ASHI has creative, memorable advertising materials, for both print and radio, so the message will help break through the clutter.

How much must I spend in my market?
Since market size is determined by number of people within a geographic area or “area of dominant influence,” ADI for short, the larger the market, the more money that radio stations, newspapers and magazines can charge the potential advertiser.

Therefore, $30,000 in New York will buy far, far less media space or radio ads than $10,000 will buy in Des Moines, simply due to the number of potential readers or listeners in the market.

But the good news is, you don’t have to reach the largest audience, you simply want to reach your target audience as frequently as possible.

Something for Everyone

We all know that advertising works, sometimes better than others. What we don’t know is how much each chapter is willing to commit to make an impression in its market, and if the dollars spent will be the best use of the money. Finally, what most of you don’t know—because you are home inspectors versus media mavens—is where to start.

The key to any advertising buy is to feed your business, not your ego. If your budget doesn’t allow for radio placement, then don’t buy radio. If you can’t afford the local newspaper with a campaign that includes both reach and frequency, then use your money elsewhere. ASHI strongly suggests chapters consider pooling resources by looking into partnering with other chapters within close geographic proximity as well as taking advantage of the advice we can give on where to spend those advertising dollars. If your chapter simply does not have enough funding to do any paid advertising, don’t lose heart. At the Chapter Leadership event, participants suggested using the 4-color print ads as flyers. The ads can be downloaded from The ASHI Experience section of the Membership Extranet. With a list of chapter members on the reverse side, the fliers are ready to be distributed to real estate offices and handed out at home shows.

ASHI also has produced attractive new exhibit booths that can be used by chapters free of charge (except for shipping and handling) at real estate and home shows. And don’t forget public relations—the art of getting your message placed in the editorial section free of charge. There are public relations tips in The ASHI Experience Chapter CD, which was distributed to chapters last year and is also available on the Membership Extranet of the ASHI Web site.

No matter what your political position might be on real estate professionals as liaisons to your business, no one can deny they speak to the audience you want to reach. Are there real estate publications in your market that accept advertising? Are there trade shows that cater to the home buyer/seller where the chapter can exhibit or be a sponsor? Is there a specialty radio show that targets homebuyers or does segments on the housing market? What are the top radio shows in your marketplace that cater to the 35–54 demographic? These are the basic questions we can help your chapter decipher. At the least, you should contact us for advice on how your chapter can get started in its market, opportunities to look for, and whether the chapter budget is realistically large enough to consider mass media or niche media.

Sample Markets

To validate what can be accomplished, in cooperation with the Southern New England ASHI Chapter and the Central Illinois Chapter, SAVVY investigated two markets: the Hartford-New Haven market in Connecticut (ADI rank 27) and the Springfield, Illinois, market (ADI rank 96). In both cases, there wasn’t enough money in the chapter budgets to take full advantage of newspaper and radio as the primary media, so we looked at specialty publications, trade shows and expanding the public relations effort.

Both chapters have put together media plans that take advantage of the uniqueness of their specific marketplaces, assess the constraints on their overall budgets (both are seeking additional funding available through ASHI), and both have chosen the best vehicles to increase their exposure.

Southern New England will be using a mix of radio, print, trade shows and potentially real estate-related Web advertising to maximize its exposure within its budget. Springfield has increased its visibility in the community through volunteerism (Habitat for Humanity) and is planning an advertising campaign in a statewide real estate publication that reaches an active marketplace for homebuyers.

SAVVY’s role was to help the chapters understand their options: which radio stations attracted the largest 35–54 demographic, how much the stations charged per spot, what publications most effectively penetrated the market, which publications had special real estate sections, etc. We did not tell them what to buy, rather, we prevented them from wasting time, effort and money on what would not have been an effective media strategy due to reach, frequency and budget constraints.

We want to help chapters use the materials created for The ASHI Experience and to expand the brand. Tailoring a program for each chapter is the appropriate way to try to ensure success in the long run, while getting the most for their media dollars.

Take advantage of this opportunity to get your chapter’s media planning started or to have the current media strategy reviewed. We believe we can make you better informed about media use, help the chapter extend the ASHI brand within the community, bring more customers to chapter members’ doors, and save money on the chapter’s media buy. Contact me at buzogany@savvysrp.com or 847-749-4012, Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. CT.

Let’s get started on a successful 2005!